Podcast 67: Design Your Summer, a Deep-Dive into the Emotionally Charged Issue of Thank-You Notes, and Mother-in-Law Woes.

It’s time for the next installment of  “Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

Update: Elizabeth says, “Everything Sarah and I have touched in the last six months has turned to ashes.” Hollywood! It’s a tough place to work.

Remember,  I’m doing weekly live videos on my Facebook Page about the podcast. To join the conversation, tune in Tuesdays at 1:00 pm Eastern.

Also, for our next Very Special Episode, let us know: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? For work, love, parenting, life…what really made the difference? Email us at podcast @ gretchenrubin .com, comment below, or best of all, call us. We’d love to hear your voice as you tell the story.  (77 HAPPY 336).

Try This at Home: Design your summer.  I’m so excited about my plans for the summer!

Deep Dive/Deluge: Back to the emotionally charged issue of…thank-you notes! We talked about this issue in episode 63. (What name do you like better?) If you want to see my stationery watch this Facebook Live video, around minute 3:45, where I show it off.

Listener Questioner: Anna asks how to deal with a mother-in-law who wants to spend too much time with her and her husband.

Elizabeth’s Demerit: Elizabeth did the dreaded “partial move.” We’ve all done it!

 calendaronfridgeGretchen’s Gold Star: I give myself a gold star for making a count-down calendar for Eliza, as she sprints toward the finish line of her junior year — and Eleanor liked it so much, we made one for her, too.

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

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1pixHappier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #67

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  • Juliet Jones

    I know you’ve ‘closed the book’ on the thank you note debate, but something struck me as I was listening to all those passionate opinions. Not a single one that you read out was from a man. I wonder how many responses you got to this debate were from men? As an obliger I wrestle with whether I should write thank you notes or not, but I can tell you that my husband doesn’t think twice about it. To me, this is an example of emotional labor that is put on women (and particularly moms).

    In the bigger picture, there is a great summary of emotional labor [https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0UUYL6kaNeBTDBRbkJkeUtabEk/view] and it has left me wondering how this affect happiness in general. I know from a personal point of view as a working mom, I feel constantly pressurized in a way that men don’t, and thank you notes are just a tiny part of that. You also touched on this in the second half of the podcast when you note that the husband should be involved with managing his mother’s social demands on the couple. Despite having an engaged and supportive husband I still do far more of the emotional labor in our house and I believe it affects my happiness as I constantly fell ‘put upon’. I’m sure this could be a whole podcast topic, if not a whole book, but I would be very interested in your thoughts.

    • gretchenrubin

      Very interesting points!

    • M

      Great points and I agree with you – I feel so much pressure to “play the role” and my husband could care less about it all.

    • Tracy

      So true! I have 4 kids, so I give tons of gifts to teachers, coaches, etc. The women always write a thank you note (usually brief, generic, and pointless), but I have NEVER received a thank you note from any of the men.

  • Mimi Gregor

    I had an “a-ha” moment when you talked about how having routines speeds up time. I had been wondering how to slow down the speed of time, as it seems that the older I get, the faster it goes by. It’s like The Big Race To The Grave. Yay? Well, I am a creature of routines; I have a routine for almost everything, as I find that it makes it faster and easier to do chores that I do on a daily basis. But it seems that my efficiency is what is making time feel so fleeting. I just can’t do things inefficiently in the name of slowing down time; it’s not in my nature. Well, at least since I know why time is passing so swiftly, I’m one step closer to finding a way to slow it down. It certainly gives me something to think about.

    • gretchenrubin

      I’m the same way, which is why I want a “summer routine.” I love having a routine, so can’t junk that approach, but I’ll make it different for a certain period of time. We’ll see how it goes!

  • Chava1997

    Thanks for the push to design my summer. I’m going combine it with your other advice to enjoy the features of my house. That means I am going to drink my morning coffee on the porch, and to make sure I take advantage of the beautiful hiking trails that are only minutes away, I’ll be participating in a Tuesday night hiking group (isn’t that we obligers need?).

    • gretchenrubin

      So many great ideas! Happy summer

  • Mollie

    Thank you so much for a great podcast. I am home with my two girls all summer and I often feel unorganized, overtaxed, and impatient leading to many days where I feel that I’ve failed. I am going to take your tips and make a plan to design our summer so we can have more fun without me losing my cool. I’m going to have “theme days” with my own private time built in so I can enjoy my time off as well! Thank you!

    • gretchenrubin

      Terrific! at the end of the summer, let me know how it goes!

  • Linda Sue Brown

    Please repeat the Four writers! Thanks

    • gretchenrubin

      Virginia Woolf, George Orwell, Flannery O’Connor, and Samuel Johnson. Can’t WAIT!

  • Wendy

    I love your idea of the NYC adventures with your daughter. Can you please share some of the places on your list. Since I live near NYC, you have inspired me to so something similar with my teen daughter. Thank you!

    • gretchenrubin

      Mostly we go to museums!

  • Tina_Slater

    Re your question about the “best advice” I’ve ever received? An elderly gentleman once told me this & I think he hit the nail on the head!
    Be careful whom you marry — from this one decision will come most of your life’s happiness or most of its sorrow.

    • gretchenrubin

      Great advice!

  • Marcia (Organising Queen)

    It’s winter for us in South Africa but since I happen to love winter (and we had a truly too-long and unbearable summer – 8 months of extreme heat!), I’ve been thinking of making a winter list, with things like baking yummy desserts, having hot chocolate with the kids, reading in bed early “just because” and not just at bedtime, etc.

    My best advice was advice given to me by a colleague a few years ago. She said, “you can love the company but still do what’s right for you” (which was to leave), and that’s exactly what I did (after checking if my savings was enough!).

  • taniasuster

    For Elizabeth: as a busy working mom with no patience for BS tasks, for my kids when they were little I had them color a thank you note of their own design, and sign their name, and I color photocopied it! When possible rather than mailing I just put in the kids cubby holes at school. This works great for dreaded homemade valentines too! And sometimes we just have to forgive ourselves for failing to do it all…

  • cfarrell

    Re Podcast 67 — Designing my Summer. I’ve spent years designing my children’s summer with swim lessons, science camp, Scout camp, art classes, and down time at the park. Now retired and empty-nesters, we moved to a resort/vacation destination (Bend, Oregon) three years ago, and have yet to discover all it has to offer. I am inspired to Design My Very Own Summer! It is as follows: explore a new hiking/biking trail each week, observing Alfresco Fridays (we have incredibly long days so wine by the river is very doable), and dusting off the golf clubs and taking some lessons. Finally, I’ll commit to reading ONE book from the New York Times Best Seller list. Yay me!

    • gretchenrubin

      Great analogy – summer camp for grown-ups.

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  • Aleisha

    For Elizabeth: I just wanted to say I’m sorry your shows and pitch didn’t work out. That must be really hard to put so much work into something and have it just end like that. I have always admired the resilience of writers, and I imagine it must be especially taxing as a Hollywood writer. May your fresh start/clean slate lead you to amazing things!

  • TheWillies

    The woman with the mother in law problem needs to read Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend. MILs are notorious for trying to destroy boundaries. “Leave and cleave”. Marriage is between two people.

  • caitlingracie

    I love the “Design Your Summer” idea! I kind of try to do this every season. I make up a spreadsheet (I love spreadsheets) at the beginning of each season listing the goals, projects, and activities that are important to me. I have columns describing the goal/project/activity, any supplies or planning needed, whether or not I completed it, and notes (things to try next time, how something went badly or well, etc.). I certainly don’t complete everything, but it helps me keep in mind the things I’d like to do each season and savor the things I am able to do. The planning/supplies needed column helps me plan ahead or realize that I have everything I need for a particular activity.

  • Megan L

    Great podcast! Thanks Gretchen and Liz! I’m excited for your summer, Gretchen! I’m in graduate school and currently writing my Masters Thesis for defense in the fall. Summer time in graduate school for me doesn’t feel much different from the school year because I’m still expected to work just as hard with 40+ hour weeks. All the same, I’m hopeful that I can switch things up AND still get plenty of work done. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Megan L

      Also I just started reading Better Than Before after religiously listening to your podcasts for the past year and it’s awesome! I’ve learned a lot from the podcast but the book goes so much deeper. Well worth the read. I checked it out from my local library after listening to a podcast and Gretchen mention her love of libraries. I haven’t been to a “fun” (not university) library since I was a kid and it was great. I’m thinking about re-reading The Happiness Project and Happier at Home next! Keep on writing and podcasting! I love it!

      • gretchenrubin

        Terrific! happy reading!

  • Le Genou de Claire

    I’m a new listener: I just came across your podcast recently, and I already applied the two “Try at Home” suggestions: 1-minute rule and alarm for bedtime (from Episode 1 & 2).

    I’m a stay-at-home mom, so summer is my “work” season because my child (who is under 5) is at home ALL the time from school (too young for most Summer Camps, too expensive anyway). In addition, my husband work in seasonal industry and summer is his busiest season (read: no vacation for us). I won’t lie — I’m not looking forward to summer, but now that I heard your podcast, here’s my summer plan to make it more enjoyable: go to farmer’s market with my son once a week (he loves the $4.50 popsicle that they have there, yes $4.50 for a small popsicle!!), do family BBQ every Sunday afternoon (most likely frozen burger & hotdogs but we love the time we spend together, plus if you dress the hotdog with kimchi, it tastes more gourmet), and read books between the hour of 9-10 PM daily (that’s the hour after my son goes to bed and before I go to bed).

    Thank you for the wonderful podcast!

    • gretchenrubin

      Thanks for listening. Great summer ideas!

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  • Jennifer Conrad

    Dear Gretchen and Elizabeth – On the subject of thank you notes, I simply had to weigh in. I love sending special, personalized thank you notes. I enjoy it so much, I am sometimes teased about this by friends and family. The thought of sending thank you notes does sometimes overwhelm me, especially for some bigger events where there are lots of people, however, in the end, I thoroughly enjoy reliving the event/gift through this act of gratitude. Using my beautiful stationary and fancy fountain pen adds to the happiness level of this activity.

    Regarding Elizabeth’s birthday party thank you notes for 30 children (or their parents), please consider this thought: While saying thanks, you will experience the glow of gratitude and send that out into the world – a very good thing. And, so however that “works” for you, including a group email, would be appreciated by your friends, I am quite sure!

    Thanks so much for the really enjoyable podcast – you two inspire me.

  • Liz

    I love the phrase “everything I’ve touched has turned to ash,” haven’t we all been there to one degree or another. I’m curious if Elizabeth can salvage any of her cancelled ideas? Can old ideas be reworked into new ones or is it always a fresh start. I love hearing about how creative people start in one direction and then something else occurs and the idea shifts and changes. I also am intrigued by the idea that this is a natural part of Elizabeth’s career. It seems to rely on faith that things will eventually work out, and I have no doubt they will, but it would be hard for me to live like that. I love the example of someone who can. Gold star to Elizabeth this week, her insights have really helped me think differently.

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  • Monique Pyylampi

    Itunes only has up to the end of Liz’s demerit for this episode. I tried twice before coming to the happiercast site to check on it. The end is here though thankfully!

    • gretchenrubin

      I checked with the tech people — problem is on your end. The episode is fully uploaded — so maybe you didn’t have it completely downloaded. good luck! thanks for listening!

  • Cathy Zeisler

    So as a mother of 3 (18, 14, 9 years old) who works part time, when school is out there are major changes at home. I had been doing really well with getting more exercise in during the school year, but I was worried if I would keep it up when the schedule changed. So, since I couldn’t GET OUT of driving my 14 yr old to cross country practice at a park 20 minutes from home, I decided to GET INTO it by taking my youngest and making that two-hour window an active time. We have rotated our activities through running, doing yoga outside, practicing soccer skills, biking, and hiking the trails with our dog. I am loving getting outside each day and also loving the time with my youngest. I have definitely employed the strategy of scheduling since practice happens every day and I can’t talk myself out of it whatever the weather. Also, we have planned our activity rotation, so I don’t have to decide – if it is Monday, we are biking. I really appreciate all that I have learned from your habit strategies. Thanks!

  • Austin

    The best advice I’ve ever received that had the biggest impact on my happiness is to “assume positive intent.” It came at a time when my career was undergoing a significant change and there was a lot of uncertainty in my life. It felt like there were lots of things that weren’t going my way but assuming positive intent from the people/organizations I was dealing with was a great way to shift my perspective and to have a happier outlook.
    Now, I have it written above my desk to help me remember and it still helps on a daily basis; especially with the prevalence of brief, electronic communications where it is so difficult to interpret people’s tone and intent.

  • Sheila Doughty

    Besides trying to make a garden grow, in Summer I like to be artistic or learn new skills. Last summer was pottery and reading many art books on pottery and mosaics. This summer I’m taking a Master Gardener class and an online college class for fun, (University of Missouri’s Laura Ingalls Wilder, A Writer’s Life) and getting serious about running. I joined a local woman’s running group that meets once a week, and meet with a friend for a second run. I tell myself “don’t think just do it,” as I’d rather sleep. Summer habits also include swimming and eating locally grown simple meals. And as to the thank you notes. — I’m pretty sure that Elizabeth didn’t get gifts, her son did. So it is his job to say thank you. At six, he could color printed think you notes and sign his name and send them — these could be done before hand and put in the gift bags. If he can’t do this, a thank you to each person as he receives the gift is suffeicent.

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  • santaclams

    Thank you for discussing the need to have a Summer Plan! I’m excited to report that for several years, I had wanted to go to a “family camp” in the mountains in northern California. Every summer that had gone by and I hadn’t made it happen I was really bummed. This summer, with the help of your talking about this kind of regret, I decided this was the year! My son and I just got back from camp and it was awesome. 🙂

    • gretchenrubin

      Excellent! So great to hear that!

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