Anniversary

Catching Happiness Is 10 Years Old!

November 08, 2019

 Ten years ago Monday I pressed Publish on my very first blog post.

Since then, a post has gone live on Catching Happiness 1,095 times, including today. That’s a lot of words!

Over the course of that 10 years, I redesigned the blog’s appearance (see image below), and started a newsletter. I read hundreds of books, lost animals and people I loved, welcomed a new puppy, burned through a laptop, watched my son grow up and leave home, restarted my career as a freelance writer and editor, and traveled to some amazing places. Basically I experienced what anyone of my generation experienced as they moved through this particular stage of life; I just chose to share a bit of it publicly.

Original Catching Happiness header

Little old Scout

I’ve also shared information on positive psychology, the Danish practice of hygge (which seems to be everywhere now!), written many posts about books and reading (possibly my favorite simple pleasure), and even shared my love of a frosty shake known as a Black Cow. None of my posts ever “went viral,” and by far the most viewed post has been “Happiness A to Z—26 Things That Make Me Happy.” 

Baby Prudy

Baby Luna

What’s next?

I am so grateful for all your kind comments through the years. I’ve made many online friendships through Catching Happiness, and through reading other people’s blogs. It’s been a fantastic experience and I’ve met with nothing but kindness and friendship. Not everyone can say that of their online experiences.

But it’s time for things to change. What started out as a way for me to explore a more personal style of writing grew into a project that has consumed many of my hours. It’s been a labor of love and I don’t regret one minute of it, but as I’ve taken on more freelance work over the past two years I now have less time to spend on Catching Happiness. I don’t want to say goodbye…but I also feel like I’ve said just about all I have to say about simple pleasures and everyday adventures!

Tank and friend

Previously I’ve tried to stick to a twice-a-week schedule, except when taking a deliberate break from blogging, but I’m not going to hold myself to that going forward. I’ll only post when I feel like I have something special to share—when inspiration strikes. It may be once a week, or it may be less frequently. I’m not sure yet what my posting will ultimately look like. I’m also going to look into assembling a “Best of” compilation of my favorite posts, possibly for sale as an ebook.

Staying in touch

If you subscribe to posts (see the sign-up info on the right side of the page), you’ll always know when something new is published. You can also follow Catching Happiness on a feed reader like feedly.com (basic version is free, and I have no affiliation with them). I’m planning to continue the Happy Little Thoughts newsletter for the rest of 2019, but I may discontinue it in 2020—I haven’t decided.  

If you want to stay in touch between posts, you can always connect with me through email or social media. Click here for more information about that. 

Thank you all for 10 years of friendship, growth, happiness, and, of course, simple pleasures and everyday adventures!

Holly J. Hughes

What the Mind Wants

November 04, 2019

Photo by Illiya Vjestica on Unsplash

Guess what? There’s a special Catching Happiness milestone coming up this week. I normally post poems and quotes on Fridays, but since I plan to write a special post for Friday, I’m sharing this lovely poem today instead.

Introduction by Ted Kooser: Here's a poem by Holly J. Hughes, who lives and writes in Washington state, about finding joy in what's before us. I found it in Poetry of Presence: An Anthology of Mindfulness Poems, published by Grayson Books of West Hartford, CT. Ms. Hughes' most recent book of poetry is Hold Fast, (Empty Bowl Press, 2019).

Mind Wanting More

Only a beige slat of sun
above the horizon, like a shade
pulled not quite down. Otherwise,
clouds. Sea rippled here and
there. Birds reluctant to fly.
The mind wants a shaft of sun to
stir the grey porridge of clouds,
an osprey to stitch sea to sky
with its barred wings, some dramatic
music: a symphony, perhaps
a Chinese gong.

But the mind always
wants more than it has—
one more bright day of sun,
one more clear night in bed
with the moon; one more hour
to get the words right; one
more chance for the heart in hiding
to emerge from its thicket
in dried grasses—as if this quiet day
with its tentative light weren't enough,
as if joy weren't strewn all around.


American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2004 by Holly J. Hughes, “Mind Wanting More,” from Poetry of Presence: An Anthology of Mindfulness Poems, (Grayson Books, 2017). Poem reprinted by permission of Holly J. Hughes and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2019 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.

#Gratitude30

Happy November—Time for the Annual Gratitude Challenge!

November 01, 2019


For the past nine years, Dani DiPirro of Positively Present has hosted an annual Gratitude Challenge in the month of November—and I've joined in most of those years. I can honestly say I’ve been looking forward to this year's challenge—as a way to remind myself to think about and appreciate both the large and small things I’m grateful for
According to the experts who study positive psychology, “…gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships."
I'll have what they're having!
I’ll post my daily responses to the prompts on Instagram, and I’ll do a review post on Catching Happiness at the end of the month. Let me know if you want to join the challenge, and we can follow each other’s progress! Use the hashtag #Gratitude30. And, of course, you may choose to participate privately if that feels more comfortable. 

What are you grateful for today?

This Week in Bullet Points

October 28, 2019

Photo by Todd Trapani on Unsplash
  • Still waiting for fall to make an appearance
  • Bathing and clipping Tank this week, since he’s grown a lovely and unnecessary winter coat already
  • Some real “circle of life” stuff happening (subscribe to the Happy Little Thoughts newsletter for more details) among my circle of friends
  • Marking the first anniversary of the death of my father
  • Preparing for the 2019 Gratitude Challenge, sponsored by Positively Present, which starts Friday
  • Little bit stunned that it’s almost November
  • Happy that yesterday’s car trouble turned out to be a dead battery and not something more serious expensive

What will your week hold?

Autumn

It Must Be Autumn Somewhere Link Love

October 25, 2019

Oh to be in New Hampshire...

Rumor has it that it’s fall. Tell that to Florida’s weather. I’m sure those of you shoveling snow already want to shoot me, but I’m still wearing shorts.

It’s not pretty.

Thank goodness for air conditioning and the Internet. Here are some fun and interesting things I’ve discovered recently. Hope you enjoy! Have a pumpkin spice latte for me.

Check out my most recent article, “A Heart Full of Horses,” in America’s Horse here.

There is good in the world. I loved this sweet story.

Laure Ferlita shared this article, “Enoughness: A Gift From France” with me a couple of weeks ago. This thought stayed with me: When you have enough, why hustle for more? As the author asks, “But here’s the big question: do we have more of what matters? More joy? More rest? More connection?”
Speaking of France, if you’re looking for an opportunity to explore the countryside, connect with likeminded souls, and discover how creativity can add depth to your life, join Laure Ferlita at the enchanting Le Vieux Couvent in 2020. Registration is now open. (This is the same art retreat/workshop I attended in 2018 and it was fabulous!)
Forget my house, I want to declutter my mind. Here are some tips from Happiful magazine. I’m working on number one and number five in particular.

As my work has gotten busier, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I use my time. In “How to Declare Time Independence,” Laura Vanderkam writes, “Time passes whether or not we think about how we’re spending it, so it’s easy to spend time mindlessly. Days go by and years go by, always filled with something. The question is whether these things that fill our time are necessary, meaningful, or enjoyable.”


This little guy made me smile. I just wanted to hug him. (Not a good idea.)

This cracked me up:



Happy Friday!

Change

Five Lasting Ways Travel Can Affect You

October 21, 2019


“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”
—Henry Miller

As I was pressing Publish on last Monday’s “Simple Pleasures—Art and Flowers on the Maine Midcoast,” I realized that I’ve been sharing what I enjoyed on our trip to New Hampshire and Maine without sharing how those places and experiences affected me—and have continued to affect me, even now that I’ve been home for a couple of weeks. 

Aside from the relaxation and fun of the actual trip, I’ve found most trips leave traces behind: lasting effects on my happiness, a deepening of my understanding of the world around me, and even sometimes a change in how I live. Here are five ways travel affects me once I return home:

Spurs curiosity

Traveling reveals just how much I don’t know about the world. I often don’t know how things work in a new place, occasionally I don’t speak the language, and can easily find myself in a position of vulnerability. Excellent for reminding me that I don’t know it all, and that there are many ways to live and many reasons for doing things a certain way. It’s a perfect opportunity to be quiet and observe, and to ask questions.

I often come home wanting to learn about something I saw or experienced on vacation, also. Since I love to read, some of our excursions have been to authors’ homes, inspiring me to read or reread their work. Seeing one of Robert Frost’s homes has made me pull out a collection of his poetry I haven’t looked at for years. Visiting Mark Twain’s home in Connecticut spurred my interest in his writing, including his doorstop-sized autobiography.

I love exploring natural places and gardens, and wonder about various plants we see—what are they? Will they grow in Florida?

Encourages exercise

There’s nothing like a hilly hike the first day out to bring to your attention that your job is sedentary, and frankly, my dear, you’ve let that exercise program slide. Most of my trips involve exploring, whether it’s the hills of San Francisco, the city streets of Paris, or the hiking trails in New Hampshire. Exploring on foot is great…so long as your body can take it. Our recent trip was a big wake-up call—I need to make some changes to my fitness routine. In other words, I need to get back into having a fitness routine.

Rekindles creative drive

I almost always come home wanting to sketch more, take more photographs, write poetry, or add more creative flourishes to my non-fiction writing. Travel refills my creative well. This time, I came home wanting desperately to make something beautiful. (Maybe because we saw so much beauty?) Much of my writing work is service-oriented, which I love, but it isn’t necessarily beautiful. I need to find an outlet for that part of me that wants to make things pretty (see below).

Inspires us to add beauty to everyday life

A trip to England many years ago ignited a desire to plant flowers for cutting and grow pretty window boxes. I very much enjoyed aperitif in France, though without having someone to prepare it for me, I haven’t had much luck in instituting the practice. I even enjoy watching how people dress—as a work-at-home writer, I most often wear shorts or yoga pants and a t-shirt, so my fashion sense is, shall we say, stunted.

Aperitif at Le Vieux Couvent

Breaks the chain of bad habits

At home, I watch too much TV, eat too many unhealthy snacks, and get lazy about various life maintenance tasks. When I’m on a trip, life is distilled down to its essence. I have a bare minimum of things with me, and my to-do list becomes very short and sweet. I have time for the things I enjoy most. Suddenly reruns of Castle hold no appeal and I’m too busy doing something interesting to snack mindlessly. When I’m not actively exploring, I read, write in my journal, or sketch.

After I return home, I usually have a burst of energy and good intentions. At least for a while, my bad habits are reduced. The trick is holding on to good intentions, making better habits easier than falling back into the old bad habits. I haven’t entirely licked this problem, but I’m working on it.

Life is short, but it is wide, as the saying goes. There are so many good and interesting things in the world, so many simple pleasures and everyday adventures to discover—and traveling reminds me to look for those things, and incorporate them into daily life after I’m home.

What lasting traces do your travels leave behind?

Alain de Botton

Bring the Traveling Mind-set Home

October 18, 2019


“What, then, is a traveling mind-set? Receptivity might be said to be its chief characteristic. Receptive, we approach new places with humility. We carry with us no rigid ideas about what is or is not interesting. We irritate locals because we stand in traffic islands and narrow streets and admire what they take to be unremarkable small details. We risk getting run over because we are intrigued by the roof of a government building or an inscription on a wall. We find a supermarket or a hairdresser’s shop unusually fascinating. We dwell at length on the layout of a menu or the clothes of the presenters on the evening news. We are alive to the layers of history beneath the present and take notes and photographs.

“Home, by contrast, finds us more settled in our expectations. We feel assured that we have discovered everything interesting about our neighborhood, primarily by virtue of our having lived there a long time. It seems inconceivable that there could be anything new to find in a place where we have been living for a decade or more. We have become habituated and therefore blind to it.”
—Alain de Botton, The Art of Travel




Art

Simple Pleasures—Art and Flowers on the Maine Midcoast

October 14, 2019


Our continuing travels in Maine…

After Acadia and Bar Harbor, we began a leisurely drive down the Maine coast. I had made a list of places that sounded interesting, and we decided to explore what took our fancy, deciding where to stop for the night on the fly, since we didn’t know exactly where we’d be when it was time to find a place to stay. We were between the tourist seasons of summer and “leaf peeping,” so it wasn’t too crowded. If you want to stay somewhere special or if you go during a busier time of year, it would be better to make plans ahead of time, but this worked fine for finding a place just to sleep for the night. We had a couple rooms that were just OK, but mostly every place we stayed had something nice about it, whether it was a tasty breakfast, a pretty view, or even an adorable puppy in the office.

This is Bella. No, we didn't pack her up and bring her home with us. 

Farnsworth Art Museum

One day we explored some of the art and garden attractions in Maine’s Midcoast area. This area so charmed us, we’ve even discussed retiring there! That would be quite a change for this California/Florida couple!

We started with the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland. The Farnsworth focuses on American art from the 18th century to the present, with a special focus on artists who have lived and worked in Maine. These include artists like Winslow Homer, Edward Hopper, and Georgia O’Keeffe, in addition to works by the Wyeth family: N.C. Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth, and James (“Jamie”) Wyeth.


Frolic, by Jamie Wyeth.

Detail from Frolic

On recommendation of some people we met at the tire repair shop—because of course we had to have a little adversity on our trip—we ate lunch at Café Miranda, an adorable little place just a few streets away from the museum. My husband had a late breakfast, but I had the “Fabulous Bowl of Meat,” which was actually…Thai lettuce wraps. And delicious.



Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

Thus fortified, we meandered down to Boothbay to visit the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. As I mentioned on Instagram, we may not have seen many colorful fall leaves, but we made up for that in displays of flowers. We saw gorgeous flowers everywhere, but, of course, the botanical gardens were exceptional.

The entrance





Vertical garden

Dahlia




The garden opened in 2007 after 16 years of planning, and is the largest botanical garden in New England. Seventeen of its 295 acres feature plants native to Maine as well as other plants suited to northern coastal conditions.

The children’s garden area was especially fun:

Look closely at the picket fence, also below



Garden resident

Arbor with gourds--you can see one at the right of the entrance

When our feet we were finished with exploring the garden, we found ourselves a hotel in East Boothbay, the Smuggler’s Cove Inn  (where we met Bella). We spotted a sign for a fish and chips special at the Carriage House restaurant on our way to the hotel, and went back there for dinner—and it was one of our best dinners of the whole trip. Everything from the pickle fried chicken wings appetizer to the homemade sauce for the fish was scrumptious. 

And so we come to the end of another full day of the Johnson & Johnson belated anniversary road trip of 2019. Thank you for letting me re-live our trip as I post these photos and memories here—I have a few more experiences to share!

Autumn

Autumn Poses a Question

October 11, 2019


“We cherish things, Japan has always known, precisely because they cannot last; it’s their frailty that adds sweetness…. Autumn poses the question we all have to live with: How to hold on to the things we love even though we know that we and they are dying. How to see the world as it is, yet find light within that truth.”


Acadia

Trip Highlights: Acadia and Bar Harbor

October 07, 2019

One of the planned highlights of our trip to New Hampshire and Maine was our time in Acadia National Park. We spent two days exploring the park, and nearby town of Bar Harbor.

We had made reservations for two nights in Bar Harbor, which was wise because Bar Harbor was bustling, even in the shoulder season between summer and “leaf peeping.” We would have spent too much time inching through traffic and finding parking. Our hotel, The Acadia, was right on the village green and we were able to walk most of the town.


Acadia covers about 38,000 acres—and we saw only a fraction of its forests, lakes, ponds, meadows and rocky coastline.

We began our visit with a trip to Hulls Cove Visitor Center, and a drive on the auto loop road up to Mt. Cadillac where you can see forever—or at least as far as Bar Harbor.

Frenchman Bay and Bar Harbor

The next morning, we began our explorations of Acadia at the Wild Gardens of Acadia, which we happened to pass on our way to the Ocean Path trail head. Intrigued, we pulled off the road to find an area of the park that displays in microcosm the different types of growing conditions in Acadia, including mixed woods, meadows, and marshes. We walked a little way down the Jessup Path, a boardwalk leading through woods and meadows to a roadside pond.

Jessup Path

Ocean Path is a 4.4 mile round trip from Sand Beach to Otter Point. The path runs right next to the loop road, but there are many places to climb away from the road to explore the rocks and take photos of the scenery. It’s an easy trail, but it was pretty crowded and if we had been visiting in the summer, traffic on the road would have been disruptive and bothersome. We entered at Sand Beach and walked to Thunder Hole, before turning around to walk back. Thunder Hole wasn’t thundering, unfortunately.


Ocean Path, Sand Beach in the distance



Thunder Hole...not thundering

We drove to Otter Point, where we saw no otters, but did see some waterfowl.


Our next stop was Jordan Pond House for lunch and their famous popovers. We sat on the lawn where we enjoyed a view of the Bubbles, and a cool breeze kept the wasps from being too annoying—they’re drawn to the strawberry preserves served with the popovers. Our waiter told us during high season, the kitchen turns out 4,000 popovers a day!


Jordan Pond House from the lawn

The Bubbles

Popover

We wrapped up our day with more exploring, shopping, and eating in Bar Harbor. And then, the next day, onward. Where did we go next? Stay tuned…




A Mellower Season

October 04, 2019

Photo by Monika Grabkowska on Unsplash

“Autumn is the mellower season, and what we lose in flowers we more than gain in fruits.”
—Samuel Butler, The Way of All Flesh




Busy-ness

One Happy Thing

September 30, 2019


“Why do they always teach us that it’s easy and evil to do what we want and that we need discipline to restrain ourselves? It’s the hardest thing in the world to do what we want, and it takes the greatest kind of courage.”
Ayn Rand

Do you agree or disagree with this quote?

For the most part, I agree, though I know different personality types may not have as much trouble embracing enjoyment as I do. I mostly feel like I have to “get everything else done” before I can have fun.

While we were on vacation, our pattern was to get up fairly early and explore all day, then find our lodging and have an early night. Every night, we had several hours to do what we liked. I noticed that in the evenings when we were tucked into our hotel rooms, I had a hard time settling down to relax. I’d write in my trip journal, plan the next day’s activities, then read or sketch. No kitchen to clean up, no laundry to fold, or writing project to take one more look at. It took me several days to feel comfortable with the added pleasure of a free evening after spending all day engaged in the happy activities of exploring new places. Maybe because I went from one extreme to another. The past few weeks at home have been long on work and short on happiness.

I don’t want to fall into that pattern again, so I’m instituting a new practice. Each week, I’m going to schedule “One Happy Thing”—something that I will do strictly for my own pleasure. This week it’s “ride Tank” (he’s so much better he can be ridden at the walk!). Next week, it might be “have a pumpkin spice latte,” or “watch a movie on Netflix you’ve been meaning to see.” I’m writing it into a specific space in my planner, alongside “pay bills, return library books, and work on writing projects.” Otherwise, it might not get done, because it’s just too easy to put off pleasure when things get busy (and when aren’t things busy?). 

While I enjoy at least 90 percent of my work, now I’ll have something to look forward to intended strictly for pleasure, no matter how busy my week. One happy thing. How hard can that be?

Do you find it hard to do what you enjoy? Do you put off pleasure until everything else is done? 

Field Trip Friday

Field Trip Friday—Flume Gorge, Robert Frost, and Mt. Washington

September 27, 2019

Covered bridge over the Pemigewasset River, Flume Gorge

My husband and I just returned from a 10-day trip through New Hampshire and Maine—a trip intended in part to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary…which happened almost three years ago. I know, there’s something wrong with us.

The trip was worth the wait, and came at just the right time to provide some much-needed rejuvenation for us both. I’ll share a few of our experiences and pictures here on Catching Happiness over the next few weeks—so let's get started!

Our first day was one of our busiest and most exhausting—but also one of the best! We had driven up to stay in Lincoln, NH, the day we arrived so we could get an early start. The plan was to do a hike or two, then drive up to Mt. Washington.

Flume Gorge

Our first stop was Flume Gorge in the Franconia Notch State Park. We hiked a two-mile loop through the gorge and back to the visitor’s center. Lots of ups and downs and stairs and it felt longer than two miles to our Florida legs, but it was well worth the effort, as you can see.







The Pool in the Pemigewasset River--40 feet deep, 150 feet wide, surrounded by 130-foot cliffs


See how the water has carved the rocks?

Tree roots: nature finds a way...


According the park literature, Flume Gorge is a natural gorge extending 800 feet at the base of Mt. Liberty. The granite walls rise to 70 to 90 feet, and are 12 to 20 feet apart. It was discovered in 1808 by 93-year-old “Aunt” Jess Guernsey when she stumbled upon it while she was fishing! She at first had a hard time convincing anyone else to come see her discovery. Can’t you just see her family saying, “Oh, that’s just Grandma’s active imagination. She couldn’t possibly have found anything like what she described.”

In the footsteps of Robert Frost

I discovered while researching our trip that from 1915-1920, Robert Frost lived just 15 minutes away from Flume Gorge in a farmhouse that is open to the public. For a $5 fee, you can enter the house itself, and you can sit on the porch or explore the ¼ mile “poetry trail” for free. I went inside of course, while my husband enjoyed the view from the porch. Then we both walked the short trail through the woods. I was struck by the simplicity of the rooms and peace of the surroundings. I have my own office in a much larger home, and it made me want to go home and dispose of half of my belongings. And also reacquaint myself with Frost’s poetry.

Goosebumps




Reproduction lap desk where Frost wrote

The view from the porch

The Frosts' bedroom


On the poetry trail


On top of Mt. Washington

Next we drove the Kancamagus Highway to Mt. Washington. “The Kanc” is one of the most scenic drives in the U.S., particularly in fall when the leaves have turned. We were too early in the season for fall foliage color, but the drive was still beautiful. We stopped at several places just to look around. 



Our final stop of the day was Mt. Washington, where we drove ourselves to the summit on the Auto Road—and we have the bumper sticker to prove it. Mt. Washington is the highest peak in the northeastern U.S. at 6288 feet, and boasts of having “the world’s worst weather”—and they are not wrong.  When we were on the summit, the temperature was 38 degrees, with winds gusting to 72 mph. The drive up is, frankly, terrifying, because there are no guardrails and sheer drops only inches from the road itself.

The view from Mt. Washington





And that, folks, was just our first day! The rest of the trip wasn’t quite so ambitious, thank goodness. 

Come back next week for the adventures of Catching Happiness in Maine!


Look for my travel writing here