What Makes Me Happy

“Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be,”  Abraham Lincoln is credited with saying. I agree wholeheartedly. While I certainly understand sadness and depression, having spent some time in that desolate territory, I do not wish to pitch my tent and dwell there.

Some days and seasons are hard to live through.  Sometimes you have to recognize when you’re in a situation that’s over your head and you need help. Sometimes you need a listening ear, even perhaps a professional counselor, to sort through all the mess and confusion.

But research has shown that people who focus on happy thoughts and put a smile on their face, even when they’re feeling down, are just happier folks.

Today I’ve been thinking about some things that make me happy. Here are a few, in no particular order:

A child’s laughter

A good belly laugh


The aroma of lilacs

Learning something new

Being able to say something in Spanish or French (the latter, I’m not tres bien at…imagine that accent “eggu” over the “e” in “tres”)

Laughing at myself when I do something silly

Doing something silly just for the heck of it

My kitty stretched out on my lap with her paws extended over her head,  in a posture of complete relaxation

The ditties my husband makes up and sings to me in his slightly out-of-tune voice

Seeing my children do something kind for someone

The smell of molasses cookies baking


Making a dish for a neighbor or someone who’s sick

Having a conversation with what would be considered an old person

Reading a good book

Reading a trashy novel every once in a while

Getting a letter from a friend

Hearing someone giggle

A thought-provoking quotation

Cartoons (both printed and animated)

Taking a mental health day from work

Puttering around the house

The smell of laundry fresh from the dryer

The feel of folding clothes

Finding mates for socks (the washer usually eats one or two)

Going on a scavenger hunt

Playing volleyball

Taking a walk and stopping to smell a flower or look at a beautiful tree

Good conversations

Meeting interesting people (I gravitate toward musicians and artists)

Trying to figure out what makes people tick (although this is often frustrating)

A beautiful, sunshiny day

Watching snowflakes outside my window

Hiking, especially in autumn

The crunch of leaves as you walk through them

Radnor Lake

Walking on a trail in the woods by myself

Wine with a good friend

Babies after a bath, with their flyaway hair (and hooded towels are just too funny)

Finishing a project and feeling like I’ve given it my best

Drawing, coloring, painting

Enjoying an art show

Reading the Psalms, pondering the Gospels, trying to fathom what in the world the apostle Paul meant by some of his writing

Speaking or writing words of encouragement to lift someone’s spirits

My family having a good discussion around the dinner table

A humble author

Watching TV with our entire family (seldom happens; we don’t have many shows we all like, nor are we all home at the same time)

Seeing positive developments in my children’s lives

Holding hands with John

Hearing Daniel say “I love you” as he signs off the phone

Having lunch with a friend

Watching Julie take pride in keeping her car clean

Laughing together at a joke

E-mail jokes from Jim and Gail

Knowing I’ve listened to someone else and tried to understand that person’s point of view without telling my own story


Making music on the piano

Finally enjoying singing in Latin at church (it took a while for me to get there)

Watching people in my congregation…especially during baptism and Communion

Hearing our children’s and youth choirs sing

A little Bach, a little Beethoven, some Three Dog Night, Elton John’s early music, The Eagles, Mozart, Norah Jones, Latin music, classical guitar…oh, there is so much good music and great musicians, this is just a mere sampling

These are just a few things that make me happy or bring me joy. There are many more that I can’t think of at the moment. Oh, one joy is knowing I’ve got food in the crockpot for dinner and I won’t have to think about it later in the day when I’m tired. This happens about once in a blue moon. 😀


Rainy Saturday

Today’s rain has put me in a reflective mood, and I thought it was probably time to update my blog, since I haven’t blogged all summer. I have decided not to be a slave to my blog but to post when I feel like it.

But anyway, I was just thinking about this summer and how different the mood in our house has been since last summer. Last summer we were dealing with a major depression in our family, a newly independent college student home for the summer (and conflict abounded), a new job for me, and all the usual stuff that comes with family members being together in small quarters when we hadn’t been around each other for a while.

This summer I am happy to report that John has been busy gardening and working occasionally for a friend who owns a pool service, as well as doing a plumbing job or two. Julie has been working at Jenni’s Splendid Ice Cream, a new shop in East Nashville, and she’s enjoyed socializing with friends. Daniel’s still “slinging pizzas,” as he describes his job at Papa John’s. He’s had sleep difficulties for the past several months and is trying to deal with that.

I’m glad Julie’s been home this summer, and I’m even happier that she has matured and we (John & I) are in a much better place emotionally than we were last year at this time. That’s not to say we haven’t argued…but I’ve decided that conflict is just a part of family life. Sometimes we yell, often we disagree, but in the end we love and forgive each other and try to get on with life despite our little issues.

I’m feeling a little more at home in marketing after a little over a year. For a while I felt like I had moved to a foreign country. I’ve decided it just takes time to adjust to the rhythm of a new job and new personalities (much more extraverted, for the most part, than my former department). Have been working on an online bookstore project for months, and we are about at the end of that (thank goodness). I have nearly lost my mind at times over this, as we discovered the further we progressed in the project that our customer service and online bookstore provider made us some promises that they really couldn’t keep. They didn’t have the infrastructure ready to handle our HTML and other components of the bookstore, but we didn’t learn that until we got too far down the pike to backtrack.

Yesterday I felt like throwing things when I was at work because our content management system for the bookstore was running very slow, and tasks that should have taken just a few minutes wound up consuming hours. I finally threw in the towel about 4:00 p.m. and said, “I’ve done all I can do” (after consulting with our IT dept. to be sure nothing was wrong with my computer, and also trying to access the bookstore content from another computer). My compatriot in this bookstore project said hers was functioning a little slow, but she managed to get work done. Aaargh. I hate technology sometimes.

Today I found myself griping before breakfast at my husband and then I thought, “Wait. It’s not fair to take out my frustrations on him.” I pressed Reset in my brain and attempted to start over. The anxiety level decreased, and thankfully we wound up laughing about my ill humor.

Our family has been through some tough times financially and otherwise, but every now and then we get some signs of hope. One came last Friday when John & I went to the Frist Center for Visual Arts and I won 2 free round-trip tickets on Southwest Airlines. YES! We haven’t been able to afford a vacation, so this was a godsend.

Our other sign of hope has been our bountiful garden this summer. We have been blessed with just the right soil, just the right amount of sunlight, a little ingenuity on John’s part (well, okay, a whole lot), and enough rain or stored rain water to keep the garden green and growing. We have had summer squash, butternut squash, tomatoes, and cucumbers in abundance. We are starting to get cantaloupes and watermelons. Sunflowers have shot up along the edge of the garden, and the sight of them has cheered me immensely, even when their heads start drooping. John has worked hard on the garden and approached it scientifically, inserting his own creativity along the way. He hung some CDs around the edge of the garden to keep birds away. Then he put plastic milk jugs around some of our cantaloupes, weighing them down and protecting the cantaloupes from a raccoon or some other varmint that has enjoyed a couple of ripe cantaloupes.

One of the best things about having this plentiful garden is that it has allowed us to share our bounty with neighbors, colleagues, and other friends. I think it’s very important to share with others, even when you’re having financial struggles…maybe then it’s even more important than ever because it reminds you how much indeed we are blessed.

So I’m feeling grateful for a rainy Saturday, for the buttload of housework I need to do today and for the fact that I feel energetic enough to launch into it and do it (there have been times I couldn’t say that). Life is good. Laughter is good. Love is good. It’s all good…and all part of the journey.

Feelin’ the Love

I woke up this morning with the thought “I love that man.” Of course I’m talking about my husband, John. Lately John has undergone all kinds of changes, and I love that age 63 he is still willing to try new things, even consider new careers.

Some of the qualities I love about him are his courage, his sense of humor; his wackiness; his willingness to fight for things he believes in (he’s the political activist in our family); his faithfulness to me and our family; his perseverance even in seeming hopeless situations; his concern for the less fortunate; his painstaking honesty (even when it costs us); his acceptance of people from all sorts of backgrounds; his faith, which he doesn’t talk about much but tries to live out; his love for our children even when they aren’t acting so loving.

In the past month or so John has been on an organizing binge in our house. Who’da thunk it? He is usually the one whose office looks like a tornado blew through. (Mine looks that way sometimes too.) So far he has organized a lot of things in his office, but it’s still messy. The big coup is that he has been organizing our garage (which used to be where his office was located), and it’s starting to look somewhat decent. This organizing mood is contagious. I’ve started attacking some of the clutter that accumulated from our move 6 years ago. If I haven’t used it by now, I need to find another home for it…that is, unless it’s something sentimental like pictures.

John has inspired and challenged me to keep reading, to educate myself on current events (he’s constantly reading The New Yorker and Newsweek, as well as anything else he can get his hands on, even some chick literature that I’ve brought home and said, “It was a good story”). I don’t think I’ll ever be as smart as he, so I’ve stopped trying. He has taught me a lot about history, about various presidents (he loves to read biographies), about the economy, and about real estate.

When our children were growing up, he was quite involved in such things as taking them to the doctor, caring for them when they were ill (he did have more flexibility, being self-employed), driving them to school (and taking them along with him to job sites, which was incredibly boring for them, but they survived). He made the sacrifice on Wednesday nights of taking them home after church supper so I could attend choir practice and get at least one break in my busy week.

In the past year or so, he has started taking on a few more responsibilities around the house, such as cooking occasionally (especially on Tuesday and Thursday nights when I have yoga). If I can ever get him to get out the vacuum cleaner, he uses all the attachments and cleans places I never thought of. Over the Christmas holidays, he reorganized our kitchen cabinets and even took a picture of where things belong in the cabinet we use the most (where our dishes and glasses are). Daniel had to write a comment on the picture of course: “Is this really necessary?” To which I replied, “Yes. Some of us have trouble putting things where they belong. I’m not naming any names.

All this gives me hope that we WILL get our living room painted this year in a shade that I like, of course. I am tired of looking at taupe walls. I would like to change the living room to robin’s egg blue. I think it’ll look nice with our brown furniture and most of the artwork hanging in our living room, except for that pink day lily watercolor that one of our tenants, a transvestite, left behind when he disappeared from his apartment.

And we MAY even attack our landscaping, which has gotten out of control (but one or the other of us has had physical limitations at times that have prevented our working together to “get ‘er done”). I even have hopes that 2011 will be the year we have a functional lawn mower that John doesn’t have to repair every time he uses it. Did I mention that he’s a great handyman? I have often taken this skill for granted.

So there. I won’t be displaying any bumper sticker that says “I love my husband” (I haven’t seen any of those anyway; I’m alluding, rather poking fun, at the PromiseKeepers bumper stickers). But I want the world to know that John is precious to me, and I think that’s pretty romantic after 28 1/2 years. I am a lucky woman.