The Things I Take for Granted

October 15, 2021

Photo by mrjn Photography on Unsplash

Last week we had a problem with our home’s sprinkler system, and while we were trying to get it fixed, we had to shut off the water to our house for a couple of days. Every time I went to wash my hands or rinse a piece of fruit I had to stop and figure out an alternative. I take running water for granted.

I also take people for granted. On Sunday, I attended a visitation for the mother of a good friend. One moment she was here, living a vibrant life, and the next she was gone. I take for granted the presence in my life of people I love, including my own mom, stepmother, and mother-in-law.

During the pandemic the supply chain (a phrase many of us had never heard before) has been disrupted resulting in shortages of seemingly random items (cat food, computer chips) and skyrocketing prices (basically everything). As Americans, most of us are not used to NOT being able to buy what we need (and want). Most of us are not used to not being able to do what we want. We’re used to Amazon two-day delivery, the ability to retrieve information online in seconds, and drive-thru fast food. We’re surrounded by miracles and we don’t even realize it. We have taken for granted all the many advantages and conveniences of our society.

And that’s not necessarily bad. Not worrying over and spending lots of time hunting for our basic needs has freed us up to do other positive things. But it wouldn’t hurt us (me) one bit to become more mindful of what we take for granted. To stop to appreciate those things, many of which people in other countries would be most grateful to have access to.

Over the past year and a half, we’ve had to learn how to savor the simple pleasures available to us, to put off others to the future in order to limit the spread of an illness that can be randomly debilitating or even fatal. We’ve had more time to think about what really makes us happy. Like most people, I’ve been changed by the pandemic in ways I don’t understand yet. And though I do still take many things for granted, I hope I will remember days when all I wanted was a drink of water from the faucet, a trip to the movie theater with my husband, or to see my mom in person without feeling like I was bringing a host of frightening germs with me.

I know when things feel safer and more “back to normal” I’ll probably fall back into taking things for granted. But until then, when I put my key in my car’s ignition and it starts, when I flip a switch and the lights come on, or I turn a handle and water pours out, I hope I can remember to be grateful.

What are some things you take for granted?


A Fall Fun List—the Something to Look Forward To Edition

October 08, 2021

Photo by pure julia on Unsplash

It feels like it’s been a long, long time since I had something to look forward to. Sure, I’ve had the occasional outing or simple pleasure, but they’ve been few and far between. During Florida’s hot summer months I tend to conserve my energy, as evidenced by my tiny summer fun list.

I don’t usually make a fall fun list, but this year I’m going to. I need something to look forward to. And so do you.

The importance of anticipation

Having something to anticipate with pleasure helps us to imagine a more positive, hopeful future, rather than a litany of work, bad news, and stressful events. Planning a future simple pleasure or everyday adventure gives us a small feeling of control. When my planner pages have a coffee date with a friend or a notation that I intend to catch up on my magazine reading instead of only doing work and errands, I feel a small mood boost. I’m going to do my best to do all of these before the first day of Winter, Dec. 21.

My fall fun list

  • Resume attending touring Broadway productions at the Straz in Tampa. First up: Tootsie at the end of October. 
  • Go see Dune in a theater with my husband.
  • Decorate my house for fall.
  • Do my current jigsaw puzzle. It’s not fall-themed, but I’d like to put it together before buying any more puzzles.
  • Buy some fall potted flowers—mums or?
  • Walk at a local park or recreation area with my husband and dog.
  • Eat dinner at Bern’s Steakhouse with another couple. We’ve had to cancel this meal twice because of COVID. 
  • Choose a new set of inserts for my planner for 2022. 
  • Plant some cool season veggies and herbs. Hope springs eternal, despite some pitiful efforts in the past. 
  • Read and/or write outside…once we get a real cold front.
  • And yes, drink at least one pumpkin spice latte.

What are you looking forward to this fall?

Thank you to Laura Vanderkam, whose fall fun list inspired this post.

Happiness museum

Octoberly Link Love

October 01, 2021

Octoberly isn’t a word, but I think it should be. Doesn’t it sound sort of fall-ish? As October creeps in, I’m enjoying the way the light falls through the trees, the adorable little pumpkins at the grocery store, and the ubiquitous presence of pumpkin spice. Here are a few more things I’ve enjoyed recently:

Check out the Action for Happiness Optimistic October calendar here. Today’s task is to “Write down three things you can look forward to this month.” 

I love doing jigsaw puzzles, and I was thrilled to read “Jigsaw Puzzles Can Improve Your Life More Than You Realize.” I’ve got a new puzzle sitting on my dining room table right now waiting for me to start it. 

Ingrid Fetell Lee’s posts at The Aesthetics of Joy have especially resonated with me lately. I found “Are You Talking Yourself Out of Joy? Here’s How to Stop” and “6 Ways to Find Joy During Times of Change” especially good reading.

I loved this story, and especially the message the dad wanted to share: “Some people can make any situation worse, and some people can make any situation better… always be that second person….”

If visiting Denmark (consistently ranked one of the happiest countries in the world) is on your travel wish list, here’s one more reason to go. In July of 2020, the Happiness Research Institute opened the world’s first happiness museum in Copenhagen. 

Stephanie Hayes’ newspaper columns often make me laugh, and “Christmas is canceled, Tampa Bay. Instead, choose one of these holidays” was one of my recent favorites. (You don’t need to live in Tampa Bay to appreciate the humor.) Subscribe to her free newsletter if you’d like to read more of her writing.

How fun is this?

Happy Friday—and may October be full of simple pleasures and everyday adventures!

What Octoberly pleasures are you looking forward to?


Out of the Dirt

September 24, 2021

A couple of weeks ago when I went to add some kitchen scraps to our backyard compost pile, I came upon this:


It’s not unusual to see a volunteer tomato or cucumber (or whatever this is!) growing in the compost pile. But the juxtaposition of something green and growing bursting out of what is essentially trash and manure gave me a little burst of hope. Maybe out of my own messy mental compost pile something will grow! Maybe something green and growing is awaiting humankind if we can make it through this era of turmoil and upheaval. Maybe.

Composting takes time. Old things must break down and reform into new. But when the process is done, you have rich, dark humus to enrich your garden beds. From that enrichment, beautiful things grow.

I’m trying to remember not to be afraid of the mess and breakdown that can bring forth something wonderful.

How about you? Is something breaking down in your life? Perhaps that’s just the prelude to the growth of something wonderful!

Summer fun list

Summer Fun/Reading List Update

September 17, 2021

Tank on the trail

Only five days until the calendar says it’s fall! It may not feel like fall here in Florida for another month or two, but I’m already contemplating fall simple pleasures and making up a fall fun list. 

But before I do that, let’s review my summer fun list and see how I did.

I was right to make a less-than-ambitious summer fun list, and I was able to do all but one item on it (completed items in red): 

  • Have an ice cream cone at Baskin Robbins (many of my happy growing-up memories revolve around B & R, as we fondly called it)
  • Read and/or write at a café (now that I’m vaccinated) [COVID went nuts in Florida, and I chose to try not to expose myself to it]
  • Create and read from a summer reading list (post to come)
  • Get together with friends I haven’t seen in more than a year, because, well, you know…

In addition, I also:

  • Traveled to California to visit family and friends (and Lassen Volcanic National Park)
  • Went trail riding in June!
  • Hosted a couple of small family get-togethers
  • Browsed in my library’s used bookstore, which had been closed since last year
It’s been mostly a quiet summer, and I’m OK with that. I’m hoping as the weather cools off and I get my normal fall energy boost, I’ll start to explore a few more simple pleasures and everyday adventures.

Summer reading update

Summer reading went really well! I read most of the books on my summer reading list, and more:

For my long book, I’m thinking of reading Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke. I’m not sure how to describe this one, except that it involves magic and the politics of the Napoleonic wars (?)  People seem to love it or hate it.

Started. Mixed feelings so far. Not loving it. Intrigued enough to keep making my way through for now, but I reserve the right to abandon it. I have my own copy, so I can take my time without worrying about library due dates. 

I’m very interested in Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, by Ruth Franklin for my writer’s biography. I also just received a copy of May Sarton’s Plant Dreaming Deep, which is more of a journal/memoir than a biography. It appeals to me because I loved Journal of a Solitude and The House by the Sea. Of course, I could kill two books with one stone (long book and writer biography) and tackle my still-unread Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1 (clocking in at more than 600 pages of dense type and footnotes)!

Read: Plant Dreaming Deep (loved it!)

A friend gifted me Tirzah Price’s Pride and Premeditation and we’ll be reading it together. This “clever retelling of Pride and Prejudice…reimagines the iconic settings, characters, and romances in a thrilling and high-stakes whodunit.” Sounds fun!


This year, I’m throwing some poetry into the mix with Arias, by Sharon Olds.

Check again.

I’ve been very slowly rereading Agatha’s Christie’s books in order, so I’ll probably pull The Man in the Brown Suit off my home library shelf to serve as my comfort reread.

Yup. And also The Secret of Chimneys and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. I especially enjoyed Chimneys, as my memory of it was hazy. 

I’m undecided on reading a classic. At the moment, I haven’t got one lined up, but that may change. 


I’m in the hold line to read Laura Dave’s The Last Thing He Told Me, a Modern Mrs. Darcy recommendation. Many people are ahead of me, so I hope I get to this one before summer’s end.

Just finished, and it was worth the wait.

In the meantime, I’ll likely pick up another Modern Mrs. Darcy rec that I already had on my radar: Klara and the Sun, by Kazuo Ishiguro. 

Different, but good.

Now that summer’s nearly over I’m anticipating fall and all its simple pleasures. I’ll start working on a fall fun list, and maybe even a fall reading list—I’ve never done that before! There are already things to look forward to during my favorite season. But until then, I’ll try to savor the last few days of summer…from my air-conditioned home, of course J.

What were the highlights of your summer?