smiling sliver of the moon…

Roses from the store remind me of all the flowers to come. Why, as I write to you, the very high windows in our great room, that I leave open, with no curtains or blinds to hide the wonder of the outdoors, those windows show me my bare limbed maple tree. And behind the branches lifting her limbs up to the sky in wonder, sits the crescent moon, tipped on her side. She smiles down at me and my tree, since the moon is waxing and she’s a large white smile in the inky sky. Even the moon loves spring!

The wind rising outside makes a lonely sound, and fast clouds pass my smiling moon and find other places to beguile. I’m showing you “Lucy”, a painting we brought home a month ago. We only buy paintings that make us happy, or content or restful. And I suppose I cannot wax eloquent about a moon all night. So here is a sliver of happiness on a wall to brighten the grey days. The yellow is in our kitchen, since to me, it is a very proper kitchen color at times. Sunshiney and pleasant.

Daylight is not foreign to me, and we all have our lists of to do’s, and one of mine is to play with accents at home. (See how occupied I can become and thus avoid editing my book?!) This bunny hopped into my arms and I carried her here, in the foyer, on our antique poplar table. The bunny likes the real roses as much as I do. Do you smile when you see flowers? The pizza delivery guy told me how much my crocuses made him smile as he made his way to our door. Smiles come easily in spring.

The crocuses are small, but the yellow catches the eye and stalwartly says, “Spring is here, even if tomorrow blows cold and grey. I’m here to tell you, be happy. I bring you spring.” What I buried in the cool earth five months ago, has brought me hope. The grass greens, and the buds on the trees swell. Oh! The birds! Do you hear them chattering as they gather sticks and grasses to feather their nests? I threw open the windows and door and reveled in their raucous songs today! You know spring is here, when the quiet is broken by birdsong. They’ll grow quieter as the summer approaches. So enjoy their music. You don’t need a radio; you need an open window or door.

What’s your favorite season? I used to love summer, since she’s hot, brash, full of color and brings long days of bright sunshine. Spring? I fell in love with her a few years ago. Did you know the greening up happens at the ground first, in the grass, then it slowly makes its way up to the bushes, with the forsythia and pussy willows showing off too. And finally the trees open up and share their sweet green leaves with the world. Another winter passed. Another spring is made welcome.

Since we’re discussing spring and how happy that season feels, I thought I’d show you another one of my frog princes. Why? Because he looks supremely confident, and it’s a subtle reminder to me that when I go down to our farm this weekend, the frogs will be singing all night long. I learned to love that sound years ago in Wisconsin, where spring is celebrated with abandon. (They have long winters, so I understand their happiness when a warm day arrives.) Do you grill out on that first warm day? Do the longer days make you happier? Happiest? I hope so.

I don’t have a picture of the moon that’s sinking lower in the west, so here’s one in a store nearby. Whether you revel in nighttime ponderings or love waking before dawn to watch the gold slowly light the sky on fire, try to open a window. Let yourself feel the hope spring brings us and places right at our feet. Those dandelions will soon remind us that our days and nights tucked in around a fire have given way to walks around the neighborhood, greeting people we haven’t seen since November. Be happy. Find your sliver of happiness this week and weekend. Embrace spring. Get outside. Breathe. And smile. Always…

Until next time…

brownies, cookies and two sweet ladies…

Another beautiful September night in my perfectly suburban subdivision life, and I wish you were next to me. The windows are open, of course, and the crickets continue their night’s songs. They won’t be silenced until the first frost, and even then, I’m amazed by the number of crickets who stay warm enough to sing to me until the middle of November. The other night’s noisemakers diminish week-by-week, and I’ll know Thanksgiving draws near when the nights finally become completely silent.

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Finding beauty can be easy some days. Others? If I showed you the tough days, you would see a mountain of laundry, bathrooms that need attention and very old veggies in the fridge because I wanted to cut up that cucumber and place it in a glass pitcher of water, just the way a spa does. But my life intruded, just as yours does. Endless lists and jobs and work and school get in the way too. For me? I have a body that has decided to not feel okay since I noticed something was very wrong in the days before I turned seventeen. Years later (so many years, lol) and my health never returned.

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I tried therapy, eating so many interesting diets that helped with weight loss but not health gains, running, Pilates, not running, going to top name clinics etc. Why do I share this? Because we all have different challenges in life and if we’re going to get through this life somewhat happily, contentedly and with a sense of humor too, we have to find our beauty. Okay, not the kind in the mirror. No. We’re too vain as a society, and selfies kill people each year. Not kidding. Look it up.

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The beauty we’re meant to find is around us. At work, in the fluorescent glow of the lights, can you prop up one picture of your happy place? I have a friend who has never taken a proper vacation, and her dream is to fly to Fiji. Pictures of white beaches and blue waters might make her feel calm. I like to walk in the evenings just as everyone’s homes light up. I used to get decorating ideas for my 1920’s bungalow that way. And now? I enjoy seeing lights on in rooms. Is someone studying up there? Is my neighbor playing his piano while his wife knits? (Oh, I love them so much!) And if your neighborhood doesn’t feel safe, go to a place where you can walk safely and look at beauty.

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Autumn is filled with beauty. The colors of the trees are finally revealed! Pumpkins of all colors surround us. Go drink some fresh apple cider! I look up at the cirrus clouds, so whispy, and I know winter’s grim, grey days aren’t too far away. But wait! We’re on a beauty hunt. So grab some acorns, snip a small branch or two from a maple or an oak tree and bring them home. Make your home, large or small, a place filled with beauty. Your kind of beauty.

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Maybe a thrill runs through you when you finish a quilt. When you have just enough pretty pillows surrounding you. Is it the music floating on the air? The scent of your newborn baby? That’s a treasured scent. Even when you’re going on three hours of sleep. Maybe it’s baking completely from scratch brownies and sharing them with neighbors. Do that! It matters and you’ll make a difference.

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When I was a newlywed and lived in a four apartment building, two kind old sisters lived above me. They didn’t get out much, if at all, and they loved it when I walked upstairs to offer them butterscotch cookies. I certainly didn’t need all of those calories staring back at me, and they didn’t seem to have much fresh food, so I baked. For them and for me. I love baking. Adore it. And now I have no flight of stairs to walk up and no one to share my pumpkin bread. Wherever you in life, try to treasure it…

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You have gifts to share. Do that! Give away your time, your love, your cakes, your ability to read well, sing, to listen to someone’s story. That’s beauty. The Sephora stuff we buy to look beautiful can’t cover up a sour person. Someone with true happiness spilling over is lovely! Why do we like looking at brides so much? Because they glimmer, gleam and beam. They shine with love, and we all enjoy it. Go for that beauty today. The kind inside you, that no one can ever take away. Even if you’re sick. Dying. Divorcing. Even then…

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You are beautiful. Make a small space in your room beautiful too. Light a candle. Drink some soothing tea…or go to Starbucks (I love the happy baristas there, seriously!). Bring pretty pictures to your space. Books, incense, jewelry. Make it yours. Make it pretty. And enjoy being you for a little bit tonight. Until next time…

IMG_E7203(I’m slowly switching out summer’s flowers, but look! The rosemary survives…)

 

 

beautiful embrace…

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We’re looking for the beauty in the everyday, right? What if I told you that I’m sitting in my favorite spot in this house, listening to the thunder, and since it’s still daylight, I’m watching the clouds for the peculiar green they become when bad weather is on the way.  I wish I could have a storm almost everyday of the year. Last night I stayed up long into the night working on my computer, when I suddenly spied lightning, and I eventually decided to put down my work and picked up a book I’ve long been in the middle of. I enjoyed every flash of light in the sky (and the gentle rumblings of far off thunder) and it continued for hours. But storms in our lives, figuratively? Umm…

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We’re supposed to have another line of storms run through here later tonight, and while I’m looking forward to another night of lightning, I’m not looking forward to the storms in my life. I’d much rather have a life of sunny days, except the storms in life make us look at things we need to see. Bad behaviors, bad habits, bad relationships or a string of accidents, these things make us feel like a tornado ran right though our lives. But these storms can be beautiful, if only we look for it.

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One of the reasons I waited to write was due to a storm I’m going through, and I just didn’t feel like I could write about happiness when I was feeling anything except that. A few days out and I’m smiling again. And though I lost my appetite I still breathed in the scent of my hyacinths. I ate peanut butter cups and called that protein (I know!) I can write about storms even while I’m hearing the deep bass booming of thunder rumbling in. Sometimes it seems like the tempest will never end, but it does. It will.

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Those storms in our life are necessary but not always wanted. And some storms are much larger, bringing a tornado into our lives, and we wonder when we’ll have all the debris picked up. Will we ever? Yes. We will. Look for the beauty where you can find it, while we’re picking up the debris laden life that’s ours. I’m not trying to be all sunshine and happiness, but rainbows are real. After the rain clears out enough, I look for them. Do you still have your dog to cuddle with? Are most of your kids okay (I swear there always seems to be one in need…or maybe that’s just me), then celebrate with them all but console the one who hurts. Go look at the pictures of you from way back. Maybe you need to look at your wedding pictures again to remind yourself why you married in the first place. Look at all that beauty.

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Keep your head up, beautiful one. (Because you are!) If you’re cleaning up the debris from a storm, like I am, vow to change one thing and move forward. Mine is reading every. single. day. What would yours be? And the next thing is to love your own company. Unless you are an incredible extrovert who feeds off being around others constantly (I’m applauding you right now), then go find your people! Oh, below are some tag sale finds. No more than ten dollars. That’s a bunch of beauty for a song. So maybe retail therapy really works, as long as it’s small and not too often, right?

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I have a daughter who needs to always have people around, so when my introvert went off to college this past fall and didn’t like it right off, she told him to take the hammock she gave him and string it up between the trees where some random people are hanging out. Extrovert daughter informed my introvert son that she met people doing that very thing. And she loved talking to strangers. (She’s still learning stranger danger…) The introvert found friends quietly and not in a hammock. My point? What works for one does not work for all. Look at yourself and decide to love you. Decide to find something beautiful this week. Decide to make one small change. And you don’t have to sit in a hammock and talk to strangers. But maybe listen to the thunder and look for the rainbow.

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I’m now listening to the birdsong that signals the end of day. I’m lucky enough to have a nest just outside my bedroom window, and I am being serenaded so beautifully. Bruno Mars has nothing on this guy outside my window! I hope you have a beautiful week. And yes, I will be back on Saturday.

Until next time…

 

If we only knew…

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Isn’t this candle wonderful? For us, I mean. Since we’re on a happiness journey, it’s fun to  find little treasures to grace our days. I decided to give this sweet candle away. There really is such a thing as too much of a good thing, which, in my case, means I am candled out. But the message is perfect. Be happy today. I think the “be” is particularly poignant, since someone close to me is hurting and I’m not feeling the “be” right now.

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Let me explain. Someone I love dearly was completely blindsided by the love of their life (thus far) telling them they were no longer loved or at least, not loved as much. I feel their pain. It’s hard to sit on the sidelines and watch someone you love swim through the deep end of murky, unknown waters. Rejection is never fun, but going through a tough time helps us learn more about ourselves. And we discover resilience. Eventually, moments of sunlight give way to days of sun washed happiness. We find our way.

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I’ve always wondered about (and envied) the people who find love the first time they dip their toes in the dating waters. They stay together, marry, and still stay together. They didn’t muck through the mud of rejection. Are they as happy as I am, since I loved a few people on my way to the guy I really fell for. And married. Has your heart been burned? Frozen on a frigid night? Have you thought happiness would never run through your veins again? That the laughter spilling from your soul was quenched? And you thought it would last forever?

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The person I gave this sweet candle to just wandered in from several months of realizing the one she thought she was settling down with, meant she was settling for a lot of bad. (I didn’t know until right before their break-up.) She can light that candle tonight and smile with true happiness again. It’s back, but it seemed as though night claimed her heart forever. Have you been there, ever?  I wonder if there isn’t something necessary about the process. About feeling sad, left out and alone. Finding our way through tough times just might lead us to a much better place; a place filled with a sense of happiness and contentment. And peace.

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Our souls are fragile. To be in love feels heady, warm and wonderful. To have loved over many, many years is bottled happiness. I would “be” happy today if it weren’t for one close to me being rocked to the core. Because I know what that feels like. Actually, add in a summer’s worth of girls on the side, and that’s what I faced. Long ago, when I wore the body of a college girl, tanned from a summer of sun, I eagerly returned to college to find a cheat where I once knew a kind, sweet boy. You too? Huh. And if not that, maybe you’ve felt the sting of rejection at the hands of friends. Maybe your family. Where is the happiness in those days? I’ll tell you.

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Time. It heals. The love of others sustained me, too. Roommates, determined to see my smile, made me laugh. In spite of the cold center in my heart. Frost had touched it, and I never thought it would feel warmth again. But it did. Oh please, know your breaking heart, for whatever reason is going to come out whole, will feel love, will thaw and seem light as the air on a warm and breezy May evening. I’ve been there myself, and I’ve walked that road with each of my children now too.

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Be happy today? Did you also receive a handful or a heartful of sadness today? Hang on through this ride, because you will find your way to blissed out, singing at the top of your lungs in the shower kind of day soon. You’ll weather the storm. Even if someone just told you they don’t love you…anymore. Or as much. Or that they found another love. Or someone told you how wrong you are, when you meant well. Are you wandering through waves of misunderstanding? Are you being shunned? Does it feel like that?

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I so want you to find your happiness today. Be happy. Tonight too. But if you only want to huddle under a blanket and eat Oreo’s until midnight, go ahead. I think chocolate is a part of a well-balanced diet. Because I know this…

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You will have days and nights where you will feel drunk with happiness. Love you enough to find kind hearts to surround you and make you laugh in spite of yourself. Take those runs. Walks. Do jazzercise like my 77 year old dad. Then find a small treat and bring it home. One red rose. A sweet tea (I had two today! with less sugar, yesss!). A dance party in the kitchen while listening to great music that you have to sing with. Even if your nose is stuffy from crying. Because you will find your way back to happy.

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I have to admit my heart still hurts tonight. Writing about finding happiness doesn’t mean I feel super happy every moment of the day. But this will pass. Happy days will be here again. By the time May runs into me, I hope to be taking pics of sun laced days where being happy isn’t something to aspire to. I’ll just fall into it, languidly. I hope you will too. We’ll look out for each other along the way. So try to be happy today. Be happy today. Find it. It’s out there, waiting for you. I promise.

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Until next time…

 

 

Within our grasp…

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How is March going for you? I think those of us who live in the warmer parts of the nation are feeling spring tugging at their sleeves, begging them to take off that jacket and enjoy the warm sunshine. Those of us farther north are gritting out teeth while we look for snowdrops and crocuses to push up through the brown ground, or through the endless slush of grey snows. I live in the middle, so the grass is greening up (and I heard someone close by mowing their lawn this week, and no! it’s way to early to begin that) and my daffodils are blooming. But we had snow last night at the farm. This is a month of waiting.

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Waiting requires patience and that’s difficult. I even broke open my St. Patrick’s Day candy a bit early. Green looks so good after months of brown, taupe, and grey. Those grey days pull me down sometimes. You? Can you march right through a string of grey days, armed with inner fortitude? I think we all have ways of dealing with endless grey days, whether they be outside or in our heart. A cup of steaming coffee, espresso or tea in the morning helps. Coming home to a glass of Chardonnay or two fingers of bourbon is something to look forward to for others. Me? My espresso when the morning is rough, followed by copious amounts of sweet tea. And yes, sugar is bad for me, but it is my vice. Okay, yes, chocolate is my vice too. I know. I should gnaw on a carrot stick rather than savor that dark chocolate, but I don’t. How about you?

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If you’re going to tell me a five mile run followed by a green shake (not a Shamrock shake) is your pick-me-up, I will act impressed. But. I can’t do that right now. Maybe never. And if you’re in the same boat as I am, what do we do, while we wait for sun soaked days filled with lilac scented breezes?

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Several things come to mind. Bringing spring inside helps. Some prefer escaping into a book, their video games, meeting up with someone. I was on Facebook last night and a young man messaged me. He went to school with my daughter, and basically he said he felt very lonely. I wasn’t going to bring up loneliness this week, but this conversation  happened. I tried to make suggestions for him, but it’s tough for introverts to get out there. Just stepping through the door of a new place sends shivers down their backs. I think we all need to cultivate a couple of friendships.

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Making the effort to join a group where you’ll find friends is vital. Join something. Yoga, soccer, book groups, running groups or just about anything you dream up is out there. Walk out your door and join. And if you’re connected, fabulous! Can you look for the people on the side? Not talking to anyone? Just watching? While your laughing away with your besties, can you look for a new friend to pull into your circle? Can we all be more inclusive? What is that old saying?

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Step outside your comfort zone. That’s what we’re told. Do something new, and grab someone kind of new to go along. I just went with a new friend to construct a rustic sign for my farmhouse/cabin. I felt like I was back in shop class, and as intimidated as I am by drills and hammers, I persevered and the sign looks okay. Nice, even. But the best part? Getting to know a new friend better and laughing our way through the event.

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Tonight I’m going to a play with one of my kids. They know one of the actors, which I think is way cool. Last night, though? I stayed in all day. In my sweats. I worked on my book, with plenty of breaks spaced between chapters. I was alone. By myself. Part of me liked it and another part didn’t so much. It really is a balance, isn’t it? Time alone and time together. Ready for a story? Then, I’m done, promise.

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When my kids were little, my mom and dad organized and paid for (thank you!) a vacation at Disneyland. We stayed in a house about 45 minutes away from the Magic Kingdom, because my dad is thrifty. He woke us up every morning at 6:00 a.m. and my brother and sister helped me get the kids dressed, fed and ready for a day of happiness. We were in the van by 7:00, parked, walked, and stood in line for early access. Then it was five hours of rides, ice cream and running after my kids. My dad drove us all back for nap time around 2:00. (I think it was his nap time to be honest.) I played in the pool with my two older kids for a few hours, and then up! and back! on the long drive to Disneyland. From 5:00 until 10:00 p.m. Long drive home. Then some relatives would visit once we got back to the house, and my father slipped up to bed, while my brother and I yawned and did everything we could to indicate visiting hours were over. In bed at midnight. Up at 6:00. To get to the “happiest place in the world”.

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I thought it was just me, feeling tired, just wishing we could spend a day at the house by the pool, when my brother whispered to me, “I need a vacation from this vacation.” Oh, thank goodness. It wasn’t just me! I adore my dad. He has the energy of a twenty-five year old on five Red Bulls. And a few espressos also. I do not. And, I need and crave time in my woman cave. Alone. Especially when three kids are with you constantly. And relatives that you love, but not at midnight. What I learned is balance. That vacation taught me a lot. Time alone. Time together. Let’s find that balance while we revel in the end of winter. Eat your chocolate or that cookie, and let’s see if we can find a bit of happiness along the way.

Until next time…

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Turning in the wind…

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Writing is a lonely business and I never was an introvert. Having lupus has made me one, but you can see I managed to host a dinner last weekend. I didn’t feel lonely all this week, remembering the deep conversations around candlelight, flowers and food, while I had the windows open and we listened to the rain fall. Cozy, right? But I’ve had my share of loneliness. You? I think it might be a common thread among more of us than we think.

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Social media has a way of making me feel lonely. How? Well, I don’t like playing the game of “look at the wonderful things I’m doing…I’m busy, important and having a ton of fun”. I feel like my life isn’t as wonderful. I compare. I have FOMO. Hey, if you’re having a ton of fun, enjoy it live. Let me explain. Once this dinner began with guests arriving, I no longer thought about taking pictures. I was in the moment. And I’ve always preferred experiencing the actual moment rather than taking a picture of that moment. If you don’t post every experience you’re having, I’m sure you’re fine posting a great moment in your life. Just not the perpetual posters. On Insta, Snap, FB…

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Social media is something I did initially with enthusiasm, until I saw the kids on the side, not picked. Not playing. Not at the “neighborhood” party. Not at the card game all their friends were at. Not chosen. Not included. Not.

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It’s like playing dodgeball in gym and getting picked last. Not fun. And if you think I’m trying to stay off social media for that reason, you’re right. Because on my sick days, I will always cheer for the new babies, engagements and birthdays, but I choose not to see two things. The perennial whiners. And the constant posers, enjoying life at every turn. Because I don’t buy it. Nothing is that fabulous. Life has its ups and downs. But I’m not here to just talk social media (except the more you engage with it, the lonelier you feel…truth…studies have attested to it).

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I’m here to address a lonely world. We live in it. Do I know lonely? Try being bullied in fifth and sixth grade so badly that I switched schools in October of seventh grade. Loved the new school. New kid? Who cared! I was happy with the bigger school and made friends who didn’t mock me. Lonely? Moving before sophomore year and not having anyone to each lunch with, so I played piano in an empty practice room. Because no one wanted to eat with the new girl. Lonely? My kid sat and watched all her friends eat pizza brought in by one parent, only to be told by her “friend” group that she wasn’t included in the birthday pizza party, and it wasn’t a question of money. Not this school.

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And while I show you the pics of this week that made my heart sing… back to loneliness. I can’t address bullies this time. But they are out there. If you are one, stop it. Just stop. If you’re being bullied, stay OFF social media. And find new friends. Or play piano until you do find the real cool people. Because your people, the ones who are like you, who get your humor, who’ve got your back, are cool.

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There are so many ways around loneliness. Why do you think I go to Starbucks? I want to go to a place where I can have a quick but meaningful encounter with another human, and get my drink. And Starbucks is closest, and now I know people at Starbucks all over this city, because of promotions and moves etc. Before lupus, pilates class was my meaningful encounter. It can be an hour of pain or five minutes of bliss, pick your moment. You? Join a book club. Bike group. Take a class. If you work, that might be about all you want to do, except the world doesn’t get the honor of knowing you the way they could…if you went into a coffee place with a smile. Or even the grocery store.

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(Doesn’t match, I know, but I did ivory chair thing and they wound up not so ivory.) Back to letting the world see you and love you. If you bring something positive to the table almost every time you go somewhere, you will have a very lovely life. I told you I go through the stores with a slight smile on my face (I might look like a lunatic, but at least I’m happy, people might say), and people smile at me! Lots of people! Young ladies, go meet the man of your dreams in the frozen food aisle, because they’re there. And if you smile, they will see you! Back to belonging…to being in this life.

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Show up to life and smile at it. I have been in such pain from the age of nineteen, that I can have a migraine and not bat an eyelash. Have one right now. Can’t wait to go read Harry Potter again. Try not to whine. Try to be a happy person. It is a choice. Yes! This week I went in to my Starbucks and smiled as I approached one of “my people” there and she was shaking like a leaf and said, “Thank God, it’s you.” She quivered. A customer had tore into the store, yelling (the oldest person working was like 21), because someone in the drive-through had paid for his order. He demanded they throw away his first order and he would pay for his own (put in lots of swear words at a scream and you have the idea). This girl, paid very little, bore the brunt of someone’s very misplaced anger, because someone did him a kindness. Can you imagine being upset at someone being nice to you?

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Be kind. And if someone is kind to you, accept it…graciously. Be kind, good, gentle, and graceful. Go find people. It’s what I did in 10th grade after too many piano sessions alone. Host dinner at your house. You want to know how I made friends here in Cincinnati? I hosted a coffee for my neighbors. Yup. Had them over and made all sorts of great friends. And in Waukesha (try saying it!) when I moved there as an adult? I saw two ladies walking by with their kids and I tore out of my house, six months pregnant, just breathlessly yelling at them to come on over. One of them is my best friend to this day.

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Go out there and make the world a better place. One person at a time. This world needs you. You can carry your loneliness, but drop it at the door and run after someone…wait, no, I wouldn’t do that. Could get you into trouble. Start small. Join a group of people, doing something. Or just smile, while you walk through that grocery store. Have a very smiley week…

Until next time…

 

Arms wide open…

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Let’s sit and catch our breath. I wanted to write before it all happened yesterday and I can’t get over it. Can you? The kids, at school, who will never come home from school ever again…    I’m going to purposefully turn to what I can control right now, because, we, the lucky ones, have lives that go on, thankfully, mercifully, wonderfully. (And if not, look at my last post.) I’m changing gears here. To the happiness we find where we are. Even in tough weeks we can grab it. Touch it. Feel it.

Today I decided spring is here no matter what, and so I started switching the season in my Ohio house. Notice the lighter pillows? The cranberry ones went away until cranberry season.

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What make me supremely happy are these warm, wistful days that you can’t hold onto. You can try to hang on, but all you get at first is a snippet of an afternoon to grab your iced tea, open a window or three and feel the freshness of the day wash over you.

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Do you see my cat, Willie Nelson, looking out at the seventy degree day? He’s as happy as I am today. We watched the robins tussling with the cardinals and sparrows over the seed I placed out there this morning. Rain did meander her way across the skies, but I dodged the raindrops and enjoyed running errands.

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Oooh. Right now I hear the faraway call of the night train on her way to somewhere. Anywhere.  The whistle makes me feel cozy and happy, and I revel in the freedom of following my heart to other cities. I could get up, head out and go. (I won’t.) But doesn’t the mere thought that you could, right now, just get up and leave, somehow make you feel lighter and happier? We both could do that. Just dreaming about it is fun.

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The call of the train is so loud tonight, that I even hear the low rumble, and I hardly ever manage to hear that.

Do you feel cooped up and penned in sometimes? Like tomorrow is another wintery day where you get up in the dark, brush your teeth, go to work, or school, or watch the kids? Then home to a hastily made dinner or hockey or soccer practice? Piano? Watch the same show on tv again. Mindlessly numbing? Then back into bed. Escape in your dreams. Ah, but dreams come true. Wait for it. Plan for that dream of yours. That trip on that night train, so to speak.

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That’s why the train’s call gives me shivers. You and I could go. Somewhere. A place that is warmer, drier, higher, by the sea, by that river, in the country. Anywhere but here. But… we can be happy where we are. Why? How? Bad things happen to good people. How do we even?

Because we know we’ll focus on what we can change, do our best to the people around us and find ways to enjoy the time given to us. And that’s where my pillows come in. And my flowers. And the open windows.

 

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Today I decided to revel in spring. We might have six more weeks of snow, sleet and ice but I’m calling it. Spring! I even took a walk looking for (desperately hoping for) crocuses, but I didn’t see any yet… So I brought home these pretty pink tulips that smile at me all day long. And the white roses? From my love, of course. I love the greenery he added, himself. Pure white love in a vase of sweet roses.

When I brought out the pillows that aren’t a perfect match for the front room, I decided to like those spring-y pillows anyway. Because you and I know some secrets that younger ones have yet to discover.

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We can take a drizzley day in the middle of February, when we feel fat from too many chocolates and champagne, or steak and chardonnay, and we turn it into the best day. Warmth? Yup, I’m in. It could be fifty-five degrees and the window would still be open because I decided I’m done with Old Man Winter and, besides, the robins are here. Springtime! It is on! And seventy degrees is blissful. Revel in what you have. No snowdrops in your garden? Roses in the house are magic. But really, we don’t need flowers or pillows to make this a happy day. We need our minds. They take us everywhere.

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That train I hear calling goodbye goes all the way West. Want to go? We can plan for that day. I want to head out and see DeSmet, South Dakota. Because my favorite author lived there and wrote all about it. I still haven’t been there, but just tonight I asked my love if he would go with me, and I got a great, big, “Yes!”. So, someday, even if I’m eighty, I’ll go. And knowing that makes my heart sing with happiness.

 

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Oh, please find your things that make you happy. On days when the news is bad and you want to crawl back in bed until sunny days bring better tidings, you need something to look forward to. To pull you through.

Develop your interests. Don’t be bored. Not ever. Find the things you love to do, and pretty soon you’ll have a bunch of people deciding they want to go to DeSmet, South Dakota with you. They might not know why, except you’re super excited about it, and happiness spreads. Your happiness will spill over. Today. Tonight. When you hear the call of the train, miles from home. When you open your windows and throw back the curtains. When you delve into your passions, your dreams, your hopes. Be happy. Today, tonight. Tomorrow…

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Until next time…

 

Long roads with wonderful views…

 

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While sorting through the pictures to choose the ones I want to place here on this page, that take you through my day, I pass through photos going back more than five years. And in those pictures of specifically my family, I see an array of emotions. Sure, happiness on a birthday where we all deliberately sing terribly out of tune (and one daughter insists on regaling us with The Star Spangled Banner at the same time) is evident. That’s fun. Special and happy. We’re all laughing and grinning!

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And I see the vacations. Happy times, right? Except I see the depths of depression welling up into one daughter’s eyes. She cannot hide what lies beneath. She tried to take her life. Deep stuff here, I know. But I see it every time I come here to write to you about happiness. Be happy wherever you are, except. Except, there are simply times where we cannot feel it. So what do you do? I chose to ride it out. It hurt. I hurt, and others around me were affected, which didn’t make me feel any better.

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But I made it out. I’m happy to be here doing this thing called life.

In those particular vacation pictures of me and my always smiling daughter, I see her smile never reaches her eyes. And I remember her long road to happiness. That was so very worth it. She left the kind of life that brought her down and climbed out of the darkness and now lives a life full of laughter, with much kindness and concern for others. Because she knows what it feels like when we just can’t cross the bridge to happiness. But she and I know it’s a climb worth making.

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So what can we do if we’re not at happy? When it’s nowhere in sight? Talk to somebody. Reach out. Counselors can be good, but sometimes it’s a kind friend. Find the merciful, kind people in life and keep them. They are worth so much more than a roomful of raucous laughter. My daughter just happened to call a college friend to say good-bye. A forever goodbye. Outside my house, while I slept.

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That far-off friend called the police, not knowing quite where she lived, and that saved her life. I had no idea how sad my laughing, uber friendly, voted funniest of her class, daughter was. But I found out.

She lived. Thank God, she is alive. And if you are at that point of thinking nobody cares and that you’re worthless. Stop. You are worth more than jewels. Just being alive matters. Not how much money you make. Not the clothes you wear. You. Are here. For a reason. You might not know that reason yet, but hang on. Because the day is coming when you will find out why. Why you went through pain. The suffering. The loneliness. Worthlessness. And you know what?

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Don’t buy into it. Don’t listen to the negative voices in your head, or the people around you that bring you down. Because you are worth so much. You matter. You’re smart enough, good enough and nothing you have ever done takes that away. Hold your head up. Look for the beauty. If you can’t see the beauty looking back at you when you look in the mirror, that’s okay for now. But please, take my word for it, you are beautiful, wonderful and amazing. And someday, after you survive this time, you will look back and see why. Why it happened. That dark and lonely road you travelled had a purpose.

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See those stairs? I pass them on my favorite walk, and it means I’m almost finished walking or running. Our life is a bunch of stairs we get to climb to go somewhere pretty amazing. We can stop here and there to catch our breath and admire the view higher up. That’s life as you age. Trust me. And then you start up the stairs again. I’m here to tell you the view gets better the higher we climb, so do not give up. Talk to someone who is caring and kind, if you feel alone. I have been there. Alone. Sad. No one understanding why I couldn’t pull myself together. But…I let time, medicine (we might need that at times), counseling, and kind friends help me. You can do this. You’re not alone.

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Happiness can be found along the way. In so many places. For me, it’s beautiful flowers, bought on the cheap. Iced tea in the afternoon. Pasta for dinner! A good book and my kind of music. Candles. My cozy spots in this house, where I retreat to when I feel like I need that. Find yours.

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I love long walks. Alone. It gives me time to untangle problems and I dream up my best writing ideas for that book. You? You might prefer matcha or an espresso in the early afternoon. Maybe a jazzercise class? Hey, my 77 year old dad goes to jazzercise three times a week. I love that about him! Go daddy! Find your thing. And stop to enjoy the view along this trip called life. We only get one shot at this. Let’s make it a happy one. Here’s to you and how amazingly beautiful and wonderful you are…

 

Until next time…

 

Smile…

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Champagne, anyone? Is it simply for celebrations? Weddings, graduations, promotions and that certain holiday that is ahead of us. You know what I’m writing about. Yeah, Valentine’s Day. I always thought the way we looked at that day depended upon our relationship status. Do you have a partner? Are you married, dating, or in love? Then Valentine’s Day is your day! Celebrate. Revel in love.

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But if we’re single, divorced, going through a messy break-up, then maybe Valentine’s Day is fraught with self-pity, loneliness, sadness and FOMO. (Fear of missing out.) But…I discovered a little secret, while going through this life. You can be single and love this holiday. (You can be married and miserable, but I’m not going there today. Soon though.) The secret is in doing those celebratory things you like and choose. Don’t wait for some guy to bring you flowers! Buy them yourself. The kind of flowers you love. Me? I really dislike red roses. So you see the pink ones I bought for myself.

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I arranged these yesterday. They’re mine. For Valentine’s Day. What about buying some chocolates for yourself? Just a few. And go ahead and enjoy a slice of cake. It is lovely to be in love. To have someone who makes your heart flutter. But so many of us do not have that. So go and shower love on your siblings, friends, and anyone else that could use some happiness.

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I didn’t want to bring this up right before Valentine’s Day, but here goes. Working out, in any form, gives us happiness. Those endorphins really do kick in. When I could run, and I loved the feeling of running, I felt terrific. It’s difficult to be unhappy in the middle of a run, a Zumba class, yoga or pilates. While we want to have our cake and eat it too, someone needs to tell us it takes a very long run to make up for cake, chocolates and champagne. Maybe have one piece of chocolate. Every day. And share the cake with a neighbor. I don’t have two hours to work out every day, but I’ll tell you this; a little exercise goes a very long way. Walk farther to that store. You’ll start to feel happier.

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Another secret to happiness? Fake it. Seriously. I put a smile on my face and pretty soon other people are smiling back at me! Maybe I look super goofy at the grocery store or Starbucks, but I’m okay with that. Besides, I just read that our brains believe we’re happy even when we start out by faking it. So smile! Right now. I know, life is tough, rough and bad, but just start with baby steps. Smile. See? You’re better looking when you smile, too.

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One last thing. Think of the good stuff in your life. Do you live in Florida? Lucky you! Great weather is right out your door this minute. Don’t think of the negatives. Force your brain to see the positives. Are you in Maine? Lucky you! You can walk out your door and make a snow fort, and the ocean is so close. Just a short drive and you can see the beautifully wild seas of winter. Step out of your house, car, or apartment, wherever you are and smile. Try it for the next three days. I’ll be back on Wednesday with more happiness.

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Until next time…

Sunflowers in winter…

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Happiness. We all want it. Sometimes we go to great lengths to attain it, and somedays we pursue our happiness at the expense of someone else’s. Their happiness. The flowers I really wanted to bring home this week were beautiful tulips, those harbingers of spring, but my husband really wanted the bouquet with a sunflower in the middle of it. I calmly explained sunflowers, to me, belong to late summer and fall, but he steadfastly remained fixed upon the sunflower. I bought the happy little sunflower, and it’s nice. Look…

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I had my hot cinnamon tea with his sunflowers, and a side of sugar. So what is it that makes you happy? Truly warm to the tips of your toes and singing in the shower kind of happy? For me, right now, I just noticed the slant of the sun is higher. We’re almost six weeks past from the winter solstice, and at that point the temps begin to rise a bit and the sun swings her way higher and longer each day.

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While I sipped my tea and thought about what book to delve into next, my mind drifted to you. Are you as affected by the weather as I am? Do you suffer with cabin fever too? We can have days where we stay inside and hibernate, but going out is a great remedy for winter doldrums. That and finding little celebrations in life. Valentine’s Day? Oh yes, please! Ever since Andy made me a huge homemade Valentine back in fifth grade, I’ve loved Valentine’s Day.

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Now I send Valentines to all of my family, and not just the one I love romantically. Spread the love. As soon as that holiday passes, I’m onto St. Patrick’s Day. Seriously. Give me Mardi Gras, Easter, Boxing Day and I’m on it. Life’s little celebrations bring happiness.

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I just came across an article about people in India who use their cell phones to wish all their friends and family, “Good Morning!” along with an image or a motto for the day. They do this every morning, wanting others to know they are thought of! How cool is that? I say that knowing full well my friends are sweet enough to wait until I am fully awake and properly espresso-ed before wishing me a “Good Afternoon”. I think all those people in India sending greetings out is a fabulous way to celebrate the day.

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Find something to celebrate this week. An event. A day to enjoy. A small bouquet of flowers you give yourself. Even if it has an out of season flower right smack in the middle of it. Eat a cupcake this week. Watch good t.v., something inspiring. You can have little celebrations throughout this week. And no, it hasn’t escaped me that it’s Monday. Save some time for you. Take a bath, a run, read, sing, laugh, even on a Monday. Especially on a Monday!

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Wherever you are, feel happy.

Until next time…