Is It OK to Be Happy?

October 27, 2017

In 2017 we’ve seen terrible stories of loss and suffering. Hurricanes, wildfires, mass shootings, a volatile and divisive political climate—and that’s just in the U.S. Every day it seems there’s a story that will break your heart. In the face of all this, I sometimes wonder if it’s OK to be happy. How can I be when so many people are miserable? Do you ever wonder this, too?

I won’t keep you in suspense. The short answer is yes, it’s OK to be happy.

The kind of happiness Catching Happiness is ultimately concerned with is not only the “simple pleasures and everyday adventures” of the tagline, but the deeper waters of joy and contentment. Joy and contentment come from living the best life we can live, doing what we think is right in most situations, appreciating what we have, sharing with others and helping when we can, enjoying and savoring the good in our lives, and learning from our mistakes and tribulations.

Though I personally am not suffering at this moment, suffering happens. It’s happened to me before, and is certain to happen again. I need to embrace the happy times and not waste them or push them away in fear of what the future holds.

It’s much easier to be—and talk about—being unhappy. We bond over complaining, forming instant connections over irritants like traffic jams or the latest crisis in our lives. But when it comes to sharing our happiness, we’re afraid it sounds like bragging. We can be afraid to share the highs with others because we think it will make them feel bad, but is this really true? That probably depends on the audience. It’s possible someone you don’t know very well and who’s not familiar with your life’s ups and downs might think you’re bragging. But if it’s someone who cares about you, he or she will likely be happy for you. Use sensitivity and tact when sharing the good. Sometimes your happiness will be an inspiration and encouragement to others. At least they don’t have to worry about you!

Remember this: Our happiness does not hurt anyone. Our unhappiness doesn’t help anyone.

Also remember: happiness is contagious

So go ahead and be happy. Bring your awareness to what makes you feel happy, and don’t be afraid to share your happiness with others. This world is in desperate need of more good stories and happy adventures.

What is one thing you’re happy about right now?

One of things that makes me happy

April Lindner

A Will Greater Than Its Own

October 25, 2017

Photo by Sven Scheuermeier on Unsplash

Introduction by Ted Kooser: Several years ago I published a children’s book about a bag in the wind, so it’s no wonder I love this poem by April Lindner, who lives in Pennsylvania. Once you start noticing these windblown bags, you see them everywhere. Her most recent book is This Bed Our Bodies Shaped (Able Muse Press, 2012).

Carried Away

One rainy night we sat in traffic
and, overtired in back, you saw
a wind-whipped grocery bag afloat
beyond the clutch of jagged branches,
swept by gusts and whirled in eddies.
A sudden downdraft swooped it earthward,
where it danced till with a whoosh
a current luffed it past the power lines.
Disowned by gravity, small ghost
not yet snagged by twiggy fingers,
it couldn’t reach the earth. Thin-skinned,
it pulsed, translucent jellyfish.
You wept and pled to be let out
into the dark and slanted rain,
somehow to save that desolate thing.
The light turned green and still you begged,
Go back, go back, on its behalf,
caught and held, bossed and tossed
by a will much greater than its own.

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 April Lindner, “Carried Away,” (The Hudson Review, Vol. LXIII, no. 1, Spring 2010). Poem reprinted by permission of April Lindner and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2015 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.

Apple Hill

Field Trip Friday--California Dreamin'

October 20, 2017

Northern California was particularly photogenic this month. Instead of telling you about my trip, I’m going to share a few of my favorite photos. (Neither of my parents lives in an area threatened by wildfires—at least right now—though we could smell and see smoke some days.)

One of my favorite things to do when I visit my mom is to walk every morning on the land that I grew up visiting every summer. I snap photos of whatever flora and fauna I come across. (Alas, no horses next door this year.) How fallish it looked (click on photos to make them bigger):

The cows came over to see what I was up to:

Loved this mama and baby:

Nothing much has changed since I was a child. I still drag my mother to see horses. This time, we went to the Wild Horse Sanctuary in Shingletown. Interesting place. These are wild ones:

When I visit my dad and step mom, I also get to see my feline “sister”:

This year, we dropped in to see my step mom’s brother, who is the manager of Funderland, an amusement park that’s been open since 1946. He remembers going there when he was a child! The rides were adorable and I want to devote a page in my travel sketchbook to them: 

The day before I came home, we visited a couple of the farms that are part of Apple Hill. In addition to apples, cider, donuts, pies, and lots of other tasty treats, High Hill Farm, where this was taken, had a number of craft booths which were interesting to walk through. You can see the smoke in air in this photo:

 Rainbow Farm had pumpkins and gourds in addition to apples:

I hope you’ve enjoyed this sneak peek into my visit to California. I miss it already. Even though I’ve now lived in Florida longer than I lived in California, since I grew up there it will always feel like home.


The Present Rearranges the Past

October 18, 2017

Photo by SID ZHAO on Unsplash

“Something wonderful happens to you and you instantly look back over your life and see it as a series of fortunate events stretching off into the distance like mountain peaks. Something terrible happens and your life has always been a litany of woe. The present rearranges the past. We never tell the story whole because a life isn’t a story; it’s a whole Milky Way of events and we are forever picking out constellations from it to fit who and where we are.”
—Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby


A New Season

October 11, 2017

Photo by Lukasz Szmigiel on Unsplash

“A new season is blowing up the valley, drifting over the hills, rising up from a cooling earth, a new season with its challenges, its changes, its excitements, and its own particular rhythms and miracles.”
—Jean Hersey, The Shape of a Year

What simple pleasures and everyday adventures do you anticipate this fall?

Everyday adventures

Secret Destinations

October 04, 2017

Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.”
—Martin Buber

I’m off to California to visit my parents this week. At least, that’s what my travel documents say. What secret destinations will I discover? I can’t wait to find out.

What secret destinations have you stumbled upon?