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.


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!


Fall Rerun--Treat Yo'self: 25 Simple Pleasures to Brighten Your Day

September 23, 2019

It’s the first first day of fall, and I’m enjoying some time off from blogging. This post, from Sept. 2016, is still one of my favorites. Do you have any simple pleasures you can add to the list?

I recently participated in Sarah Jenks’ Live More Challenge. For two weeks, I put more thought into what would make life more delicious, what would feed my life (rather than just my body), and for two weeks I noticed a genuine lightening of my spirits. I looked forward to each day’s challenge. I also learned that living more required planning, and I need to make time for fun every day. (You can see my Live More posts if you follow me on Instagram.)  

While this may sound frivolous in the face of this world’s tragedies, I’ve learned that my being unhappy will not make this world safer or better. My being happy, however, just might rub off on those around me, and help someone else feel better, too. So with that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of 25 simple pleasures for us to try. Won’t you join me?

1. Instead of a blaring alarm clock, wake up to music, nature sounds, or something else that pleases your ear.

2. Call a friend—or (gasp!) write a letter.

3. Take a nap (I won’t tell). 

4. Crank up some music. Choose music from the time you were happiest for an extra boost. 

5. Clean or declutter a drawer or shelf.

6. Bake something and share with a friend or neighbor.

7. Read, sketch, or simply people watch at a coffee shop. If you’re into pumpkin spice lattes, now’s the time to order one! 

8. Go picking—find an orchard or farm that hosts you pick opportunities and fill a basket or bag with fresh produce.

9. Finish a project. Whether it’s a bathroom update or an art project, fixing something that’s broken, or mending an item of clothing.

10. Buy one perfect treat (cupcake, scone, handmade chocolate, glass of wine, etc.). Consume it without any distractions and enjoy every mouthful.

11. Buy or collect fresh flowers. Find a place to put them where the cat won’t eat them. (Or is this a problem only I have?)

12. Schedule a field trip to explore someplace new. Or revisit a place you love—your choice.

13. Perform an anonymous act of kindness.

14. Look the cashier (or the server, or the librarian) in the eye and smile.

15. You know that pile of magazines you’ve been meaning to read? Grab it and curl up in bed for a couple of hours.

16. Take a walk in your neighborhood with your camera or phone. Take photos of your favorite places and things—anything that grabs your attention. 

17. Sit comfortably for 10 minutes and do nothing. (It’s harder than it sounds.)

18. Take a class, in person or online. Choose something you’ve always wanted to try. Some fun ones I’ve come across: soap making, altered journals, aromatherapy, wine making. Of course, I highly recommend my friend Laure’s art classes.

19. Drink a cold glass of water. You’ll be refreshed and energized—just watch out for brain freeze.

20. Tell someone a joke.

21. Sip a hot cup of tea, coffee, or cocoa.

22. Rewatch your favorite movie. Maybe even eat some popcorn.

23. Sit outside, close your eyes and listen. See if you can identify five different sounds.

24. Groom your dog/cat/rabbit/ferret/horse. Give him or her treats and extra love. I still miss my dog so much, so be sure you enjoy them while you have them. 

25. Put fresh sheets on the bed and get in bed early to read.

So go forth and treat yo’self. Life should be enjoyed, not just endured!

I’ve listed only a few simple pleasures. What can you add to this list?

“The way you treat yourself sets the standard for others.”
—Dr. Sonya Friedman

Alain de Botton

New Places, New Thoughts

September 20, 2019

Photo by Balazs Busznyak on Unsplash

“Journeys are the midwives of thought. Few places are more conducive to internal conversations than a moving plane, ship or train. There is an almost quaint correlation between what is in front of our eyes and the thoughts we are able to have in our heads: large thoughts at times requiring large views, new thoughts new places. Introspective reflections which are liable to stall are helped along by the flow of the landscape. The mind may be reluctant to think properly when thinking is all it is supposed to do.”
—Alain de Botton


Wrapping Up Summer

September 16, 2019

Photo by Jade Seok on Unsplash

Do you smell it? Pumpkin spice is in the air! Summer is about to give way to fall—at least in my imagination. Time to wrap up summer and move on to my favorite season, fall. Despite the recent turmoil, it wasn’t such a bad summer. I checked off most things on my Summer Fun List (completed items highlighted in red):

  • Read by the pool
  • Attend yoga classes at Karma (no affiliation) while our circuit training class teacher is off having a baby 
  • Schedule a massage
  • Create and read from a Summer Reading List (post to come about this)
  • Escape for a beach weekend with my husband

As far as my Summer Reading List goes, here are the books I specifically mentioned, finished titles again highlighted in red:

Mansfield Park, Jane Austen.

Ride with Your Mind, Mary Wanless.

The Foundling, Georgette Heyer.

Also of note:

I went on a Lucy Knisley graphic memoir binge (my favorite was either Kid Gloves or Something New)

Read or skimmed several books by Alexandra Stoddard

Revisited Agatha Christie’s The Tuesday Club Murders (first appearance of Miss Marple)

This summer has felt long and hot and impossibly difficult at times, but things are looking up. Problems are resolving. Work is coming my way that is helping to pay for the recent horse and car expenses. When you read this, my husband and I will be road tripping in New England. I’m so grateful for all the good in my life, and all the kind words and thoughts you’ve shared with me. I’m breathing big sighs of relief, and actually looking forward to what comes next.

I hope your summer was just what you wanted it to be. What was your favorite moment? Any simple pleasures or everyday adventures you’d care to share in the comments below?

In other news, click here to read my article, “Tantalizing Tallahassee: A Tampa resident’s visit to Florida’s State Capital!”


Meeting Awesome People

September 13, 2019

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

“I know it sounds like a cliché but you do get to meet some awesome people traveling around the world. There's so much negativity in the press, but doing what I do makes you realize that 99.9 percent of people on the planet are really decent people. We just tend to concentrate on the small percentage who aren’t.”
—Will Hide, travel writer

My husband and I are about to go on a long overdue and much needed vacation together, and we expect we’ll be meeting awesome people while we're away. I’ve set up some posts for Catching Happiness while I'm gone, but purposefully, I'm limiting my access to email and comments. Have a happy couple of weeks, everyone!


Double Nickels

September 09, 2019

Photo by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash

This week I’m celebrating a milestone birthday—55—“double nickels,” as they say. I wanted to write a post like, “55 Things I’ve Learned in 55 Years,” or even just share a few nuggets o’ wisdom with you. 

Well, I would if I could.

Instead, what I’ve learned over the past couple of months is that I still have so much to learn! That even at the mature age of 55, I make dumb mistakes, feel at a loss when faced with certain problems, and that the depth of my resources for coping with a series of mishaps and inconveniences is not as robust as I would like it to be.

All good things to learn, if a bit humbling. Does that happen to you? Just when you feel like you have a handle on life, it all goes catawampus?

For too long, worry, stress, and frustration have been my frequent companions.  If you read August’s Happy Little Thoughts newsletter, you know that Tank has been having a problem that could become quite serious, our truck died and needed a new engine, and this weekend my car had to have an expensive repair. Oh, and the reason this post is going up after 7 p.m.? My laptop keeps crashing every time I type a few letters into my word processing program.

I have been trying (oh, how I've been trying) to allow simple pleasures and everyday adventures to shore up my happiness during these difficult times. What has helped most is knowing that these frustrations have a shelf life. The vehicles will, eventually, both be fixed. Tank has been improving and seems out of danger. Some personal stuff will also eventually resolve. What I need to do is pay attention, be present, and act with maturity. I’m doing my best. 

And that's not a bad lesson to learn, no matter what your age: do your best. Assume everyone else is doing the same. And, as someone once said,  Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

What is one of the most valuable things you've learned in your years of living?


One Brief Time of Happiness

September 06, 2019

Photo courtesy lucasphotography from Pixabay

“One swallow does not make a summer, neither does one fine day; similarly one day or brief time of happiness does not make a person entirely happy.”
—Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics