March 30, 2015

I just got back last night from a week in Georgia with my friend Marianne, so bear with me while I unpack my suitcase and sort out my impressions. I’ll write about the trip later in the week (lots of delight: horses were ridden, hard cider was drunk, hikes were taken, daffodils were transplanted, and more!). I’ll also be responding to your comments here on my blog and catching up with yours! In the meantime, here’s a preview photo for you:

Georgia corn crib


Feeling the Sting

March 25, 2015

Photo courtesy Dominik Martin

Introduction by Ted Kooser: If you’ve followed this column through a good part of the...years we’ve been publishing it, you know how hooked I am on poems that take a close look at the ordinary world. Here’s a fine poem by Eamon Grennan, who lives in New York state, about bees caught up against a closed window.

Up Against It

It’s the way they cannot understand the window
they buzz and buzz against, the bees that take
a wrong turn at my door and end up thus
in a drift at first of almost idle curiosity,
cruising the room until they find themselves
smack up against it and they cannot fathom how
the air has hardened and the world they know
with their eyes keeps out of reach as, stuck there
with all they want just in front of them, they must
fling their bodies against the one unalterable law
of things—this fact of glass—and can only go on
making the sound that tethers their electric
fury to what’s impossible, feeling the sting in it.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2010 by Eamon Grennan from his most recent book of poems, Out of Sight: New & Selected Poems, Graywolf Press, 2010. Poem reprinted by permission of Eamon Grennan and the publisher. Introduction copyright 2013 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004- 2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

How Happy Are You?

March 23, 2015

You probably already have a general idea of how happy you are, but did you know there are many quizzes and questionnaires on the Internet that you can use to learn more about how different aspects of life contribute to happiness? If you’re interested in positive psychology and how to improve levels of happiness, you might want to check out one or more of these. Each test is slightly different and none takes longer than a few minutes to complete.

Visit the Authentic Happiness website for a selection of questionnaires to help you evaluate different aspects of happiness.

Take a Happiness Quiz at The Pursuit of Happiness website. 

See how the Brits evaluate happiness by filling out the Oxford Happiness Questionnaire

I got a B+ on the Blue Zones True Happiness Test provides happiness testing every couple of weeks for members, as well as a host of activities designed to improve happiness levels. “Tracks” focus on the concepts of Savoring, Thanking, Aspiring, Giving, and Empathizing. Access to the basic happiness tracks is free.

The benefit of these questionnaires and quizzes, in my opinion, is that they help you think about your life in specific terms. What is going well? How many stressful events have you endured lately? What types of emotions have been surfacing? What could be improved? They can also help you notice how good your life really is by helping you to focus on the positives. A little reflection can go a long way towards improving your overall happiness.

So…how happy are you?


Get Your Happy On--Celebrate International Day of Happiness

March 20, 2015

Your mission today, should you choose to accept it, is to be happy. Not just for yourself, but for those around you (there is proof that happiness is contagious).

Why today? Because March 20 is International Day of Happiness, established by the United Nations to celebrate and promote “the happiness and well-being of all peoples.” Truly a cause I can get behind!

Of course, there are a number of official happiness events, and even a Facebook page, but you can celebrate in your own way.  Take the chance to think about what makes you happy—and do it! True happiness is not about what you have or only about seeking your own pleasure. True happiness stems from, among other things, meaning and appreciation. I know I’m happiest when I’m working at what I believe to be my true purpose, while at the same time noticing and appreciating all the good things in my life.

So go ahead—be happy. (And do share on social media using the hashtag #InternationalDayofHappiness.)

Here are three links to inspire you:

Happy music!

How will you celebrate happiness today?


If We Had No Winter

March 18, 2015

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.”
—Anne Bradstreet


While Walking the Dog at Two A.M.

March 16, 2015

My dog Scout will be 16 years old on Sunday, and as you might expect, she has some health issues. One of them is that she can’t always sleep through the night without having to relieve herself. Her bed is on a chair on my side of the room, so I’m the one who hears her jump down, and I’m the one who slips on her leash and takes her outside. Usually, I try not to wake up all the way so that I’ll stand a chance of going back to sleep, but this morning, at 2 a.m., I found myself looking up at the stars while I waited for Scout. The air felt cool and fresh, Orion’s belt twinkled in the night sky. The neighborhood was silent, peaceful. Scout was quick, and I returned to my warm bed and quickly fell asleep. What could have been (and often is) an annoyance turned into a moment of delight for me.

I’ve been working on going with the flow, relaxing my death grip on life and paying more attention to little moments of delight when they’re presented to me: when my favorite song comes on the radio, when Prudy jumps up on my desk for some attention, when I grab my book and steal some reading time in the afternoon. It’s easy to find delight in things like that—not quite so easy to find delight when woken at 2 a.m., and I admit that I’m more likely to complain about that situation than to recount how lovely the stars look sparkling in the velvety darkness… Just this once, though, I was able to let go and admire the night sky. It was unexpectedly delightful. I’m not sure I would have found it so without my recent focus on delight. Which goes to show, I guess, that you find more of what you focus on.

Has anything unexpectedly delighted you recently?

Oh, sure, sleep NOW...

Heather Allen

Camouflaged in Stillness

March 11, 2015

Introduction by Ted Kooser: Here’s a fine poem by Heather Allen, a Connecticut poet who pays close attention to what’s right under her feet. It may seem ordinary, but it isn’t.


So still at heart,
They respond like water
To the slightest breeze,
Rippling as one body,

And, as one mind,
Bend continually
To listen:
The perfect confidants,

They keep to themselves,
A web of trails and nests,
Burrows and hidden entrances—
Do not reveal

Those camouflaged in stillness
From the circling hawks,
Or crouched and breathless
At the passing of the fox.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©1996 by Heather Allen. Reprinted from Leaving a Shadow, 1996, by permission of Copper Canyon Press, Introduction copyright 2014 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.


It's the Little Things

March 09, 2015

I hope you had as pleasant a weekend as I did. My mother-in-law came for an overnight visit, which gave me an excuse to drop my usual routine and go with the flow. I don’t know about you, but I too often become slave to my schedule and to-do list (out of fear that I’ll slack off and get too far behind to catch up!) instead of staying in the moment and doing what feels right. This weekend, I relaxed more, spent time talking with Mom and followed my instincts regarding the things I did.  Despite “losing” an hour to Daylight Saving Time, I ended up having the most delight-ful weekend, as well as accomplishing the following:

Ate at a new local restaurant we’ve been meaning to try for breakfast Sunday.

Repotted plants. A few of my orchids needed attention, and I had a new rosemary plant to take out of its peat pot as well as some tiny basil seedlings that needed transplanting.

Trimmed catnip leaves to dry for Prudy (and a few of my friends who also have catnip-loving cats).

Cleaned and refilled the birdbath.

Refilled the squirrel bird feeder outside my office window.

Bathed Scout and washed her dog bed.

Took Prudy on a supervised wander in the back yard.

Picked some volunteer Florida Everglades tomatoes (and ate them).

Watched an episode of The Gilmore Girls from a library DVD while I planned my week.

Sorted through some old magazines, keeping the few pages I wanted and letting the rest go.

So often it’s the little things, the simple pleasures, that add up to happy days—both now and in the future. Even though I did only what I felt like doing, I still got many things done. And I’ll enjoy the results, when my orchids bloom, when we eat the fresh herbs, and when I watch the squirrels birds on the feeder.

What did you do this weekend?

Baron Baptiste

Being a Yes

March 04, 2015

“The most empowered place we can be is not, ‘I’ve got it all figured out.’ It is to be brave enough to ask the questions over and over, ‘What am I not seeing that’s limiting me? What do I need to see that’s new for me?’ We’re afraid to ask that, because we’re worried about what we might have to confront and deal with as a result. But that’s what frees us: facing what we need to face, giving up what we need to give up, and being a yes for what’s next.”


Daring to Delight

March 02, 2015

I’m determined to do a better job of living my word of the year in 2015—why not when it’s such a nice one? So I plan to review my progress every month or so, and see how much delight I’m allowing into my life. Since I am the “gatekeeper of delight,” so to speak, here are three ways I’m exploring the concept:

Instead of blindly rushing through my day, I have made deliberate attempts to slow down both my movements and my thoughts so I can pay better attention to the details. That first sip of coffee in the morning—delicious! How relaxed and strong my body feels after yoga class. The deep pleasure of climbing into bed at the end of the day. I’m blessed with more delightful moments than I recognized.

It can feel really selfish to seek out delight, but I am letting go of the guilt feelings that arise when I “indulge” myself. Last month, I made the mundane more delightful by picking up a cinnamon dolce latte and a new book to read while I waited for an oil change. I played music every chance I got—using my iPod while vacuuming and mopping and listening to Pandora while working in my office. I’m also making sure I take short breaks during the day, rewarding myself when I complete a task, especially if it’s one I don’t enjoy. When faced with any choice now, the go-to question is, “Does this delight me?”

I’m also working on becoming more mindful of ways to share delight with other people, through acts of kindness, thoughtful words, or sharing something (book, movie, website, food!) that will bring pleasure to someone else. There’s much delight in sharing delight!

So far, the first life lesson “delight” has given me is this: It’s OK to enjoy my life. To take delight in simple pleasures and everyday adventures. I don’t need to feel guilty or uncomfortable because I have such a good life when so many people do not. It has been repeatedly pointed out to me that my suffering or unhappiness doesn’t help anyone else. In fact, it can add to the unhappiness of those who care about me. Instead, I dare to feel more delight, more happiness, and to spread it to others every chance I get.

When and how do you dare to feel delight?