an odd collection of tales about learning to do the impossible

Posts tagged ‘happiness’

Day 28. Grateful

The final stretch is a trip through the deep south. We end up spending the night in town in which the only open restaurant is a fast food chicken place, and the only open grocery store is whatever they sell at the bait shop attached to the local gas station. We patch together a meal from what’s in our car.

The next day, as I drive up the road to my own house, my last rule of the road, #28, is clear. Be grateful to have made the journey. Be grateful to have made it home.

I’ve been listening to my playlist of 25 songs with home in the title. When the list is done, Gabrielle Aplin’s Home is the one I play twice. Make that three times.

I don’t see the video until after I’m in the house. It has such a creepy start that I almost don’t post it, but I watch it a few more times and it wins me over. So much of the country she travels through looks like where I’ve just been.

I could swear I passed the guy in the yellow truck at least once in my travels. In fact, I might have stayed at his Airbnb. Or maybe I saw him at Burning Man. At any rate, the video resonates with my journey, and her song leaves me smiling … because I’m finally home.

Read the full post at Day 28. Grateful and enjoy the final video.

Day 24. If it seems ridiculous …

The house is hot. Really hot. Inside, it’s a single room with a room air conditioner stuck high in a window up over an armoire. It’s turned off, of course, and there is nothing to stand on to reach the controls for the AC.

This is ridiculous.

We try several ill-fated and bad ideas for getting the place cooled down when my husband notices a page of info for guests to read. It includes the usual wifi password and request to do ones own dishes, and one sentence that is key.

“Turn on the AC by flipping the light switch just to the right of the bed.”

Read more at Day 24. If it seems ridiculous …

Day 15. As Nice as I Want to Be

When I arrive, I find a universe that is gentler and more accepting than I hoped. Staff and performers hug, compliment and encourage. Some acts are polished and great fun to watch. Others are raw creations, not ready for prime time elsewhere. Yet, they are cheered on by this coffee-sipping audience that seems to understand the fragility of nascent artistry .

I receive quick and generous praise from everyone for being a warm, helpful and happy human. How odd. Is this worthy of praise?

Read more at Day 15. As Nice as I Want to Be.

 

Day 6. No Trucks. Just Corn.

I hush myself. Rule six needs to be no second guessing, I decide. The cornfields are lovely. The trucks are few. Iowa stretches on out to the sky. The day is mild, so I roll my windows down low and turn my music up high. The corn won’t mind the noise at all.

Read more at Day 6. No Trucks. Just Corn.

Day 4: Bloom here

I’ve spent two nights at my sisters and have two more nights to go. This is the longest stop of my 28 day journey, save one, and half of my brain at least is already worrying about the trip ahead, checking on reservations, considering needed supplies. No, I tell myself. Stop it. Just stop it. This is precious time.

Read the entire post at Day 4: Bloom here

Day 3. Just Don’t

We stop for lunch and my sister insists I try one of the many flavored long island ice teas. I’ve already had a glass of Rose and it’s only 11:30 and hard liquor doesn’t sound good …. but this is vacation, and who could resist a blood orange long island ice tea. Two sips into it and the headache starts. Bad idea. I should have resisted it.

Rule three, I decide, is if it doesn’t sound good to you, don’t order it. Don’t eat it. Don’t drink it. No matter how much your sister likes it, or how much you like your sister. Just don’t.

I invoke rule two, forgive myself for the mistake, and go back to slowly sipping Rose aboard ship. The wind blows through my hair and I decide, headache or not, this is going to be a good day. My sister reminds me of what our father used to say on days like this….  Now this is living. He was right, it certainly is ….

Read the full post at Day 3. Just Don’t

What I want to be paid

I was complaining to a family member about feeling underappreciated in one arena of my life, adding that the real insult was this involved volunteer work for which I wasn’t even being paid. Can’t I at least be paid compliments? I asked. If not that, then maybe pay me a little respect?

Wait a minute. It looks like there are more than two things we can pay. Our language contains so much truth.

Read more at What I want to be paid.

(For more conversation about the truths hidden in our language see Pay Attention, and Spending time.)

 

The Number One Reason I Write Books

I write books. Why?

It is a reasonable question. I recently started participating in writer’s groups again and much about them has got me thinking.  A women well into her second novel told me of an acquaintance who has made it to the New York Times Best Seller list. Wow. Something to be in awe of, of course. My critique group-mate is also in awe of the woman’s process. To paraphrase, she read the top ten fiction books at the time, analyzed what they had in common, and wrote the perfect hybrid book, designed to succeed. And it did.

All I could think was “what a miserable way to write a book.” That brought me round to the essential question of this post. If I’m not writing to make a best seller list, what am I doing? I tried to be brutally, unflatteringly honest and I came up with seven reasons I choose to spend most of my free time on my laptop creating books. Some of them are pretty stupid.

This post is about the first answer that popped into my mind. It may not be my biggest reason, but it may be the one that keeps me writing novel after novel.

Read more at The Number One Reason I Write Books.

Live like you are going die?

Somewhere, deep inside, I now understood I was going to die. It was a fact I’d heard before, of course, but until it happened to my dad, I guess I didn’t really believe it. Didn’t get it would happen to me.

Read more at Live like you are going die?

(For more thoughts on how to use one’s time with wisdom see Spending time.)

The year of la sonrisa

This year, I hope to come to terms with the few ghosts that still haunt me. One of them is my incessant smile, an artifact of being raised by a woman who hated any other facial expression. She had her reasons, and I understood them. After all, my grandmother lived with us, and my grandmother was the most unhappy person I have ever known.

Yet, no adult wants to be the person with a grin on their face at the worst of moments. I’ve smiled at the news of tragic accidents, during corporate layoffs, and throughout a bout of postpartum depression during which I needed help more desperately than I ever had.

This year, I want to discover how to smile only when I mean it. For me, sonrisa does not carry the baggage of the word smile. I can embrace my sonrisa.

This year, I want to remember how wonderful my life is, how blessed I am. I want to appreciate the love, and stimulation and the comforts that I am fortunate enough to have every day. I want my sonrisa to let that gratitude shine out of my soul, unencumbered by the struggles of those who came before me. To that end, I’ve started a gratitude jar, in which I hope to leave a note every day about some silly or profound thing for which I am grateful.

Here’s the real irony. When I looked for something to use as a container, I stumbled on my grandmother’s old cookie jar.

Read more at The year of la sonrisa.

A better word than joy?

Because I’m the kind of person who gets carried away with an idea, I decided to center the action around the place on the globe that was exactly opposite of Nigeria, where my my first novel took place. Turns out that location is just south of the equator, smack in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. This fact might have discouraged someone else …

Read more at A better word than joy?

(For more thoughts on words we need, see A better word than loyalty?, A better word than peace?,  A better word than hope? and A better word than courage?)

Smiling My Way Across Kenya

I’ve just returned from one of my furthest journeys ever, a trip to Kenya which got me thinking. What do people do here in the US when you smile at them?
1. They smile back
2. They say hi and maybe try to talk to you.
3. They try to sell you some thing or some idea. Depending on circumstances, that might include the idea of hooking up with them.
4. They take it as an invitation to do harm, attempting to scam or rob you.

And that’s the way it was, June 28, 1888

One of my best antidotes for information overload is history. There is something calming about returning to a world devoid of smart phones, cable news and (yes) blogging. Today, I was delighted to learn that exactly 129 years ago Robert Louis Stevenson left San Francisco for the South Seas.

Ah, islands in the Pacific. I am fascinated by that swath of the globe, although I’ve only managed to touch it twice. And Stevenson’s Treasure Island was certainly in the back of my mind when I wrote y1. I suspect that his more famous Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has helped inspire every writer after him who tried to craft a meaningful villain.

Read more at And that’s the way it was, June 28, 1888.

(For more segments about June days from long ago, see That’s the Way It Was June 10, 1947, June 15, 1984, June 18, 1972, and June 30, 1940.)

Choice. A good thing?

choiceI have always believed that having no real choice about what you can do is the very definition of misery. The essence of happiness is the freedom to choose the alternative you believe is best. You may choose to defer your happiness, or to forego it altogether to aid or please another. You may choose to do something difficult; you may choose to take a nap. When circumstances beyond anyone’s control give you a lousy set of choices, that might make what you pick all the more valuable to you.

Read more at Choice. A good thing?

Mindless entertainment? Or not?

We all need something to do to help us relax. Whether it is listening to music, knitting, or kick boxing, we need a place to go to shut out the noise around us. It’s part of leading a joyful life.

scrabbleOn Nov. 9 2016 I discovered that my little nepenthe, playing online word games through Facebook, had a major flaw. It was connected to Facebook and that meant that every angry, fearful or obnoxious thing being said by anyone I’d ever befriended floated by in the lower left corner of the screen. This clearly was not going to work, at least not for the next few weeks.

Read the entire post at Mindless entertainment? Or not?

I decided to make 2016 the best year of my life. So, was it?

blessed weird 3A year ago today (Dec. 31 2015) I came up with an odd plan. I read the quote The most important decision you make is to be in a good mood* and I decided to challenge myself to make 2016 the best year of my life. It’s been a year now. How did it work?

Well, implementation was challenging. A few days into 2016 I realized that I had already forgotten my plan, which wasn’t exactly an encouraging start. So ….

Read the full post on my y1 blog at I decided to make 2016 the best year of my life. So, was it?

Everything is Going to Be Alright

Our needs for certain kinds of music vary with the times. So, let me just ask you straight out — are you seeking out more songs of reassurance these days? I sure am.

Read the entire post on my x0 blog at Everything is Going to Be Alright. You might find yourself feeling better as you relax and enjoy a fun video of Bob Marley’s classic song

When is it time for “More”?

growing-bolder-10I’ve spent the last couple of years downsizing, and trying on the idea that a simpler life can be a happier life for me. I’ve turned to finding small pleasures and treasures to be thankful for, and to not basing my actions on always wanting more. This flies in the face of much of my upbringing and culture, so even with this conscious effort I am still far from ascetic. But in spite of the ways that this change in outlook have challenged me, I have to say it has been a joyful journey.

But is it always bad to want more? How about more love? More kindness? More simple decency? More popcorn?

Read the entire post on my y1 blog at When is it time for “More”?

Some Kind of Kindness

sungazing4Scenario one: you are in perfect health and in a loving relationship. You are not rich but your material needs are met. You live in a society that allows you to be yourself. However, people treat each other poorly. Kindness is rare and hardly anyone will ever lend a helping hand, no matter what the need. Are you happy there?

Read the entire post on my y1 blog at Some Kind of Kindness.

Four Reasons Why I Love It When “Love Wins”

cosmic conduit 2Reason number one: Love makes us happy, and happiness is wonderful.

Several times now I’ve posted about a report on which countries have the happiest people. I’m intrigued that six attributes account for most of this variation, and I summed them up as health, wealth, freedom, love, fairness and kindness. I’ve already written about the first three and today I’m thinking about love.

Read the entire post on my y1 blog at Four Reasons I Love It When “Love Wins”.

None of us are normal, if we’re lucky

true voice 8Well, yes, wanting your coffee in a mug that matches your clothes is probably not normal, but my friend should know by now that I never thought she was normal, and I honestly don’t know anyone else who is either.

Read the entire post on my y1 blog at None of us are normal, if we’re lucky.

Happiness fascinates me

gratefulMy dad used to say “Work fascinates me. I can sit and watch someone do it all day.” Sometimes I think I have the same relationship with happiness.

Read the entire post on my y1 blog at Happiness fascinates me.

If you want to be happy move to a cold country?

raising ecstacy 1It is hard to believe. Whatever happened to the idea that the ultimate in happiness was lounging on a tropical beach, umbrella drink in hand, while island music wafted by on a soft ocean breeze? Wait, that was the ideal vacation. What about the ideal life?

Read the entire post at on my y1 blog at If you want to be happy move to a cold country?

It didn’t take a spaceship

Dalai 6I’m serious.  I spent hours doing this. I have no idea why.

Then, of course, I grew older and filled my life up the way that adults do and I forgot about my favorite fantasy. A few decades passed, and now I realize that I should have given it more thought. If I had, I might have realized that …

Read the entire post on my y1 blog at It didn’t take a spaceship.

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