2020 Gratitude Challenge Wrap Up

November 30, 2020

No surprise, this year I found the Gratitude Challenge…challenging. But I managed to post photos on Instagram 15 days, if I include today’s post, which will go up later. It’s not that I don’t have as many things to be grateful for—in reality I have more, including the fact that so far to my knowledge, none of my loved ones has contracted the coronavirus. I think it has more to do with my being mentally exhausted. Some days it was just too much for me to search both my photos and my brain for something meaningful to post. Pandemic brain is A Thing, people.

Once again, thank you to Dani DiPirro of Positively Present for sponsoring this annual challenge. Even though I didn’t post as much this year, I did really appreciate the chance to take an entire month to think about what I’m grateful for. Here are a few highlights from this year’s Gratitude Challenge:


The first prompt in @positivelypresent’s annual Gratitude Challenge is “health.” I'm very grateful that I do have good health overall, and that I have the resources for self-care, including healthful food, easily-accessed exercise options, and the therapeutic benefits of my Sunday lavender bubble bath ritual. Ready for a good night's sleep!


My favorite season is autumn/fall (not the “hot-umn” we've been having, though). The first cold front after Florida’s seemingly endless summer, pumpkin spice everything, bright flowers instead of fall leaves. Today, I’m grateful that the high was only 75 degrees. Well see how long that lasts.


During the past what feels like 150 years of pandemic madness, I’ve maintained what little sanity I have by going to the barn to be with my horse, and walking on our subdivision’s nature trail. Looking at that sky, breathing in the scent of warm horse, and catching deer at breakfast...just a few ways nature has provided balm for my soul. I know how lucky I am to have easy access to nature, and I'm grateful.


Here’s the poster child for #fun right here, posing with one of her much-loved and chewed-upon toys. She’s been a bright spot during this hard year, and I’m grateful for the many times she’s made me laugh.


I’m a day late on the prompts for the Gratitude Challenge, but I can’t let day 9’s, friendship, go by without sharing something. I am truly grateful for the friends who enrich my life with adventure, fun, laughter, shoulders to cry on, and listening ears. I’m grateful for the ones I’ve been able to see safely during the pandemic, and for those I miss SO much (may we be together soon). I’m posting this pic of barn friends Trixie and Jet since I don’t have any recent ones of my human friends!


Today’s Gratitude Challenge prompt is creativity. And while I’m unquestionably grateful for it, I myself have not felt very creative for a while. My art journaling practice, which started well this year, has fallen by the wayside. My writing feels dull and uninspired. Even this little wreath project from spring remains unfinished. I’d like to blame The Year That Must Not Be Named for this, and I know that it has affected me. But I don’t want the rest of the year (and beyond) to continue in this same fashion. I’ll be searching for inspiration and ways to support my own creativity more actively, starting now. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy the fruits of everyone else’s creativity!
What do you do to nurture creativity?


I have the perfect post for today’s #gratitude30 challenge prompt, kindness. When I came out for our walk this morning, I found that a tree from our backyard had fallen over our fence and was blocking our subdivision’s paved trail (thank you, Hurricane Eta). While my friend and I were pondering this situation, a man we frequently run into walking his dog approached us to see what was happening. When he found out the tree was ours, he offered to bring his chainsaw over and cut it so that it would no longer block the trail. I accepted his offer gratefully, and he came over a short while later and made that happen.


Remember when we used to go places and have fun? When it didn’t feel like a risk to go to the grocery store? Today I’m grateful for the memories of trips to beautiful places (like Maine, pictured here). Looking back at photos like this one reminds me of a happier, freer time—I hope it will come again.


Today’s #gratitude30 prompt is color. One of the things I appreciate most about color is its ability to influence mood. We choose paint colors and clothes and even coffee mugs to feel calmer, more confident, happier. Or is that just me? Case in point: doesn't looking at this colorful little guy make you feel more cheerful?


For today’s gratitude challenge prompt, curiosity, I flipped back through my photos to these pictures of a flowering cactus I saw on a walk a few weeks ago. I’d never seen it before, so I looked it up...and I think it’s called a queen of the night. What a lovely name! I’m grateful for being able to follow my curiosity where it leads.

One more thing…I’m grateful today and every day for you! Thank you for being part of the Catching Happiness family.









What We Only Hoped For

November 27, 2020

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not. Remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”


Carl Jung

A Measure of Darkness

November 20, 2020

Photo by Andres F. Uran on Unsplash

“Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word ‘happy’ would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better to take things as they come along with patience and equanimity.”

—Carl Jung


Happy World Kindness Day

November 13, 2020

“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are endless.”

—Mother Teresa

Today is World Kindness Day, and I can’t think of a time when we needed kindness more. World Kindness Day encourages groups and individuals to go out of their way to be kind to others, by pledging to do at least one intentional act of kindness to benefit someone else. It’s also a day to celebrate and encourage the acts of kindness others are already doing, including simply saying “thank you” to those around you.

If you want to join in, see 7 Ways to Make Kindness the Norm in Your Daily Life” (super simple suggestions), or click here for information on World Kindness Day and some additional simple suggestions for participating. (One of the sweetest examples I read about is to wear a cardigan today in honor of Mr. Rogers!)

As my first act of kindness today, I want to thank YOU for reading Catching Happiness, and for your support, kind comments, and friendship. I know how busy life can be, and it means a lot to me that you would spend a few minutes of your precious time reading my words and sharing your thoughts.

Happy World Kindness Day!

Agatha Christie

Celebrating 100 Years of Agatha Christie

November 11, 2020

“I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow; but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.”

― Agatha Christie

This year marks an important anniversary for those who love Agatha Christie’s books: the 100th anniversary of the publication of her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, featuring her famous Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot. Remarkably, even now, 44 years after her death, versions of her books are still being adapted for film and television, like Kenneth Branagh’s upcoming Death on the Nile or Amazon Prime’s Crooked House. In addition, with the Christie estate’s blessing, author Sophie Hannah has written four “Poirot continuation novels.” (Has anyone read these? I haven’t yet, but I’ve heard good things.) 

Agatha and me

In the mists of my memory, it was my mom who introduced me to “Aggie” as we affectionately called her. I took it from there, devouring her entire collection of novels, including the non-crime books she wrote as Mary Westmacott (I wrote about my favorite of these here) by the time I was in my 20s. I believe I own every mystery novel and American collection of short stories she wrote, or close to it, mostly in secondhand paperbacks, some of which are beginning to show their age. Even though I’ve read all of them, sometimes more than once, I don’t always remember whodunit. 

I often turn to Christie for a comfort read. Her stories are interesting, her characters are memorable, and in general the books move briskly along. Most of the puzzles confound me, but I don’t mind. I just sit back and watch the fun, without trying to solve the crime. Her books don’t trigger anxiety or give me nightmares, so they make good before bed reading. The solutions are satisfyingly tidy, in a world that is unsatisfyingly messy. Somewhat to my surprise, I don’t have a favorite of her novels, possibly because there are so many to choose from!

She was a lover of dogs, food, travel, and an intensely private person. I admire her for her adventurous spirit and incredible imagination and productivity.

The secret notebooks

One of the most interesting books I read was Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks: Fifty Years of Mysteries in the Making, by John Curran. Curran had access to the 73 surviving notebooks Christie used to jot ideas about plots and characters. As Christie said, “I usually have about half a dozen (notebooks) on hand and I used to make notes in them of ideas that struck me, or about some poison or drug, or a clever little bit of swindling that I had read about in the paper.”

Some of the notebooks, from the endpapers of Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks

Curran wrote, “The process of production was…random and haphazard. And yet, this seeming randomness was transformed into an annual bestseller and for many years into more than one bestseller. For over 50 years she delivered the latest ‘Christie for Christmas’ to her agent; for 20 years she presented London’s West End with one box-office success after another; she kept magazine editors busy editing her latest offering. And all of them—novels, short stories and plays—flow with the fluid precision of the Changing of the Guard.”

Curran also noted, “During the height of her powers publication could hardly keep pace with creation—1934 saw the publication of no fewer than four crime titles and a Mary Westmacott, the name under which she wrote six non-crime novels published between 1930 and 1956. And this remarkable output is also a factor in her continuing success. It is possible to read a different Christie title every month for almost seven years; and at that state it is possible to start all over again safe in the knowledge that you will have forgotten the earliest. And it is possible to watch a different Agatha Christie dramatisation every month for two years.”

Here are a few tidbits I found interesting about the woman and her writing (much of the following information came from agathachristie.com, where you can also find quizzes, film recommendations, and much more about Agatha Christie’s life and work):

  • Her father was an American, Frederick Alva Miller, from a wealthy, upper class family.
  • She was educated at home by nurses and governesses and never went to school.
  • She sang and played the piano, and considered becoming either an opera singer or a concert pianist. Her voice was deemed not strong enough for operatic roles, and her crippling stage fright when playing the piano made her temperamentally unsuited to being a concert pianist.

  • She worked in a dispensary during World War I where she learned all about poisons.
  • Her first marriage, to Archie Christie, ended in divorce in 1928. They had one daughter, Rosalind. In 1926 after a quarrel with Archie, Christie vanished for 11 days, eventually turning up at Harrowgate Spa Hotel, registered under the name of Theresa Neale. She claimed amnesia, and never spoke of this time with friends or family.
  • Her second, very happy marriage was to Max Mallowan, an archaeologist who was 14 years younger than she. She once said, “An archaeologist is the best husband a woman can have. The older she gets, the more interested he is in her.”

  • Christie was also a successful playwright. Her play The Mousetrap is the longest running play in the world. It had been running since 1952 until shut down in March due to the coronavirus. My family and I saw it in London in 1989!
  • That first detective novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, was written on a dare from her older sister Madge. It was rejected by six publishers before Bodley Head took it on, and published it in 1920.
  • Christie’s maternal grandmother and her friends inspired the creation of Miss Marple, Christie’s other well-known sleuth.
  • More than two billion Christie books have been published. She’s outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare.
  • One of Christie’s most popular titles, The A.B.C. Murders, was one of the first books to feature what has become a staple of crime fiction, a serial killer. That phrase did not exist at the time.
  • She wrote her autobiography over a period of 15 years (1950-1965), but it wasn’t published until a year after her death.

And those are just a few of the interesting facts about this remarkable woman! If I’ve piqued your interest, check out agathachristie.com, or one of the books from the list below.

Have you read any of Agatha Christie’s books? Which one is your favorite?

Recommended reading (click on book titles to learn more):

Any of her crime novels (click here for a list) 

The non-crime Mary Westmacott novels  

An Autobiography, Agatha Christie

Come, Tell Me How You Live: An Archaeological Memoir, Agatha Christie Mallowan

Agatha Christie: A Biography, Janet Morgan. Reading this right now!

Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks: Fifty Years of Mysteries in the Making, John Curran. Probably too much minutiae for the casual fan, but I enjoyed the peek into Christie’s handwritten notebooks.

The Grand Tour: Around the World With the Queen of Mystery, Agatha Christie. I’ve borrowed this from the library but haven’t started reading it yet.

Agatha Christie At Home, Hilary Macaskill. Photos and information about Christie’s favorite home, Greenway, in Devon.