Category Archives: Little Things

A Simple Happy Day: Making Memories

 


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“Today is life – the only life you are sure of. Make the most of today.”

~ Dale Carnegie 

 

Yesterday was a memorable day for my family. My older daughter is a hair stylist so she almost always works on the weekend and is typically not available to do things with the family on Saturdays or Sundays. She happened to have yesterday off, and we planned a special day of making memories.

I am very fond of butterflies, and there was a butterfly exhibit at Roper Mountain Science Center here in Greenville, SC. It was an opportunity for us to walk among several species of butterflies in an enclosed area. The staff of the science center provided us with sticks dipped in Gatorade, telling us that the sugar would attract the butterflies.

It did. My younger daughter and my grandson were able to experience having a butterfly land on the end of the stick they were holding.

Moments to remember such as these are priceless.

Other Simply Happy Activities

We also enjoyed other indoor exhibits at the science center yesterday, including turtles, a few snakes and a touch tank. The grandkids were able to make paper butterflies at a craft area. My younger daughter and all but one of the grandchildren that were present joined Roper Mountain’s “Eat a bug” club. They rose to the challenge of eating a cricket! That wasn’t something I wanted to experience personally, but it helped make it a day to remember.

We were told that the science center also had an area with farm animals, but we opted not to go there because of the heat and humidity. It was probably 93 degrees or so, which meant we thought we’d be more comfortable if we sought out air conditioning.

Later that afternoon, we all went to see “Finding Dory”, the sequel to “Finding Nemo.” It was a fun, heartwarming movie which we thoroughly enjoyed.

What we enjoyed the most was the opportunity to spend time together.

How Life Evolves and Changes

In my family, we are on the brink of major change. My younger daughter is heading away to college in the fall and will be hundreds of miles away. My oldest granddaughter will be starting middle school.

Did you ever watch a flower grow on time lapse photography?  Everything around us is actually evolving and changing imperceptibly right before our eyes. We just can’t see the tiny signs of change. Images caught on time lapse photography give us a glimpse of how things are changing even though we can’t see all that’s going on right under our noses. Check out the work of Louie Schwartzberg if you have never seen it.

The simple, happy moments of family togetherness are the stuff memories are made of. These are experiences that will never come again. If we get to visit the butterfly exhibit again sometime in the future, we will all be a bit older and we will be changed. We all will have had our own different experiences between now and then that give us different perspectives. We will each have our own reactions to the experience.

In a lot of ways, we won’t even be the same people two, three or five years from now that we are today.

Every single day gives us a chance to have brand new experiences. Some are more memorable than others.

To me what is the most cherished of all is the opportunity to spend time and make new memories with the people who are most important to me.

A simple, happy day is one of life’s greatest blessings.

4 Myths About Happiness

Boquete - Snowy-bellied Hummingbird

“To be happy, we must not be too concerned with others.”

~ Albert Camus

 

If you feel like you are not as happy as you could be, it may be that you are holding onto certain beliefs. In fact, what you believe about happiness may hold the key to how much joy you actually experience in your life.

Some of the most common myths about happiness may cause you to hold yourself back from experiencing the best of all life has to offer. Here are some examples.

Myth #1: You can only be happy if….

I think if I had to choose one happiness myth that causes people pain, this would be it. Do you ever find yourself feeling that there is one particular thing or person missing from your life, and without it you can’t possibly be happy?

You may wish very much for a new car or a bigger house. You may wish for someone to share your life with if you are single. You may wish for more time to yourself if you have a smothering spouse or a large family.  You may wish for small things like a certain pair of shoes, or big things like a new job or the ability to travel to exotic places.

Don’t postpone your happiness. You have exactly what you need today, and it’s possible to be happy with exactly what you have. Sure, you might be able to be happier if you had more money and more people surrounding you. But you can choose to be happy in your present circumstances, because happiness is not something that lies outside yourself.

Myth # 2: You can’t be happy because….

Rather than longing for something that you haven’t yet attained, the opposite side of the coin is believing you can’t be happy because of some external thing that has happened to you, such as a recent death, divorce, car accident or health problem.

While loss frequently requires a time of grieving and rebuilding, it doesn’t mean you can’t experience some happiness now, or that you will never experience happiness again.

The subject of loss is very familiar to me. Some of the major losses I have experienced include the death of my husband and my mother. I also experienced an apartment fire while my husband was on hospice care. If you are in pain, my heart goes out to you. But trust me, you will survive the pain and learn from it. Often there are blessings in loss.

If you are hurting today, you may want to read the chapter on loss in my book Happiness for the Clueless. You can be happy again.

Myth #3: You don’t deserve to be happy

Sometimes people think they don’t deserve to be happy. For some people, this could be the result of childhood abuse or trauma. If you grew up in an environment where you were treated like you were worthless, you may have a deep-seated sense of toxic shame and a belief that you don’t deserve to be happy.

Let the past stay in the past. Get in the habit of noticing and recognizing all that you do right each day. Shower yourself with all the love you may not have received up to now.

Another reason you may think you don’t deserve to be happy is guilt over things you have done. Guilt is a terrible emotion that can wreak havoc with present-day happiness. Whatever you have done in the past, there is absolutely nothing you can do to undo it. All you can do is try to do better in the future.

No matter what others may have said to you or what you have done, you deserve to be happy.

Myth #4: You have to work for happiness

How hard do you think you have to work for happiness? The answer: not at all. Happiness is positive emotion that comes from living in today and accepting your circumstances as being exactly the way they are supposed to be. You can hope for certain things to change, you can make a plan and start to take steps toward new goals, but in the meantime simply experience whatever positive feelings you can each and every day.

Don’t work so hard at it. Don’t struggle against what is. Look for the good in this present moment.

As Chuang-Tse said, “Happiness is the absence of striving for happiness.”

The Joy of Completing a Goal

Sunrise over Ellesmere

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

~ Nelson Mandela

 

When you set a goal and then see that goal through to its completion, it can give you a pretty good feeling.

I know, because I recently completed a book about happiness, which is something I have wanted to do for quite a while. The topic of happiness, particularly in the sense of spreading positive energy to people who might need to be lifted up, is something that is very dear to my heart.

In order to complete the book, like many writers, I had to overcome a bizarre inner resistance to doing the thing I wanted to do most. I’ve done a lot of ghostwriting for other people, but in the recent past (and as a middle-aged woman, the recent past encompasses probably at least a decade), I have done very little writing just because I wanted to. My focus has been primarily on writing what clients tell me to write, and on taking care of other people.

I’ve been having a hard time putting the focus on me, or my life or goals that I want to accomplish. It’s been even harder to follow through and complete projects I start.

I have just been putting one foot in front of the other for years.

I have become clueless about life and about happiness.

Lessons and More Lessons

This blog and my book Happiness for the Clueless: 7 Simple Tips for a Happier Life have been evolving because I have an eager student who needs to learn about happiness, joy, contentment, satisfaction and inner peace.

The eager student is me.

I like to think the things I write about might be touching others who have been presented with challenges and difficulties that tripped them up or knocked them down.

Other writers have done that for me.

For as long as I can remember, I have drawn courage and strength from the writings of others, people like Maya Angelou and Wayne Dyer and Kahlil Gibran. During dark days, I have been comforted by the written words of people who took the time to share their thoughts in writing.

Getting to the Finish Line

Recently I found that I needed to prove to myself that I could actually complete a book that I started, a book that I wrote just because I wanted to write it and not because I had been hired to write it.

And then I decided to follow this project through to completion by releasing my book to the universe as an indie writer.

I did it.

My book Happiness for the Clueless: 7 Simple Tips for a Happier Life is free on Amazon from now until Saturday June 18.

My hope is that maybe my words will touch the lives of at least a few people. I even hope that maybe in taking the time to write this book, I might make a tiny difference.

I know that I have made a difference in one life.

My own.

Making Dreams Come True

Dreaming ...“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

~ Eleanor Roosevelt

 

What is your most heartfelt dream? Small children don’t hold back when they imagine what they might have or who they might someday be. Whether they think about someday being a firefighter, a doctor, a famous musician or president, they don’t hesitate to imagine that they can and will someday attain their deepest desires.

At high school graduation, young people are expected to choose a path, and by choosing a path, they are saying goodbye to all the paths they didn’t choose, at least for now. Reality begins to set in, and many people lose that childlike belief that they can have or be anything by the time they are adults.

Some even stop dreaming altogether.

Keep Dreaming

It’s so important to keep dreaming and to keep imagining that you can attain whatever you hope to attain. The formation of a vision as to where you intend to be in the near or distant future is the first step to getting there.

Take the time to picture yourself meeting your goals. Are you hoping to run a marathon someday? Do you want to travel to Hawaii or the Caribbean? Do you want to pursue a completely different career?

Who says you can’t?

If you’re like many people, the person standing in the way of your dreams is you. In the movie “Creed”, an aging Rocky Balboa pointed out to young Creed that the toughest enemy he is ever going to face is the man in the mirror.

It’s time to get out of your own way. Allow yourself to envision your best life and make a plan to get from here to there.

You can do it.

As Oprah Winfrey said, “You can have it all, Just not all at once.”

Get in Touch with What You Want

If you have gotten into the habit of ignoring or pushing aside your own dreams, you may have lost touch with even knowing what you want.

It’s time to figure it out.

Spend some time envisioning yourself living the best life you possibly could. Although there may be things that aren’t in the cards for you, there may be things that you could attain if you set your mind to it.

Spend ten minutes every morning sitting quietly and imagining that you can have exactly what you want. There is nothing holding you back. Can you put your finger on what is missing from your life and what steps you need to take to make your dreams come true?

My Own Dream

I have always dreamed of being a writer. Ever since I was a very young girl, I imagined that one day I would make my living by writing stories, articles and books.

The problem was I lacked faith in my own ability to make that happen. I was a college dropout who became a single parent at a fairly young age. I struggled to support myself and my daughter on barely over minimum wage for years.

In my late 30s I remarried, and within a few years, my husband began having major health problems. Once again, my focus was on simple survival and being the head of my household.

I set my dreams aside.

Over the last few years, I have been dabbling in writing again, and even though I’m nowhere as successful as I hope to someday be, I am getting in touch with what I want to be doing with my life.

I am writing and getting paid for it. So far it’s not my only means of income, but my dream is that it one day will be.

This week I have released a book on Kindle for the first time. It’s called Happiness for the Clueless: 7 Simple Tips for a Happier Life, and it offers a simple roadmap to a happier life.

It will be available for free for five days beginning June 14. I’d love for you to download it, read it and leave a review.

My dream is to have other books published on Kindle, and I already have other books in mind.

What is your dream? I would love to hear about them in the comments.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true.”

 

 

3 Important Lessons Learned From my Mother

 

Cardinal“Our mothers give us so many gifts. They give us the precious gift of life, of course, but they also leave treasured lessons that can guide us along our journeys even when they are no longer with us.”

                                                ~Maria Shriver

 

My mother passed away in 2009 at the age of 78, but there are many blessings and lessons she brought to my life, and there are many constant reminders of her. Whenever I see a cardinal, I think of her. She passionately loved these brilliant red birds and had a collection of little statues of them. She also loved robins, and would say that she knew when it was spring when she started to see robins.

She had many motherly sayings, as many mothers do, like “Always wear clean underwear in case you’re in an accident.” One of my favorites was, “What doesn’t break you will make you stronger, Valerie.”

Of the many important lessons she taught me, here are 3 of the most important.

If you can read, you can cook.

I’m in my fifties now and it amazes me when I meet women my age who don’t cook, saying that they can’t. Some of them live exclusively on take-out or frozen foods, which horrifies me.

My mother taught me that as long as you read, you can cook. All you have to do is follow the directions. She tried a new recipe just about weekly.

Some of my fondest memories of childhood involve coming home to my mom cooking homemade spaghetti sauce or a New England boiled dinner, or the scent of snickerdoodles baking at Christmas time.

Because of my mom, I seek out new recipes and follow the directions. I’m not always successful and wouldn’t say I’m a great cook, but I’m not afraid to give it my best shot. Thanks, Mom.

Learning and reading make life worthwhile

What is your earliest memory as a small child? One of my earliest memories is sitting curled up next to my mother while she read me a book, which was something she did frequently.

Reading and learning was such a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember. My mother read voraciously, and was almost always familiar with what was on the bestseller list. She devoured information and facts and was so good at Jeopardy that we used to encourage her to go on the show, which she never did, but I know she would have done well.

I think my love of reading and ultimately writing came about because of her. Without her influence, my life may have gone in an entirely different direction and would have been nowhere near as rich and fulfilling.

Love others

My mother was a living example of loving other people. She cherished people and made friends almost everywhere she went. She had long-term friends that were her hairdressers, waitresses and neighbors. A large number of her friends were friends for life.

She set an amazing example of love and tolerance for others. She taught me not to be judgmental or discriminatory.

She was extremely devoted to my dad and set such a power of example of what it takes to make a marriage work. Sometimes love doesn’t come easily and requires effort. This is true not only in marriage, but in raising children and in friendship. My mom taught me that.

There were many more lessons besides those mentioned. I do know that one of the greatest blessings of my life was having a loving mother throughout my life. As an unknown author said, “A mother’s hug lasts long after she lets go.”

Break the Habit of Worrying

nervous
 “Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.”
~ Leo Buscaglia

Worry. Can you think of anything that burns up so much of your life for no real purpose?

I admit I can be a worrywart myself. For example, if one of my daughters is late coming home, I may start to imagine that she has been in a car accident or that some other catastrophe has happened.

It’s silly, and I’m very conscious of that silliness.

I’ve been working on breaking the habit of worrying. So much of what I worry about hasn’t happened and isn’t ever going to. I know I’m not alone in having this bad habit.

Can you relate? How much of your unhappiness is caused by the habit of worrying? Of all the ways you can spend your time, worrying is one of the least productive.

Worrying is a sense of uneasiness, often accompanied by imagining or expecting the worst. When you are worrying, you think that something bad may be about to happen. Your mind continually returns to a dreadful, imagined scenario in your mind, and you can’t seem to let it go. You might stay stuck, completely focused on this figment of your imagination. Your thinking might become obsessive and intense.

As Erma Bombeck said, “Worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere.”

Why Worrying is so Bad for You

 A sense of impending doom can have a negative impact on both your physical and mental health. When you are caught up in worrisome thoughts, your anxiety level rises. You may feel threatened and out of control. When others tell you to snap out of it, you don’t feel any better. In fact, the more you’re told not to worry, the more worried you may feel.

If you worry frequently, the hours you spend worrying are being wasted rather than being spent on something more productive. But that’s only a small part of the reason worrying is bad for you. You may feel so anxious that you may turn to medication, alcohol, cigarettes or food.

Some people are so consumed with irrational thoughts that they are unable to focus on their job or other responsibilities. Worrying and anxiety can cause physical symptoms, such as headaches or muscle tension. It can even lead to dizziness or a fast heartbeat. It can make you a lot less productive.

Replace Worrying with Better Habits

It’s clear that spending a lot of time worrying about things that may not happen, or things that are inevitable that you can’t change isn’t doing you any good and doesn’t lead to a happy life.

Use the energy and increased alertness you feel to do something productive. Scrub your kitchen, weed the garden, walk around the block. Work out with weights or do any form of exercise.

Worrying about something far in the future is wasting the gift of this present moment. Bring back your focus onto today. Try to picture a positive outcome rather than a negative one.

In life there are things you can control and things you can’t. While you may not be able to eliminate the worrying habit completely, you may be able to reduce the time you spend worrying. Try telling yourself that you are only allowed to worry for five or ten minutes and then you are going to have to do something else.

As Mark Twain said, “Drag your thoughts away from your troubles….by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it.”

Worrying often makes things look worse than they are. You might not be able to simply tell yourself to stop worrying, but see if you can replace the habit of worrying with something better.

John Lubbock said, “A day of worry is more exhausting than a day of work.”

Let’s find something better to do.

12 Things I Love About Spring

Curious Cutie
“With the coming of spring, I am calm again.”

~ Gustav Mahler  

I remember when I lived in Massachusetts and my mother would say that spring was her favorite season. I couldn’t relate. The problem for me at the time was that in New England, spring comes late and doesn’t stay long.

Now, living in the south, spring comes much earlier and with much more gusto. It’s truly a time of new beginnings and every spring I get a sense of relief that the cold days have passed again.

I have come up with 12 things I love about this time of year.

Living creatures are twitterpated. If you have seen Bambi, you know what I’m talking about. Geese segregate into pairs. So do ducks. So do bees and small birds. There is a feeling of happiness and mingling in the air.

Butterflies. I love the sight of butterflies. Big ones, small ones, brightly colored ones, less colorful ones. They dip, soar and fly quickly, announcing the arrival of spring.

New life. We have geese living behind the apartment complex where I live, and every spring they deliver a fresh batch of tiny yellow goslings. In the trees are new nests for smaller birds, and everywhere I look there is new life: tiny toads, tiny birds, tiny fish.

The sound of birds singing. More than any other time of year, the air is filled with the sound of songbirds singing happily. There is a cardinal that comes to my window daily and tweets until I look up and acknowledge his presence. There is a mockingbird that begins making a variety of sounds right outside my window at dawn.

Crocuses. Maybe my New England roots are showing, but I’m very fond of crocuses, the first plants to show a sign of life in the spring.

Buds on the trees. Another sign of rebirth is the hint of life that starts to show on bare branches. As trees are covered with more and more leaves, some of them burst into flower, seemingly overnight.

Green grass. When the grass gradually transitions from brownness and drabness into a burst of bright green, it is a reminder that the season of beauty and life has returned.

Dandelion seeds. I am not a homeowner, so I find tufts of dandelion seeds delightful. My grandchildren blow the white tufts off the stems, and my heart smiles, remembering.

Lilacs. What is more refreshing in the spring than the smell of lilacs? In high school, I walked to school and passed several lilac trees on the way. I could inhale the unforgettable fragrance, and the smell of lilacs still brings me joy.

Tennis and other spring sports. Tennis will always be dear to my heart, and as the weather starts to warm, it’s a reminder that it’s time to pick up a racket. Some prefer baseball, biking or jogging, but whatever sport appeals to you, it’s time to step outside and be more active.

Warmth. The feeling of the sun on my face is one of the best things I can ever experience. What a relief to put away sweaters and winter coats.

Hope of a new beginning. It’s time to start over, experience joy, comfort, curiosity and rebirth.

It’s spring.

The late Robin Williams said, “Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party!’”

Enjoy this exquisite spring day.

What do you love about spring?

The Gift of Love in All Its Forms

 MUMS HUGS
“Love is the master key that opens the gate of happiness.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes

This morning I dropped the three grandchildren who live with me off at school. My grandson who is usually less affectionate than his sisters, turned and called over his shoulder, “I love you!”

It was a simple thing, but a moment that helped me to start my day with a smile in my heart.

What is more precious to experience than love?

When people think of love, they often think of romantic love. As a widow, that type of love is no longer part of my life, although I admit holding precious memories in my heart of that experience.

There are plenty of other kinds of love. Today as a grandmother in the autumn of my life, my heart is still warmed by glimpses of the love I do have in my life. I admit there are times that I feel a bit sorry for myself, sure that others have lives that are fuller and more blessed than mine, but I know in my heart that I have all I need.

What I have and who I have in my life is enough.

The Love of Children

 My maternal instincts have always been very strong. I have always cherished my children with a deeper love than I ever felt for anyone else. The unconditional love of a small child is the closest I have ever felt to God.

Years ago I remember my mother watching a talk show on TV and the question was asked, “Who do you love more – your husband or your children?” My mother adamantly stated that she loved her husband much more deeply than her children. The audience was fairly evenly divided in their responses.

I don’t think it’s really important to compare the different kinds of love I have experienced. To me the type of love I felt for my husband when he was alive and the love I felt for my children was a completely different experience. But the depth of unconditional love that comes from children is incomparable.

The Love of Close Family Members and Those Like Family

To experience love from close family members is another huge blessing. Whether you have been able to develop a deep, intimate relationship with a spouse, parents, siblings, cousins, grandparents or aunts and uncles, you are blessed.

Certainly some families are closer than others, but to have a family is to have sense of belonging to someone.

Some would say that blood is thicker than water, while others would say the people they choose to love are much more important to them than the ones who happened to be related to them.

I say it doesn’t matter. Or as Jane Howard said, “Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.”

I am so grateful to have people to love. Who are the people bringing love to your life today?

50 Reasons to be Happy

Beach Fun
“Be happy for no reason, like a child.”
~ Deepak Chopra

Can you think of reasons to be happy today? Here are 50:

 

 

  1. You’re alive
  2. Somebody loves you
  3. You can read
  4. You have enough to eat
  5. You have safe, pure, drinking water
  6. You have a roof over your head
  7. You have experienced the kindness of strangers
  8. There is more to learn
  9. There is more to do
  10. You’ve made a difference in the life of at least one person
  11. You have a dream
  12. Hugs and kisses
  13. Sunshine
  14. Learning from others
  15. Learning from your mistakes
  16. You have at least one friend
  17. There are many more friends you haven’t met yet
  18. The internet puts the world at your fingertips
  19. The power of imagination
  20. The hope of new life: babies, puppies, kittens
  21. The eagerness and excitement of children
  22. The wisdom of the elderly
  23. The joy of memories: you can remember the happiest day you ever had
  24. Clouds
  25. Stars
  26. You are right where you are supposed to be
  27. The universe is unfolding as it should
  28. Seasons
  29. Music
  30. Social media keeps you connected to old friends
  31. You can express your opinion
  32. Deep breaths
  33. The aroma of good food, fresh coffee, the ocean, candles
  34. The new opportunities of each new day
  35. You have another chance to try again
  36. Family: parents, grandparents, children, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles
  37. You believe in something or someone
  38. Unconditional love of children and pets
  39. Flowers
  40. Movies
  41. Color
  42. Birds
  43. Butterflies
  44. Taking time to play: sports, dancing, board games, swings
  45. Smiles are contagious
  46. Laughter
  47. You have what you need for this one day
  48. The inner peace of loving what is
  49. Possibilities
  50. The best is yet to come
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Enjoying Happiness in This One Moment

Joy (Explored)“Be happy for this one moment. This moment is your life.”
                       ~ Omar Khayyam

 

You can choose happiness just for this one moment. You don’t have to decide to be happy for the whole year or the whole week or even the whole day. Take a single moment out of today and choose to be happy.

Do you think this is difficult?

Life is full of bumps in the road and times that aren’t perfect. If you’re living a life that is full of sadness, loneliness or disappointment, bring your focus back to this one day and this one moment. Look for one thing or one person to appreciate right now.

If the sun is shining, enjoy the brilliance and the warmth.

If it’s cold or rainy, experience the refreshment of the universe all around. Be grateful for your home where you have a roof over your head and a place to call your own.

If it is quiet around you, lean into the peace and tranquility you are able to experience in this moment.

If you have family or friends, feel the love that they bring to your life. Realize that children are growing and changing right in front of your eyes. So are flowers. So are trees. Life is ever-evolving and each individual moment is an irreplaceable gift.

Blessings All Around

 If you have a computer or a smart phone that allows you to access uplifting quotes, realize what a blessing that is. These devices also allow you to access social media where you can connect with other people at any time day or night.

Wow.

In this moment, notice that your ability to read is a wonderful gift that allows you to tap into the words of many people who have shared their wisdom and energy through poetry, prose or music.

This one moment in time won’t be repeated. The things you see, smell and hear today won’t pass this way again.

Savor this one moment and all the people and events that have led you here.

Embrace and enjoy the wonderful moments and experiences that make up your life.

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