It’s Almost August Link Love

July 30, 2021

And you know what that means. Cue the complaints about the weather. Though actually, even though it is currently disgusting outside, I can’t complain much. We had such a nice fall, winter, and spring that I’m just going to put up with summer and keep my mouth shut. (Mostly.)

However, I am spending as much time in the air conditioning as I can—as you will see from the links I’ve collected below:

Have you been practicing your happiness lately? According to “Happiness Requires Practice,” “…achieving happiness is not an actual place or trait—it’s a daily practice that leads you to experience positive feelings about yourself and the world around you. Emerging data suggest that ‘being happy’ is actually much harder than it sounds.” It goes on to say that it’s better to strive to be fulfilled and satisfied with your life than to try to feel “happy,” and that there are skills you can practice daily to help you see your life in a more positive way. Click here to read the whole article, and see what those skills are.

When Joyful author Ingrid Fetell Lee recently asked in her Instagram stories how people were feeling, a full 64 percent of them said “Blah,” despite the loosening of pandemic restrictions and the beginnings of a return to “normal” life. In “What to Do When Everyone Seems Happy Except for You,” Lee describes some things we can do to support our emotional well being without slapping a smile on our faces when we don’t feel happy.

And speaking of normal, the Experience Life article “Another New Normal” addresses ways we can remain adaptable as we continue to figure out how to navigate life during a pandemic.

How’s your summer reading going? If you’re looking for something fun and quick, check out Modern Mrs. Darcy’s “12 Feel-good Fiction Books You Can Read in an Afternoon.” I can personally vouch for What Alice Forgot and The Garden of Small Beginnings.

There may only be two more days left in July, but we can still try the ideas found in “How Are We Already Halfway Through the Year?! Here are 23 Ways to Make the Most of July” during August and beyond. 

Incredibly smart dog, and what a bond she and her person have!

I thought this was amazing:

I hope you go out there and practice some happiness this weekend—and stay healthy! 


Field Trip Friday--Lassen Volcanic National Park

July 23, 2021

I’m home from California and pretty much back into what passes for normal routine again. I loved seeing my family and my friend Kerri (see below), but boy, was it a challenging trip. For instance:

  • It was more than 100 degrees, sometimes a lot more, every day except one.
  • I felt an earthquake
  • A hurricane brushed by my home in Florida while I was in California
  • My stepmother broke her leg shortly before my visit, and I wound up staying alone at her house and going to see her in rehab every day.

On a happier note, I did manage a bonus visit with my friend Kerri who had some free time after her school year ended. She volunteered to meet me at the Sacramento airport and take me to my mom’s house after I struggled to find a reasonably priced rental car! We took a day and a half to explore together before parting ways. Another bonus: Kerri brought her pet Jindo mix, Gustie, a delightful addition to the trip. I’ve started calling him Gustie the Adventure Dog.

But in between coping with heat and broken legs, I enjoyed some lovely simple pleasures and everyday adventures. Today’s post will focus on one of them: a visit to Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Lassen, about three hours northeast of Sacramento, became a national park in 1916. It’s home to more than 30 volcanic domes, and includes all four types of volcanoes. The last volcanic eruptions at Lassen occurred between 1914-1917, with the most major one happening in 1915. It also has hydrothermal features like boiling mudpots, bubbling lakes, and steaming clouds of sulfurous gas. (Sound like a fun day trip?) But wait, there’s more!

The hydrothermal features are just one aspect of the park. It also has nearly 800 plant species and one of the largest old-growth forests in Northern California. Its elevation (5,500-10,500 feet) makes it a cooler place to visit on a hot summer day, and sometimes there’s even snow pack at higher elevations in the summer. We saw very little snow this time because California is experiencing historical drought and heat levels.

Since we had Gustie with us, we confined ourselves to what we could see at stops along the 30-mile highway. Leashed pets are only allowed in developed areas like roadways, parking lots, campgrounds, and picnic areas, because according to park information, dogs leave behind territorial scent that disrupts the behaviors of native animals like the rare Sierra Nevada red fox.

Some highlights:

Sulphur Works—a hydrothermal area right next to the park highway. A short walk on a sidewalk gets you close to this smelly, bubbling pool:

Lassen Peak parking area and viewpoint:

King’s Creek Meadow, at the foot of Lassen Peak:

Emerald Lake—so pretty and peaceful. Vegetation growing in the shallow lake’s waters makes it green:

Wildflowers we saw:

Lassen paintbrush

Shasta lilies

Lassen has something for everyone: 150 miles of hiking and backpacking trails, places to boat and fish, camp sites, and even snowshoeing and backcountry skiing in winter. For a less physically challenging visit, you can enjoy the 30-mile highway with stops at places of interest like we did, or picnic by a lake. It’s definitely worth a visit if you’re in Northern California. 

For more information:



Alison Bechdel

No Pain, No Joy

June 25, 2021

“You can’t be happy unless you can also be sad. If you’re defended against feeling pain, those same defenses shut down your access to joy. You have to let everything in.”

Alison Bechdel, “Alison Bechdel: ‘I've Always Know Physical Exertion and Movement Are Vital Somehow for My Creative Process.’”

For the next couple of weeks I’ll be taking a break from posting on Catching Happiness. I’m finally traveling to California to see my moms  and will have limited computer access. I’m planning to indulge in some of my favorite simple pleasures and everyday adventures! 


Expanding, Contracting

June 18, 2021

For so many months I’ve felt confined to a narrow range of activities. For much of the past year, my world shrank to the few miles between my home, the grocery store, and the barn. And even though that radius has expanded to include the library, my hairdresser and a favorite coffee shop, I still feel my world has narrowed. And I know many people have left their homes even less than I have.

The Year That Must Not Be Named was a year of contracting for most of us. As the pandemic ravaged the world, most of us stayed close to home, limited our activities, and put plans on hold. My thinking undoubtedly became smaller as my day-to-day world shrank. Uncertainty, confusion, and limitations characterized 2020. And while the circumstances were undoubtedly unpleasant, if our reaction was to contract, that was entirely appropriate. In fact, the slower pace of life for many during the pandemic proved beneficial. As Amy Ward Brimmer wrote in “Expanding and Contracting,” “Contraction is an opportunity for mindfulness.”

If we allow it to, that mindfulness can guide us as we start expanding—allowing our thoughts and actions to widen again.

A natural cycle

The process of expanding and contracting is one of life’s natural cycles. Each condition is neither all good nor all bad; each practice serves a purpose. Just as breathing includes both inhalation and exhalation, so we also need times of contraction and expansion. As nature has times of expansion and growth, so it has seasons of loss and letting go.

Here are some examples of expanding and contracting:

Ways we expand:

  • Be open hearted—listen, help, love, give, to the best of our abilities
  • Plan future events and adventures
  • Learn something new, or deepen our understanding
  • Train our bodies for a physical contest, like a 5K or a charity walk; start an exercise program; or bump up one we already have
  • Try to understand another person’s point of view


Ways we contract:

  • Seek safety and comfort in the familiar
  • Take care of ourselves when we’re sick or injured
  • Withdraw to conserve energy, or think something over
  • Rest

Expanding pushes us outside our comfort zones. It can feel exciting—or it can feel scary as we reach beyond our previous limits. Contracting is a natural reaction to danger, threat, and even exhaustion. If we overextend ourselves while expanding, we may need to contract for a while to recover. (While working on this post, I realized that even my word of the year acronym—DARE: Dream, Act, Recharge, Evaluate—contains the concepts of both expansion and contraction.) 

We can also stay in a contracted state too long, fall into using false comforts or overuse real ones, thus stunting our own growth. We can make our world too small. This is where I am right now. I need to begin expanding again, finding inspiration, “filling the well.” I believe I can do this safely and responsibly, but I’m struggling. I shrink back from the very things that will inspire creativity and bring me happiness.

I’m still searching for the flow between expanding and contracting, as I imagine many of you are also. What feels right and safe and appropriate?

Let’s start simply: Take a big breath. Sit up straight. Smile. Now think of one little thing we could do to make our world bigger and brighter. Then do it! And let’s come back and share our experiences in the comments below.

As we begin to move back into more normal life, how can we expand thoughtfully while still being mindful of the benefits and need for contracting?