Charles Dickens

The Right Kind of Contagious

December 23, 2022

Photo by Igor Rodrigues on Unsplash

“It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour.”

—Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

I wish all of you a most joyful and happy holiday season, and a happy New Year. The Happy Little Thoughts newsletter will go out on Wednesday, Dec. 28 (subscribe here), but this will be the last Catching Happiness post for 2022. I’ll be taking some time off to be with family, to reflect thoughtfully on this year, and plan for 2023. Thank you so much for your presence here on Catching Happiness.

Happy Little Things

Happy Little Things—Snail Mail!

December 16, 2022

Photo by Rinck Content Studio on Unsplash

During December, getting the mail is exciting. Will there be a card and/or letter from a far-off friend? Did someone send me a Christmas gift? Did something I ordered to give to someone else arrive? During the stretch of weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I get more than bills and junk mail in my mailbox—and I love it!

Snail mail as simple pleasure.

I know I’m not the only one who loves to get mail, and there’s no reason why we can’t enjoy this simple pleasure all year round.  


Back in Olden Times, before texting and email became as convenient and popular as they are, if you wanted to stay in touch with a faraway friend or family member, you had to write letters—pre-cell phone, calling was likely expensive. I used to bring stationery or note cards with me to my son’s baseball practices, or I’d jot a few lines while we watched TV. Even on occasion, I’d sit on our front porch specifically to pen a letter to someone. Even though I love the convenience of texting and email—the ability to send photos or share a funny thought in the moment—I also miss getting actual letters in my mailbox from my friends and family.

I don’t write many letters anymore, but I’m thinking about bringing letter writing back into my life as a Happy Little Thing. I like the idea of slowing down enough to gather my thoughts and write to someone. I have a few older relatives who don’t use email or text, and I know they’d love to get a note in the mail. I just need to make this a simple pleasure rather than a chore—maybe set myself up with pretty stationery, a cozy drink, and so on. Make it a pleasant ritual.


I’m also a fan of receiving packages in the mail, even if they’re just vitamins or pet food I ordered online! There’s just something exciting about opening up a box, especially if you’re not quite sure what’s inside. Though I’ve never tried this, I know there are plenty of subscription services out there, from coffee, to beauty items, to art supplies, to luxury boxes that combine any number of charming personal and home items—at many different price points. There are even letter subscriptions.

Subscribing to a letter or box service could be a way to have something fun to look forward to, especially if you don’t have anyone to exchange letters with, or if you’d prefer just receiving snail mail to actually producing it. A few I that look tempting (no affiliation):

During the coming year, I’d like to write more letters (and hopefully receive more letters), and I might even invest in some type of subscription service—I absolutely would like to have something small and happy to look forward to in my mailbox on a regular basis.

Do you have any favorite subscription services or other snail mail sources?

Everyday adventures

Field Trip Friday—The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

December 09, 2022

Welcome to Hogwarts 

Every now and then, you have to leave the real world behind and have a little fun. That’s what I did on Tuesday with my friend Mary. Ever since The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened at Universal Studios Florida, we’ve wanted to go check it out. But we’re Muggles with jobs and responsibilities and busy schedules, so this was easier desired than done. Finally, Mary took the initiative and chose a week she could make work, and after some back-and-forth, we found a day we were both free. If there’s one life lesson that keeps slapping me in the face, it’s “If you want to do something, don’t wait—there may come a time when you won’t be able to do it and you’ll live with regret.”

So off to Harry Potter World we went.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is actually split into two parts—one section, Diagon Alley, in Universal Studios Florida and one section, Hogsmeade, in Islands of Adventure. Pause here to admire the marketing genius of Universal Resorts: if you want to see the entirety of Harry Potter World, you have to buy a Park-to-Park ticket. Fortunately, they also offer ticket deals for Florida residents, and while the entrance fee was not cheap, it was doable. I also think if you’re a Harry Potter fan, it’s worth it to spring for the entire experience.

Diagon Alley

Hidden behind the London waterfront, is Diagon Alley.  Before you even enter the area, you can see the the Knight Bus (which in the books, picks up stranded witches and wizards), and 12 Grimmauld Place, the ancestral home of Sirius Black’s family, and the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix. I missed this, but apparently house elf Kreacher looks out of an upstairs window every few minutes.

Once you enter Diagon Alley, you’ll find in adorable detail many of the locations made famous in the books and movies, including Gringotts Bank (topped by a fire-breathing dragon, see below), Ollivander’s wand shop (“Makers of Fine Wands Since 382 BC”), and the Leaky Cauldron (a restaurant). In one shop, you can trade U.S. currency for Gringotts bank notes, which you can use to buy things in the Wizarding World as well as a few select places in Universal Orlando.

We strolled through Knockturn Alley, the “seedy underbelly” of the wizarding world—dark and spooky, anchored by the shop Borgin and Burkes—just the place to go if you want to get out of the hot Florida sun while you search for objects of magical properties.

Before leaving Diagon Alley, we rode Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts (fun) and, yes, we drank a butterbeer.

All aboard the Hogwarts Express

To get from Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade, we boarded the Hogwarts Express at King’s Cross Station. From Platform 9 ¾, of course. The short train ride left us on the outskirts of Hogsmeade, which, amazingly in sunny Florida, retained snow-capped roofs.

Hogsmeade nestles up against Hogwarts Castle, where we walked through the passageways of the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry before joining Harry and his friends for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, a “scenic dark ride” where, among other things, you follow Harry through a Quidditch game and escape from the Whomping Willow.  

In Hogsmeade, we also braved Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, which was a true roller coaster, and left us screaming and laughing…and staggering a little since it was a bit more exciting than we were expecting!

To recover, we went to sweet shop Honeydukes, where I bought a chocolate frog and some Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans.

My friend and I had a fantastic time exploring Harry’s world, and there were so many things to see and do that I would be happy to go back. I loved seeing kids and even some adults dressed in Hogwarts’ robes—it was so fun to feel immersed in a magical world for just a day.

Harry Potter magic

I have really fond memories of reading the Harry Potter books to our son and later, going to see the movies as a family. For me, forgive the pun, the series has been magical. As the series progressed and our son grew up, eventually I was reading the books just for myself! In fact, I preordered the last in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and read it over the course of a day or two when it was released because I didn’t want anyone to tell me how it ended. The first and last time I’ve ever done that.

Hope you’ve enjoyed a peek into the magical world of Harry Potter—and that the next time an opportunity for some silly fun comes your way, you take it!

When was the last time you had a fun and silly everyday adventure?

Link love

Post-Thanksgiving Link Love

November 25, 2022

In the U.S., yesterday was Thanksgiving, a day not known for its moderation. So if you’ve indulged in a little too much “festivity,” (and even if you haven’t) here are some happy, peaceful links to check out while you’re (hopefully) enjoying a day off from the normal routine.

Check out “25 Ways to Take Care of Yourself During theHolidays” for ways to stay healthy and sane this year. Most of these fit in really well with my word of the year, simpler

Just when I think that people are the worst, I read a story like this.

“5 Anxiety-busting Activities to Try This Weekend.” I’ve been trying to make joy a priority recently.

The sweet joy on these faces is pure magic.

“18 Easy Things to Do Today to Make Yourself Happier.” Number 9 is my favorite.

The holiday season can be difficult for highly sensitive people—it’s so full of stimulation. This article has good information on how to care for yourself mentally, physically, emotionally, and socially if you’re highly sensitive—and how to help if someone you love is.

And here’s your laugh for the day. Welcome to the Squirrelympics!

Happy weekend!


Tending the Secret Garden of Joy

November 18, 2022

Photo by Joanna Swan on Unsplash

“Both abundance and lack exist simultaneously in our lives, as parallel realities. It is always our conscious choice which secret garden we shall tend. The invisible underbrush holding us back is our own thoughts. When we choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives but on the abundance that’s present—love, health, family, friends, work, and personal pursuits that bring us pleasure—the wasteland falls away and we experience more joy in the real lives we live each day.”

—Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance



Five Ways to Make the World a Happier Place

November 11, 2022

Photo by Simon Ray on Unsplash

Don’t you get fed up with feeling helpless, that the world’s problems are too big to solve? This reminds me of productivity expert David Allen’s statement that you can’t “do” a project. You can only do steps of a project. 

So as individuals, we if we can’t solve [insert problem here], maybe we can take a small step towards a happier world, for ourselves and for others. Being kind, generous, and thoughtful is good for your own mental health as well as benefitting others. Every action counts. If we do nothing, nothing will ever change.

Here are five simple ways to make the world a happier place:

1. Help a teacher. If you have kids in school, start with their teachers. If you have friends who are teachers, ask them what they need. If you don’t know any teachers, check out Teachers have borne a larger-than-their share of stress and turmoil over the past few years, and they could use our support.

2. Donate to a local food bank. Food banks across the U.S. are struggling with both greater need and the higher prices of food. Money is always appreciated, but another way I like to do this is to stock up on my grocery store BOGO deals—donating one or both of the items. 

3. Support small businesses, locally and online. Buying holiday gifts from small businesses (or makers on Etsy) is one way to do this. Watch for ways to participate in  Small Business Saturday (Nov. 26), a day set aside to celebrate and support small businesses and all they do for their communities. 

4. Support the authors, artists, and musician you love. When I think about how many hours of comfort and joy my favorites have given me, I realize that I could do more to say thank you. Monetary support through buying their offerings is only one way to support them. You’re already supporting them by reading their words, listening to their music, and gazing at their art (checking books or music out of the library counts)! But if you (I) want to do more, you can always share your favorites publicly on social media, or just in conversation with a friend.  Leave positive reviews or ratings. Send your favorite a message or fan letter. Follow them on social media and subscribe to their newsletters if they have them. This helps them to “build a platform,” which can lead to more sales.

5. Don’t forget yourself. That’s right, you heard me. Treat yourself kindly. Put having fun on your to-do list. If adding one more thing to the list makes your head explode, look at what’s already there and figure out how it might be made more enjoyable. If you’ve already scheduled some self-care, circle it in red and congratulate yourself for your good sense. (Click here for some simple ways to treat yo-self. For more great, mostly free self-care ideas, see “99 Free (Or Affordable) Self-Care Ideas for Your Wellness Routine.”)

Most of all, let your default be kindness. Take a beat when you’re tempted to snap at someone. No doubt this is an extra stressful time of year and I’m willing to bet that we’re all fighting hard battles of one form or another. So smile, be patient, listen.

(Want more ways to be kind? See “10 Ways to Spread Kindness.”)

We do not have to give in to the awfulness of the world. We can spread the ripples of kindness, even if we fear those efforts won’t make that much difference. I always ask myself, “What kind of person do I want to be?” Do I want to know in my heart that I did nothing, or made things worse, when I could have done some small thing to ease someone else’s burdens or give them an emotional lift? I remember how I feel when someone does something nice for me, and while I’m not always aware enough (or capable enough at the time) to do the kindness, it is my goal to be that person. Let’s keep trying to spread kindness and happiness in whatever ways we have available to us.

Please share in the comments below your ideas for small, simple kindnesses—I’d love to hear them!


Have You Seen Me? How to Come Home When You’re Missing from Your Own Life

October 28, 2022

Do you ever feel not quite yourself? Like you’ve gone missing in your own life? Activities you used to enjoy leave you flat. You don’t feel like doing/eating/talking about any of the things you usually enjoy, but you’re not sure what sounds enticing. If anything. You’re not depressed, exactly, but nothing brings you the joy it once did.

You feel like you’re wearing a [your name here] suit, just going through the motions of living your life.

I’ve been feeling this unsettling way for several months now. Few of the simple pleasures and everyday adventures that used to spark joy in me have appealed. Going places was too much effort. I could muster the energy to buy groceries, or go to the barn or the library, but anything beyond that was, well, beyond meI felt like my face should be on a milk carton with the words “Have you seen me?” running over my head.

Why would you go missing?

There are several reasons you might not feel like yourself. You could simply be going through a period of natural growth in your life. You could have recently come through some type of change or transition. You could be burnt out and overwhelmed from coping with life’s circumstances. Probably there are as many causes as there are missing persons. It pays to think about what might be causing you to go missing, since your solution for how to come home to yourself may depend on the reason you’re feeling that way.

For me, it’s a combination of coping with the COVID-19 pandemic (completely withdrawing from the world, then trying to reenter it), the uncertainty of my mother-in-law’s condition, and a bit of burnout related to my writing life. 

A turning point—I hope

Last Friday, my friend Laure Ferlita invited me to meet her at a local flower farm for some photo taking (see photo at the top of this post) and on-location sketching. I happily agreed—the combination of wonderful weather, the chance to see my friend, and even to refill my creative well was irresistible. While my sketching was definitely rusty, I deeply enjoyed the experience of getting out of the house, breathing the fresh air, and talking with my friend. This little outing woke me up from the sleepwalking I’ve been doing. And while I’m still groggy, I feel like I want to wake up all the way.

Coming home to yourself

I’m slowly embracing the process of coming home to myself. Here’s what I’m doing—and anyone else who’s not feeling quite themselves is welcome to join me. Nothing here is revolutionary, but taken together, these things seem to be bringing me back to myself, and I think they’ll help you, too.

Take some quiet time just to listen to your thoughts. Enjoy the literal quiet, or put on some instrumental music you find uplifting. Simplify everything. Reread a favorite book. Eat a favorite food slowly and mindfully. Ask for help if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Take walks. Journal. Treat yourself kindly, and be curious and kind to the “new” you.

Laure also offered me some good advice when I was lamenting my lack of motivation: “Take a small step every day. What I have found and still find is that it really doesn’t matter what it is you do. It’s about the actions of choosing, doing and finishing. Once I start choosing tasks, and taking steps, the direction usually becomes evident.” I have found this to be true, even when the task is as small as doing a load of laundry or watering my plants.

Most of all, keep trying—don’t give up. 

There are indications that this process is working for me. This week I ordered my planner for 2023 (planners play an outsize role in my happiness 😉), which means I’m thinking about making plans for a new year. I’ve started anticipating the holiday season rather than dreading it (the thought of all the extra to-dos made me want to cry rather than celebrate). It’s a start. And it’s enough for now.

What do you do to come home to yourself?


A Fine and Dangerous Season

October 21, 2022

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

“October is a fine and dangerous season in America. It is dry and cool and the land is wild with red and gold and crimson, and all the lassitudes of August have seeped out of your blood, and you are full of ambition. It is a wonderful time to begin anything at all.”

—Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

Angela Lansbury

Goodbye, Jessica Fletcher

October 14, 2022

You’ve likely heard the news that earlier this week, actress Angela Lansbury passed away at age 96. Though Lansbury’s 70-year (!) career encompassed films, television, and theater, for me she’ll always be Jessica Fletcher, of the TV series Murder, She Wrote. This series is one of my go-tos for comfort TV, and when I’m feeling sick or stressed, I rewatch my favorite episodes, even if they’re on quietly in the background.

Why I love Jessica

Aside from the fact that Jessica (or J.B.) became a best-selling mystery author in her 50s (we’re never explicitly told J.B. Fletcher’s age, but Lansbury was 58 when she was cast as the character), she was unfailingly kind, tactful, and did not hesitate to do what she felt was right. She was active—you see her running and biking in the opening credits alone. She also fishes and gardens, lives on her own in her hometown of Cabot Cove, Maine and later in an apartment in New York. She travels the world, visiting her large circle of extended family and friends. She’ll drop everything to help her loved ones when they’re in trouble (it goes without saying that they are often on the hook for murder…). She’s always perfectly groomed and wears great, casually elegant clothes. She always seems sensible, capable and equal to the task, whether it’s learning to use a computer or catching a murderer.

She lives an active, full, and vibrant life into her 60s and 70s—altogether a pretty positive role model!

Mendocino/Cabot Cove

Murder, She Wrote

Murder, She Wrote isn’t highbrow TV, but many people besides me refer to it as comfort TV. Even if bad things happen (and as I type this, someone is being chased by a murderous remote-controlled van), perpetrators of bad things will be caught and face the consequences of their actions. One writer described it this way: “It’s Sherlock Holmes with less cocaine, more chowder and Coastal Grandmother Sweater Looks.” Murder, She Wrote ran for 12 years, from 1984 to 1996, and you can still watch it on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, and streaming on Peacock, Freevee (Amazon), and The Roku Channel. 

During its initial run, my mom and I watched Murder, She Wrote together when we could (I was already away at college)—and we still watch those reruns when we’re together. This only adds to the “comfort” vibe.

My favorite episodes—they’re the coziest—are those set in Jessica’s hometown, Cabot Cove (which must be in line for murder capital of the world). In exterior shots, Mendocino, CA, doubles for Maine. (My friend Kerri and visited there on a road trip in 2018—see the pictures in this post.) 

Beyond Jessica

Of course, Angela Lansbury does not equal Jessica Fletcher, but it seems from all I’ve been reading that she was a lovely person. She was certainly a talented and versatile performer, nominated for and winning many professional awards. She was nominated for Tony, Emmy, Golden Globe and Academy awards during her long career, including 12 Emmy nominations for Murder, She Wrote (she never won). 

She did win five Tony awards for roles that included Auntie Mame and Nellie Lovett, the pie maker with the gruesome fillings in Sweeney Todd. A Lifetime Achievement Award brought her total of Tonys to six, tied with Audra McDonald and Julie Harris for the most awards given to one actor. On Oct. 15 at 7:45 p.m., Broadway will dim its marquee lights for one minute in her memory. 

Angela Lansbury’s work has brought me a lot of simple pleasure through the years, and I’m grateful. Rest in peace, Ms. Lansbury. 

For an in-depth story about Angela Lansbury’s life, click here.  

Kingkongphoto & from Laurel  Maryland, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Link love

Link Love, the Cleanup Edition

October 07, 2022

Our walking trail buried under debris last week.

We’re still cleaning up after Hurricane Ian: raking, bagging, putting away emergency supplies, etc., but we’re still so grateful to be spared. Not so our neighbors to the south in Ft. Myers, Sanibel, and surrounding communities. Cleanup will go on there for a long, long time. We have been enjoying some cooler, drier weather as a result of the storm, which makes things so much easier, too.

Since this week has been about cleaning up and catching up, today instead of a post I’ll share some links I’ve enjoyed over the past month or so that I hope you enjoy, too.

Speaking of cleanup, cleaning is starting on Notre Dame’s smoke-blackened stained glass windows.

I’m still loving my Merlin app, and found this Bird Migration Explorer, from Audubon, of interest. 

How tired are you? And how are you tired? Take this quiz to find out, and read more about the different kinds of rest in “The Seven Types of Rest: I spent a week trying them all. Could they help end my exhaustion?” I wasn’t surprised to find my most pressing need was Creative rest.

Speaking of Hurricane Ian, this list of ways to help is updated regularly.

These rice fields blew my mind! 

Iceland is already on my travel wish list, and this cracked me up

If you ever wonder what difference one person can make, check out this video of a man who planted a forest.

Happy Friday, everyone!

Hurricane Ian


September 29, 2022

Our backyard

To our relief, Hurricane Ian turned east earlier than expected and made landfall south of us rather than directly striking Tampa Bay. And if you’ve seen the images coming in from Fort Myers and other coastal communities, you know why we’re so relieved. We spent Wednesday watching The Weather Channel, following the path of the storm. We got a lot of wind and rain, but our house isn’t damaged, and we didn’t even lose our electricity this time. Tank is also safe. We have many hours of yard clean up ahead of us, but that’s nothing compared to what others are experiencing.

Thank you so much for your kind thoughts and prayers. So happy to be able to mark ourselves Safe!

If you want to help victims of the storm, here are a couple of places you can donate:

Florida Disaster Fund

American Red Cross

Our driveway


Welcome Autumn—My Favorite Season

September 23, 2022

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

“I like spring, but it is too young. I like summer, but it is too proud. So I like best of all autumn, because its leaves are a little yellow, its tone mellower, its colours richer, and it is tinged a little with sorrow and a premonition of death. Its golden richness speaks not of the innocence of spring, nor of the power of summer, but of the mellowness and kindly wisdom of approaching age. It knows the limitations of life and is content. From a knowledge of those limitations and its richness of experience emerges a symphony of colours, richer than all, its green speaking of life and strength, its orange speaking of golden content and its purple of resignation and death.”

—Lin Yutang


Was Summer 2022 Fun, or How Did I Do on My Summer Fun List?

September 16, 2022

Short answer: meh.

Longer answer: It depends on how you look at it. Out of eight things on my list (see original post here), I checked off four. With only one more week left of the summer season, I doubt I’ll check any more off the list.

When I made a simple Summer Fun List back in July, even that scaled down list was a stretch. I’m just in a season of my life (har) when “having fun” is not the primary focus. Which doesn’t mean that making a fun list is a mistake, or that fun isn’t possible. If you don’t plan fun things, you’ll be even less likely to have fun.

Why I bother to make a fun list

For me, the point of making a Summer Fun List is to have fun things to look forward to during my least favorite season: Reasons to get out of my house and have everyday adventures. Gifts for my remembering self instead of a blank stretch of dull, sweaty days. I also believe: 

  • Fun lists are a nice change of pace from our typical to-do lists.
  • Fun lists help us enjoy the unique simple pleasures of each season.
  • Fun lists help expand our interests and horizons, and sometimes even get us out of our comfort zones in a pleasant way.
To sum up:   

What I did

I went to an immersive Van Gogh experience, and it was lovely (see photo at the top of this post).

I worked two beautiful jigsaw puzzles. (This one and this one.)

I ate ALL the summer fruit, enjoying many servings of cherries, peaches, grapes, plums, and watermelon.

I read from my summer reading list. I only made a tiny amount of progress on Mark Twain (not the “dent” I hoped for), but I did read Paris to the Moon, The Swimmers, and The Lost Apothecary (and many other enjoyable books).

What didn’t happen

I didn’t go to the movies with my husband, but that’s something we haven’t given up on.

I didn’t get my Chik Fil A peach shake but not for lack of trying. The shake machine at the location near me has been broken for at least a month!

I didn’t go shopping for fun.

I didn’t restart my sketching/art journaling practice, but again, I’m not giving up on this one.

The good news is it’s September and fall is, if not just around the corner, at least within a few blocks. I’m dreaming of a Fall Fun List…

Did you make a Summer Fun List? How did you do?



This Way Up

August 12, 2022

Photo by Sandy Millar on Unsplash

“Our choice of where to direct our attention also affects our emotions and moods. If you habitually direct your attention toward things that upset you—alarmist news headlines, for example, or social media screeds—then you will experience the world as alarming and upsetting. If you choose instead to pay attention to things that uplift you, or that offer opportunities for playfulness, connection, and flow, you will experience the world in a completely different, more positive light.”

—Catherine Price, The Power of Fun: How to Feel Alive Again


Creating an environment in which to thrive

August 05, 2022

Every morning I tear off a page in my Positively Present page-a-day calendar. Recently, the message of the day was this: 

We all thrive when we’re in the right environment.

It’s a simple statement that got me thinking. It is so true that just like plants and animals, we need the right combination of elements in order to thrive, not just survive. Those elements will be different for each person. And while we all have limits on the way we take charge of our environment, we also have more control than we might realize.

For my purposes today, I’m defining “environment” as:

The literal physical space—your home, office, car, etc., in which you exist.

The circle of people closest to you—your family, friends, and co-workers.

What you see and hear—what you fill your mind with, what you read, watch and listen to, including books, websites, music, TV, podcasts, and so on.

Physical space

I’ve written about this concept before, in “Change Your Environment, Change Your Emotions—Three Simple Ways to Support Positive Moods,” and those principles still work for me. I continue to make strides in decluttering (tidiness), and I still love opening the blinds to let in the light and diffusing essential oils when possible. The cleanliness and beauty of my physical surroundings matter to me. I concentrate on the things I can change, rather than the things I can’t—like the fact that I live in Florida, where I find the humidity difficult (to put it mildly) to deal with.

What matters to you in your physical space? What colors, scents, objects, sounds, and so on, bring a lift to your spirit? Ingrid Fetel Lee’s website The Aesthetics of Joy is a fantastic resource for information on creating happier surroundings. 

Circle of people

I’m incredibly lucky to have a wonderful circle of very supportive friends, as well as a relatively peaceful and loving family. This is not to say that everything is always wine and roses here, and there are times when I have to set boundaries in order to help maintain that tranquility. This is hard for me, and I do it imperfectly, but such is life.

This is almost always the hardest category to deal with. If you have someone in your circle who stunts your growth for whatever reason, you don’t always have the ability (or even the desire) to completely cut off ties. But it helps to be aware of their effect on you, and perhaps take steps to offset it. Check out “13 Steps to Get Along with Difficult People” for some techniques for coping with people you might find challenging to be around. 

What you see and hear

Doesn’t it seem like an uphill battle to protect your mind from all the bad news we’re inundated with? Sometimes I have to disengage from media (social and otherwise) for a while. Too many shouty headlines, and so, so much harsh unkindness and ugliness. At the same time, I do not want to hide from the important issues of the day. This is definitely an individual choice, as what is just right for me might be too much for you, or not nearly enough. What I do is look for reputable, balanced sources of news that don’t specialize in click-bait-y headlines. I monitor my anxiety levels to see when I need to back off. (One way to counterbalance bad news I recommend is the bi-monthly Future Crunch newsletter, which highlights positive news from around the world.) 

Otherwise, I’ve been filling my mind with good books, music, podcasts that interest me, and TV that I enjoy. For more information, check out Positively Present’s thought-provoking “Considering Content Consumption.”

Creating an uplifting and supportive environment doesn’t mean you should never seek points of view or experiences that challenge you, of course. That’s a part of learning, which one key to happier living. But you’ll likely thrive (rather than just survive) when your overall environment is suitable for you. 

So think about the factors which make up your environment, and whether or not it’s one that supports and nourishes you.

What are some of your strategies for creating a positive environment? Please share in the comments!


A Cup of Comfort Link Love

July 29, 2022

Photo by pure julia on Unsplash

As I gathered the links for this post, I found a definite theme emerging: comfort. Whether it’s looking at (or listening to) lovely things or pondering ways to protect our mental health, these links offer both an escape and ways to protect ourselves from an onslaught of terrible news. (Plus, I think they’re fun!) Hope you enjoy them, too.

There are some excellent suggestions in Happiful’s “10 Things to Do Instead of Doomscrolling.”   

Click here for The Guardian’s 50 Cheeriest Social Media Accounts.

And speaking of Doomscrolling, click here for a summary of “33 Problems with Media in One Chart.”

For those of you who want to do a jigsaw puzzle without the cat knocking the pieces onto the floor, give one of these a shot.

Look—baby tigers!

For anyone who has always wanted a card catalogue of their own: “It’s All in the Cards: How Organizing My Library Is Helping My Brain.” Not everyone would enjoy this, but I think it would be extremely satisfying.

These are exquisite.

I will always have a place in my heart for Paris, so I loved seeing Georgianna Lane’s “Early Summer Moments in Paris.” 

How to make the most of a mental health day.

Guilty as charged: “Why Women (and Men!) Love the Hallmark Channel.”

Just wow:

Have a happy weekend!

P.S. To round out today’s links, for anyone who hasn’t already heard, here’s a piece I wrote for the 2022 Tampa Bay Official Destination Guide.


Happiness jar

A Mid (-ish) Year Review

July 22, 2022

Photo by Maddi Bazzocco on Unsplash

When I wrote “I’m not even going to try to guess what 2022 holds, but I am going to stay optimistic and open” in my first post of the year, I couldn’t have guessed what the year would hold, and I’m actually grateful for that!

We can never “know” what’s coming (though sometimes we can guess). All we can do is savor the happy times, and build a foundation of resilience and a network of support for the hard ones. To stay “optimistic and open,” even when it’s hard. (And forgive ourselves when we fail at that.)

We can also cling to practices which help us feel grounded and give a shape and structure to our lives. Today I’d like to share my mid (-ish) year review of my efforts to shape 2022 so far.

Word of the Year (WOTY)

With the unavoidable complications of caregiving, “simpler” has been a great focus word. Here are a few ways I’m applying the concept of simpler:

I’ve continued to declutter my house. I’ve been watching YouTube videos by The Minimal Mom to maintain motivation, and one of the concepts she’s brought to my attention is that it’s all about “inventory management.” How much “stuff” do you want to manage?  I’m not a minimalist, but I do find a less cluttered environment contributes to a calmer mind. 

I’ve stripped my writing down to the bare minimum. This isn’t my favorite practice, but right now it’s the right choice. I simply don’t have the emotional and mental bandwidth to write much. (Though if the right project or idea comes along, I’ll make an exception!)

I’m breaking tasks into smaller, simpler steps.  For example, we want to touch up the paint in our bedroom. My task for this week was “Find out if we have the paint we need or if we have to buy more.” (Note: This will take approximately three minutes…and yet, here it is Friday and I haven’t done it yet! Since it is such a small step, though, I will probably manage to do it. This is why I need to break things down into tiny steps.)

“22 in 22”

In January, I’d only put about 10 things on my “22 in 22” list; now I’m up to 19. My entries range in difficulty from “buy new pjs” to “West Coast visit with Mom, Shy, and Kerri.” I’ve accomplished nine of the 19 (including the two just mentioned), with another three in progress. Considering what 2022 has wrought, I’m pretty happy with this. And I still have almost half the year to go.

The Happiness Jar

Even though I forget some weeks, I’m still dropping slips of paper in the Happiness Jar on a regular basis. It looks like this now:

I’m adding a reminder to my informal weekly planning session so I don’t keep forgetting. This little project really does make me happy.

What else?

No surprise here, I’ve been reading a lot! Books old and new, from my TBR shelf and from the library. I’m still working through my personal reading project, “Agatha in Order” (reading Agatha Christie’s novels in the order they were published). I’ve also been listening to more audio books. (Is anyone interested in a reading round-up post?)

Tank is living his best life, roaming a 15-acre property with a “gang” of older geldings. I ride once a week on average, an easy hack around the property with the occasional trot thrown in (he’s in better shape than I am for this). The heat and humidity of the Florida summer preclude doing much more than that, even if we wanted to. 

Tank (in front) with best buddy Bubba

My sketching practice is still largely theoretical, though I did do two or three sketches while I was in California in June. One of the undone “22 in 22” entries.

Future plans

I’m keeping them simple(r). Continue to experiment with ways to make sketching a habit rather than an event. Continue to declutter. Continue to slow down and take it one day at a time. Work on those tiny steps.

Lessons learned

Or, rather, lessons I’m in the process of learning… Hard things get easier over time. Letting go of perfectionism is more important—and more complicated—than I thought. Don’t wait if there’s something you really want. You never know when something may happen that makes it impossible to go after your desires.

I hope the first half of 2022 has brought you both joy and challenge—and that you’re on your way to reaching your own most desired dreams for the year.

How has your year been so far? Do you have any plans for the last half of 2022?

Everyday adventures

Field Trip Friday—Whidbey Island, Washington

July 15, 2022

From Fort Casey State Park--Mt. Rainier in the distance

I’m still sorting through the notes, photos, and impressions of my recent trip to California and Washington. I’ve always embraced the simple pleasure of anticipation, but I’m still figuring out how to savor and extend the good memories of experiences like travel once I return home. I mostly just dive back into everyday life and all its attendant activities without taking time to savor my trip. It’s a work in progress!

Before everything becomes one confused blur, I thought I’d share just one day’s explorations while I was in Washington.

Whidbey Island

I went to the Seattle area to visit my wonderful friend Kerri. Kerri is the best tour guide, though you’d better wear comfortable shoes if you want to keep up with her. For example, on the day in question, we took a brief ferry ride to Whidbey Island where we visited:

The town of Langley 

Bayview Farm and Garden 

The Chocolate Flower Farm

Greenbank Farm 

Meerkerk Gardens 

Admiralty Head Lighthouse at Fort Casey State Park

I know, right? My pedometer only logged a bit over 11,000 steps that day.

It would take me thousands of words to record all that we saw and experienced just that one day, so I’m just going to hit a few highlights.

We started the morning in the charming little town of Langley. We checked out the whale bell (“Spy a whale, ring the bell”) and a few of the shops, where I saw a number of tempting purchases that I would have made, except I was saving room in my suitcase for our next destination. 

The whale bell at Langley
Steps to the beach

I’ve been dying to go to the Chocolate Flower Farm, where they specialize in dark maroon colored plants and those that smell like chocolate (their most popular plant is a chocolate cosmos). They also sell products like raspberry and chocolate jam, chocolate candles, and cocoa butter-based body products (that make you smell like chocolate). We were too early in the season for the chocolate plants, but it was still a beautiful place to visit, and I stocked up on the items I knew I wanted to bring home with me.

Chocolate Flower Farm residents

Kerri had never been to Meerkerk Gardens before, so we spent some time exploring the walking trails, and sitting beside a pond listening for birds. Once we were away from the entrance, we saw few people—just birds, salamanders, rabbits, and one very startled deer. Not surprising, as Meerkerk has 10 acres of display gardens and 43 acres of woodlands.

We were almost through with our day by the time we got to Fort Casey State Park and Admiralty Head Lighthouse. We were just in time to get photos of a ferry approaching, with Mt. Rainier in the background (see photo at the top of this post). 

We followed this trail...
To this view

Exploring new places, especially those as beautiful as Whidbey Island, is one of my favorite simple pleasures. And while the climate in Washington is much more comfortable than the climate here in Florida, I can’t help wondering what beautiful places I’m missing here because the humidity and heat keep me indoors. It’ll be a few months before I’m ready to spend any time outside that I don’t have to spend—but I’d like to make time to do more exploring. Between Covid and caregiving (and maybe the teensiest bit of laziness), I’ve spent more time in my home over the past two and a half years than anyplace else. And while I love being at home, I’m ready for some outside stimulation.

Have you had any summer adventures lately? Do share in the comments below!