Fall fun list

Bienvenue a là Rentrée and the Fall Fun List

September 29, 2023

Paris in 2018

Recently, I’ve bumped into the French term la rentrée three separate times. First in a book I was reading, and then in a couple of online articles. Many people in France take at least a two-week vacation in August, often fleeing the city for the countryside and a true break from their everyday lives. Là rentrée refers to the return to school and office in September following the long vacances of August. It was described as a time of celebration, renewed energy, joie de vivre, enthusiasm. 

Even though I didn’t just have a glorious August vacation, I am embracing the coming of Fall and a more celebratory approach to life. September always feels like a new beginning (yes, I realize that it’s almost October...), so it’s time for a Fall Fun List.  

I have until Dec. 21 to accomplish the following things:

  • Decorate the house for fall
  • Burn fall-scented candles and diffuse fall scents in my essential oil diffuser
  • Bake sourdough bread using my “mother”
  • Write a letter to someone (friend or relative)
  • Play cozy ambience music videos on YouTube (like this one
  • Enjoy a pumpkin spice latte and other fall foods and drinks
  • Eat pomegranates 
  • Watch Barbie with a friend 
  • Choose and order a 2024 planner
  • Celebrate Thanksgiving with the family
  • Take a trip to a local nursery and decide what, if anything, I want to plant for our fall/winter garden
  • Attend the first three musicals of my Broadway series at the Straz Center in Tampa (The Choir of Man, Beetlejuice, and Funny Girl
  • Sit outside and enjoy cooler weather—if we get some by Dec. 21
  • Change out fall house decorations for winter (I usually do this around the beginning of December)

I’ve already started decorating the house, burning a fall-themed candle (this one), and had my first pumpkin spice latte, so I’m off to a good start! 

Keeping in mind the spirit of là rentrée, what are your fall fun list plans?

summer fun list 2023

The Summer of Kathy, Revisited

September 08, 2023

Three of the the 36

Even though the weather hasn’t gotten the memo yet, summer is on its way out. Labor Day has come and gone, kids are back in school, and pumpkin spice rules the land. So it’s time to evaluate my Summer of Kathy and start thinking about plans for September through the rest of the year.

Summer fun list success

I did very well with summer fun list, checking off all but two items! I didn’t relax as much as I wanted to and had planned to. Instead, I filled my days with small tasks that, when added up, kept me from doing the deeper work I still need to do emotionally. I guess I wasn’t ready for it, though overall I feel like I’m healing. This is still a work in progress, but that’s to be expected.

Here's the rundown (completed items in red):

  • Paint my toenails a color other than pink. (With dubious results, but at least I did it. The jury is still out on whether or not I like teal toenails.)
  • Have a bubble tea.
  • Try a new obedience training program with Luna (started). Ongoing! 
  • Make key lime pie ice cream.
  • Plant a small, potted herb garden. And it survived the summer!
  • Read a lot. Total books read June through August: 36. Whoa.
  • Take a horseback riding lesson. Tank is semi-retired and off for the summer, but there’s a new horse at the barn available for lessons. I haven’t taken a lesson in more than five years, so I need a tune up. Also was able to ride Tank twice!
  • Work at least one jigsaw puzzle.
  • Have a massage. I’ve been trying to do this since the beginning of the year, but I’ve had to cancel two appointments because of my moms’ failing health.
  • Go to a movie with my husband. (Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning Part One.) 
  • Bake something from my grandma’s baking book (inherited from my mom).
  • Get together with friends—I’ve been mostly unavailable in 2023, so we have some catching up to do.

Fall fun and beyond

With summer winding down, it’s time to think about fall fun, and get more serious about figuring out what comes next professionally. (Ramp up the freelance writing or try something new? If so, what?) As the weather cools and time continues to heal, I’m cautiously optimistic about the rest of the year. We have a couple of family and friend visits to look forward to, and will likely host at least one holiday at our house.  Now that our caregiving duties have ended, my husband and I can think about taking a trip together. 

There’s much to love about September and fall. In September, I always love to watch the light change. Somehow it’s softer, mellower. Even though it’s not cool yet, I have already had my first pumpkin spice latte. I’m going to try Wendy’s new Pumpkin Spice Frosty. I have a September-themed book on hold at the library (of course I do) and I’m dreaming of ways to enjoy the fall season’s simple pleasures and everyday adventures. Perhaps I’ll extend The Summer of Kathy (however, I’m not calling it “The Fall of Kathy”—that just sounds scary)…

How was your summer? What plans do you have for fall?

Rabbit rabbit

Rabbit Rabbit

September 01, 2023

Photo by ierc on Unsplash

And just like that, it’s September.

There’s an old tradition that saying the words “rabbit rabbit” before saying anything else on the first day of a new month will bring you 30 days of good luck. Though I’m not especially superstitious, when I woke up at 4 a.m. this morning, I whispered, “rabbit rabbit.” I could use a little good luck.

I’m looking forward to September and all it’s pleasures, though there will be one notable sad milestone to navigate—my mom’s birthday.

I’m grateful that Hurricane Idalia passed by without doing any damage to us personally, though many others can’t say the same thing. However, some of the most powerful hurricanes have blown through in September (Ian, Irma), and I won’t really relax until hurricane season is over in November.

For now, I’m happy to watch the light change, to check my weather app for any change in dew point and humidity (a vain hope in September, usually, but I can dream), and to enjoy the fact that fall is coming. Even if it’s not a “traditional” fall, it should usher in some change, even if it’s just in décor. I love decorating my house and front porch for fall and will be getting the decorations out of the attic soon. A simple pleasure I look forward to all summer.

What are you looking forward to in September?

This Farmer’s Almanac article explains a bit of the tradition surrounding “rabbit rabbit.”


Baby steps

Small Is Big

August 25, 2023

A small, cute thing

Over the past 14 years of writing posts for Catching Happiness, I’ve returned to one topic quite a few times.

Baby steps. Tiny habits. Happy little things.

Small is big.

This week I was thinking about writing another post on this topic, but decided not to. I stand by what I wrote in the past! Instead, I’m compiling a Link Love from my own archives. Here are a few Catching Happiness posts about the glory of the small (click the title to read the entire post):

In “Thinking Small,” I talk about breaking through resistance by taking the smallest “next step” possible. I concluded, “Big dreams and new, improved habits are made up of many tiny steps. A happy life is made up of small, simple pleasures and everyday adventures—the cup of tea, the walk with the dog, the movie night with your spouse or best friend, the work project done well and turned in on time. Thinking small can make a big, big difference.”

I invented a new word in “The Power of Little Things.” 

One of my first posts about the power of small was “Just Call Me a Tortoise.” In it, I praise the practice of taking baby steps: “The beauty of baby steps is that if each small step is solid, you’ll find yourself making steady progress. You’ll be less likely to stagger forward then backward in fits and starts. In this way, you will go slower to go faster.” 

I listed a few small things I love, with pictures, in “The Beauty of Small Things.” 

“Painless Progress” describes the Japanese concept of kaizen. “Kaizen is the process of continual improvement through small and incremental steps. It started as a Japanese management concept and continues to be used in business, as well as in areas such as psychology and life coaching. It reinforces my belief that as long as you keep moving forward, even if by baby steps, you will eventually get where you’re going.”

Finally, in August of 2021, I was feeling especially overwhelmed. (Kind of like now.) “Something Small or Nothing at All” was my attempt to find inspiration and motivation to do something, anything. 

Rereading these posts reminded me of what I firmly believe: baby steps, tiny habits, small changes—and yes, happy little things—make a real and lasting difference. Starting now, I’m reviewing what small habits and changes I can commit to so that I can finish this year of loss in a stronger, happier place.

What are a few of your favorite small habits?

Jenny Lawson

A Monument to the Lost

August 18, 2023

Photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash

“Sometimes the people you love leave you even when they don’t want to and you shatter into pieces. You may not be able to find all of those pieces again because when they left they took a few with them. It hurts, but the pain eventually becomes bearable and even sacred because it’s how you carry the people you’ve lost with you. And if you’re lucky you can one day see that the hollow spots you carry are in the shape of their face or their hands or the love they gave you. Those holes ache, but they are a monument to the lost, a traveling sacred place to honor them and remind you of how to love enough to leave your own marks on others.”

—Jenny Lawson, Broken (in the Best Possible Way)


This Week in Pictures

August 11, 2023

Horses not minding the heat. Tank is second from right.

This week has been…hot. Luna and I usually walk our neighborhood’s trail twice a week, but with temperatures above 80F by 7:30 a.m., 100 percent humidity, and a dew point of 79, I decided not to. This is a picture of our house “crying” this morning:

Condensation on windows

I haven’t done much, just what’s required to keep life from imploding. I’ve been snapping pictures of random things for Susannah Conway’s August Break Instagram challenge, including this nut:

Ready to play?!

I made a fresh tomato and feta pasta for lunch one day, using basil from my herb garden:


My energy and motivation come in fits and starts. I Do Things during the morning and crash on the couch in the afternoon. When I think too much or catch sight of something in my home that belonged to my mom, I get teary. Like this key holder she used to have in her kitchen that is now in mine:

Excuse my scuffed up walls

Even in an ordinary week, with a little bit of grieving, and a lot of sweating, there are still bright spots. I’ve got the simple pleasures in hand, but haven’t had many everyday adventures lately. Working on it!

Hope your week was full of simple pleasures and everyday adventures!

Agatha Christie

Agatha in Order: My Summer (and Beyond!) Reading Project*

August 04, 2023

Part of my collection

It’s been a couple of years since I compiled an official summer reading list (see 2021’s here), but of course that doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading…a lot. This summer, even though I haven’t created a summer reading list, I have spent quite a few of my reading hours continuing what I call my “Agatha in Order” reading project. I own most of her books in inexpensive paperback editions because I started collecting them many years ago.

Murder as a comfort read?

It started back in October of 2020, when I wrote about celebrating 100 years of Agatha Christie. I reread The Mysterious Affair at Styles, the first novel Christie published and the first appearance of Christie’s famous sleuth, Hercule Poirot. I decided I’d reread the entire Christie cannon in the order the books were published. Since there 66 crime novels and I am doing this simply for pleasure, I put no deadline on the project. I’ve been doing it slowly, in between and alongside other reads. Often I read a few pages of my latest Christie just before going to sleep. Despite the murders, the books are comfort reads for me—and they’re not gory or suspenseful in a too-stimulating way. 

I’m not doing this for any other reason than I think it’s fun. I’m not comparing and analyzing her early and later work, or doing anything more than escaping to England (or ancient Egypt, via Death Comes as the End). The novel I’m reading now is set in fall and I’m envious of the brisk temperatures and changing leaves described in Murder After Hours (also known as The Hollow). 

This project also helps me feel closer to my mom, as she was a great Christie fan and introduced me to the books when I was a teenager. (I also plan to reread the books Christie wrote under the name of Mary Westmacott. I wrote about rereading Absent in the Spring here.) 

The pleasure of becoming a completist

There is such a thing in the reading world as becoming a “completist”—one who reads an author’s complete works. There’s satisfaction in doing so—I’ve managed it for a couple of authors in addition to Christie. I’ve also completed reading a particular series by an author, such as the Harry Potter books, or Patricia Wentworth’s Miss Silver mysteries. I still want to read more Wilkie Collins, and I only have Jane Austen’s juvenilia to read to finish her entire body of work. Maybe I’ll start a list of other authors whose complete works I’d like to finish.

But before I do that, I’ll continue to wend my leisurely way through the world of Agatha Christie. 

One whodunit at a time.

Are there any authors you’d like to complete? Is there another summer project you’re making progress on? Please share in the comments!

*It may seem late in summer to write about a “summer” reading project, but keep in mind that in central Florida, summer lasts until at least the end of October.


Joyful July Link Love

July 28, 2023

Photo by Ann on Unsplash

Even when we feel sorrow, we can still feel joy—sometimes in the same moment! And thank goodness for that. So while it’s boiling hot outside (at least in most of the Northern Hemisphere), let’s relax in the cool indoors and check out these links related to aspects of joy and happiness.

First up, “You Don’t Have to Be Happy to Feel Joy,” according to author Ingrid Fetell Lee. She writes, “Little moments of joy happen to us all the time, whether or not we consider ourselves happy people or not. They happen in good times and also right in the middle of stressful or miserable ones. And we all have the capacity to notice them, savor them, and make more of them.” 

Sometimes joy results from letting go of something, as Courtney Carver says in “7 Things to Let Go of for a Happier Life.” Choose the one that makes you feel the worst to let go of first. For me, that’s probably number 4. 

What Gretchen Rubin calls everyday luxuries in “Why Everyday Luxuries Help Make Us Happier,” I call simple pleasures. Potato, potahto. Some of my everyday luxuries/simple pleasures include drinking bottled iced tea rather than making it myself, fresh flowers on the kitchen table, and flavored coffee. What are some of yours? 

Your joy matters. Love what you love. 

I love the suggestions from “7 Things You Need to Do If You Want to Enjoy Life More.” Numbers 4 and 5 are on the agenda this summer.

I love ice cream—and good ice cream is definitely an everyday luxury. Check out Thrillist’s list of the best ice cream shops in the U.S. I haven’t been to a single one of these, but I’m keeping this article for reference. Is there one near you? Check it out and let me know if it lives up to its reputation. 

I’m a fan of The Minimal Mom’s approach to decluttering, and whenever I need a boost in motivation for decluttering my house I head over to YouTube to watch one of her videos. There’s something about her cheerful, matter-of-fact manner that boosts my mood. Here’s one of my recent favorites:


Amber Rae

Some Books That Saved My Sanity

July 14, 2023

If you’ve read Catching Happiness for any length of time, you know I love to read. I do it to learn, to be inspired, to be entertained, and to be comforted. Over the past few months, I’ve sought out books that would help me deal with the emotional upheaval and grief I’ve been coping with. I thought I’d share three of the books I turned to for comfort and strength to keep going when my heart is hurting and I feel unequal to the task of living.

1. Letting Go of the Person You Used to Be: Lessons on Change, Loss, and Spiritual Transformation, Lama Surya Das. Talk about the right book at the right time! I bought this on a whim at my library’s used book sale, and I’m so glad I did. I read a few pages every day during the sad time leading up to my mom’s death. Surya Das is the highest trained American lama in the Tibetan tradition of Buddhism, and practically every page held food for thought.

Takeaway quotes:

“When we lose people we love—and we will all lose people we love—seekers are immediately confronted by a spiritual conundrum: Even though our hearts are breaking, how can we search inward and continue to know and feel the love we all carry at our core? Being separated from those we love invites us to take a fresh and deeper look at the meaning of love itself. This is the major challenge of love.”

“Mourning is a necessary process as well as a deep and significant spiritual experience. It brings us closer to the ground of our being and our felt sense of authenticity. We need to intelligently process our most difficult experiences in order to regain balance, harmony, and inner peace. But there comes a time when it is helpful to seek and find ways to release the pain. Yes, certain losses remain with us; they are part of our history and our karma. But that doesn’t mean that it is appropriate for us to spend our lives grieving. We need to find ways to peacefully coexist with our sadness. We can embrace our pain and our losses and be greater and more authentically real for doing so.”

2. Choose Wonder Over Worry: Moving Beyond Fear and Doubt to Unlock Your Full Potential, Amber Rae. I frequently do battle with fear and worry, so when I heard of this book on The Lazy Genius podcast I almost immediately ordered a copy. According to Rae, Worry says things like, “Am I good enough?” “Does my voice matter?” and “What if I fail?” Wonder says, “How can I get better?” “What do I have to say?” and “Failure=Learning.” A slight alteration in viewpoint, but a powerful one. She discusses the myths of worry and how to combat them, and how wonder and worry can work together when wisdom “runs the show.”

Takeaway quote:

“When Wisdom runs the show, Worry and Wonder respect each other, move as allies, and walk hand in hand in the direction of what is most aligned and true. It’s called The Union.

“The Union is when we welcome fear, sadness, grief, shame, joy, heartbreak, vulnerability, and unworthiness to all have a seat at the table of our heart. It’s when we invite every part of us that we’ve denied, repressed, or abandoned to come forth and join us. Not so that we can ‘fix it’ or ‘make it better’ or ‘overcome it,’ but so we can acknowledge it and embrace it lovingly for what it is: an aspect of who we are. When we do this, we tap in to a wellspring of creativity, connection, vitality, and flow. This is the place from which our greatest contributions, deepest connections, and most profound experiences emerge. This is the place from which we return home to who we are.”

3. Microjoys: Finding Hope (Especially) When Life Is Not Okay, Cyndie Spiegel.  The last two weeks of my mom’s life, when I was staying at her house and visiting her daily in a nursing home, I tried to do one nice thing just for me every day. One day I walked in a botanical garden before seeing my mom. One day all I could manage was a glass of wine and comfort food on the couch. And one day, I had a copy of this book mailed to me at my mom’s address so I could read it while MY life was not okay. Reading these short essays gave me pleasure and helped me become aware of microjoys around me, because as Spiegel wrote, “Amidst everything, these moments of contentment teach us how to hold heartbreak in one hand and stillness in the other.”

Takeaway quotes:

“Microjoys aren’t small. Instead, they are easily accessible, and they don’t require that we reach too far from where we are (in any moment) to discern them. They’re called microjoys because seeking any semblance of great joy in the midst of sorrow simply wasn’t accessible to me when going through the most difficult things.”

From the essay titled “Busy Being Busy”: 

 “Right after my mom died and only months after the death of my nephew, I took to painting walls, making and doing anything that I possible could to avoid sitting with the hardest things. I knew the moment I sat still I would fall apart. And I also knew that I wasn’t yet ready to fall apart.”

[Same! Even though I say I want to rest and recover, I still find myself busy.]

These aren’t the only books I’ve found comfort in over the past few months, but they’re ones I’ve returned to when I’m in need of inspiration and encouragement. Writing this blog post, I’ve felt more like myself than I have in a long, long time. I hope, if you’re in need of some encouraging reading, that you’ll check out one or more of these books.

If you have any favorite comforting and encouraging reads, please share in the comments!


Remember Fun?

July 07, 2023

Photo by Manda Hansen on Unsplash

This week, the U.S. celebrated the 4th of July with barbecues, fireworks (or drone shows), pool parties, etc.

How did my husband and I celebrate?

We ordered a new washer and dryer because ours is dying a noisy death.


(At least I didn’t clean the bathrooms, which is something I usually do on a Tuesday.)

Starved for fun

Despite “Fun” being one of my words of the year, I’ve been seriously starved for fun. Sheer, unadulterated, non-productive fun. For the past several years, between COVID restrictions, caregiving, loss, and grieving, I’m not sure I remember what I think fun is. 

I know I’m not the only one. Many of us are out of the habit of having fun. Part of it is stress and busyness, part of it is coping with the constant onslaught of terrible news and social media outrage. We’re tired and overwhelmed and sad. (Or is that just me?!) It feels like too much effort to do anything more demanding than sit on my couch and scroll Instagram while binge watching whatever show we’re currently into.

Isn’t it time I—we—had a bit more fun?

What IS fun, anyway?

I’m glad you asked. Different things are fun for different people, and the ways you have fun are totally OK. What’s fun for me might not be fun for you, and vice versa. I’m going to use a definition from Catherine Price’s book, The Power of Fun: “True Fun is the confluence of playfulness, connection, and flow.”  She goes on to say that the signs of true fun include: “laughter, a sense of release/freedom/letting go, feeling like you’re having a special, shared experience, losing track of time, feeling free from self-judgment and self-consciousness, feeling like you’ve temporarily ‘stepped out’ of normal life, being fully absorbed and present, not caring too much about the outcome, and a feeling of childlike excitement and joy, a positive boost in energy, feeling totally yourself.”

Wow, does that sound great.

Looking back, here are a few things I can point to as genuine fun:

Visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Attending the touring Broadway production of Six at my local performing arts center. 

Sitting with artsy friends at a table laden with art supplies, working on our travel sketchbooks.

Playing in the pool with my husband and our dog.

I didn’t list every possible fun experience, but I did have to work a little to find moments that fell into the definition of fun. While I’ve experienced many moments of pleasure, contentment, even quiet joy, I see that I haven’t been having a lot of fun. Even my summer fun list could be more FUN. Even though I want to do those things, they actually aren’t all specifically fun as defined above. 

But how do I have more fun?

How do I change this? I don’t want to turn fun into work, but I may need to push myself a little to get off my couch to investigate what might be fun for me. I’d like to expand beyond some of the activities I do all the time.

For one thing, I have been trying to add in weekly adventures, as described in Laura Vanderkam’s book Tranquility by Tuesday. Vanderkam encourages us to do at least two things that will be worth remembering each week—one little adventure (an hour or less) and one big adventure (one that takes a few hours). 

I’m going to follow my curiosity, and allow myself to look for opportunities to connect and play. I’m saying yes more often.

Fun is an antidote to the seriousness of life. Fun is a powerful contributor to happiness, as Price writes:

“That’s yet another power of fun: it produces happiness. More specifically, the pursuit of fun provides a blueprint for happiness by shifting our focus from an amorphous emotional state (I want to be happy) to an active experience (I want to have more fun). Given that we are invariably happy while having fun, the more fun we have, the happier we’re likely to be; the ingredients for fun are in many ways the ingredients for happiness, but with better instructions. Fun also helps us sneak up on happiness without scaring it away. In fact, one of the reasons that orienting our lives around fun may make us happier is that happiness isn’t the direct goal.”

That’s a good enough reason for me. Let’s go have some fun.

What do you find fun? Please share some of your fun favorites in the comments!

For more information on the importance of fun and joy:

The Power of Fun, Catherine Price 

Tranquility by Tuesday, Laura Vanderkam 

This Is Not a Book About Benedict Cumberbatch, Tabitha Carvan

Mood boosters

The Difference

June 30, 2023

Photo by Kari Shea on Unsplash

“If ever I am feeling sad … or lazy, or tired, or lonely I just go outside pick a flower or two, bring it in, put it in a vase, walk around the house finding the perfect place for it, and my mood gets an instant lift. Something about the garden, the sunshine, the birds, smells, and sounds, and the small gesture makes the difference.”
—Susan Branch


Less Do. More Be.

June 16, 2023

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

“After a breakup or a breakdown, be willing to feel the emptiness and wait for the lessons. Stop filling all the spaces with busyness, shopping, food, booze, or other numbing devices. They won’t prevent the pain, only delay it….

“If find yourself waiting in line or sitting in traffic, or are simply settling down after a long day, take a few deep breaths and reflect. Stop filling all the spaces with digital distractions and mindless scrolling. Just let there be space.

“When an appointment cancels or something falls off your to-do list don’t replace it. Enjoy the margin. Stop filling all the spaces with more to-do items. Less do. More be.”

—Courtney Carver, Project 333: The Minimalist Fashion Challenge That Proves Less Is Really So Much More


The Summer of Kathy

June 09, 2023

In one of my favorite Seinfeld episodes, after George Costanza gets fired from the Yankees, he receives a severance package equal to three months’ pay. He decides he won’t work for three months, instead indulging in “The Summer of George,” which for him means wallowing in idleness, trying never to leave his apartment. Hmm… 

Let it be known I’m indulging in “The Summer of Kathy.”

My well is dry. I’m exhausted mentally and emotionally from digging deep to deal with such hard issues as terminal illness of loved ones, losing a parent, and trying to decide what to do with all of my mom’s belongings (including her cats) during two extended stays in California. I’m still not done with all of that, but the most urgent matters are being handled. After the horrifying whirlwind of the past four months, I’m definitely taking my activity level down a notch this summer.

Actually, that’s not quite true. What I’m planning to do, along with getting extra rest and taking time to contemplate what’s next now that my caregiving duties have ended, is catch up on the simple pleasures and everyday adventures I had to put aside temporarily. Therefore, I have a more ambitious than usual Summer Fun List this year. I’ve already checked off a couple of these (noted in red), so I think I’m off to a good start!

  • Paint my toenails a color other than pink. (With dubious results, but at least I did it. The jury is still out on whether or not I like teal toenails.)
  • Have a bubble tea.
  • Try a new obedience training program with Luna (started).
  • Make key lime pie ice cream.
  • Plant a small, potted herb garden.
  • Read a lot.
  • Take a horseback riding lesson. Tank is semi-retired and off for the summer, but there’s a new horse at the barn available for lessons. I haven’t taken a lesson in more than five years, so I need a tune up. 
  • Work at least one jigsaw puzzle.
  • Have a massage. I’ve been trying to do this since the beginning of the year, but I’ve had to cancel two appointments because of my moms’ failing health.
  • Go to a movie with my husband.
  • Bake something from my grandma’s baking book (inherited from my mom).
  • Get together with friends—I’ve been mostly unavailable in 2023, so we have some catching up to do.·  

Mainly what I want to do is rest and regroup and slow down. I’ve been rushing for so long. This list gives me some things to look forward to during my least favorite season, and who knows? Maybe by the end of The Summer of Kathy, new and exciting opportunities will show themselves—and maybe I’ll have the energy to take advantage of them. My goal is to combine emotional healing with gentle adventure. We shall see how it goes.

What are your summer fun plans?

More summer fun lists:

Laura Vanderkam’s 2023 Summer Fun List (I originally heard of the summer fun list from Laura)

Cup of Jo’s Low-Key Summer Check List

My Summer Fun List from 2022



Links to Comfort and Inspire

May 19, 2023

Even though there is So Much to Do, I’m taking it slow, allowing for extra rest and quiet time, easing back into “normal” life (whatever that is). Since the end of January, I’ve been pushing myself well beyond my comfort zone and digging deeper into and draining my emotional reserves. Over the past few months, I’ve found some solace and distraction in wise words and entertaining videos on the Internet. Here are some of the things I’ve been turning to for comfort and encouragement.

Courtney Carver’s words often resonate with me. Since I’m definitely feeling overwhelmed, this post was comforting. I’m especially taking to heart number 4.

Microjoys, glimmers, simple pleasures…whatever you call them, these little bursts of joy keep me going in tough times. There is always joy to be found.

And speaking of microjoys, some thoughts on happiness from an 80-year-old.

Rather than mindlessly scroll, try one of the suggestions from “7 Productive Distractions to Effectively Reduce Stress” when you’re feeling frazzled.

This is so great—I’d love to open a bookstore with a friend.

Since going through my own hard times, I’m learning how better to support others who are grieving or otherwise suffering. “How to offer help when you don’t know what to say” offers some helpful suggestions.

Rediscovering the joy of play—I’ll have more to say about the power of fun in a future blog post.

I’ve been watching The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning on Peacock and (no surprise) it’s hitting me in all the feels…in a good way. Each episode so far has offered me at least one tiny insight into the process of grief, decluttering, or living life to the fullest. 

One of my favorite Broadway touring shows of all time was the first show we saw during the 2022-2023 season: Six. To round off today’s post, here’s a link to the first number of the show:  

What have you found online that has boosted your mood lately?


Walking My Mother Home*

April 28, 2023

About six weeks ago, my mom’s Hospice nurse called to let me know that they’d noticed a marked decline in my mom’s condition and that she had stopped eating. In end-of-life terminology, she was probably “transitioning.” After a day or two of phone calls and a flurry of actions to try to set up my life to function without me for an unknown period, I flew to California on a one-way ticket to spend what would be the last two weeks of her life with my mom.

She passed away April 8.

“It’s been a great ride”

When I first arrived, she knew who I was and could respond with a few words or a facial expression, and she could hold my hand. Every day I came to the nursing home where she was being cared for, spending most of the day by her side. This was one of the most emotionally grueling things I’ve ever done, but I wanted to pour into her some of the lifetime of love she’d given me. I had plenty of time to reflect on our relationship, cry, begin the grieving process, and try to say everything I needed to say before saying good-bye.

The staff found a comfortable rocker/recliner for me, and I positioned myself where I could look out a window. My mother-in-law always said it helped her during hard times to find a patch of blue sky to look at, and I found myself doing that often.

One of the nurses showed me how to find soothing music videos on YouTube, and every day I chose a new one. The music calmed me, and perhaps my mom, too.

I’d leave every day wondering if I’d see her again. By the end, I’d lost my mom in every way that mattered and all that remained was the shell of her body. Still, the finality of her death crushed me.  My heart still breaks at the idea of never being able to hug my mom again.

One of the last pictures I have of us together

My mother taught me to love books, to sew, and to put aside doing chores when you’re exhausted and need to recharge. She read me bedtime stories and took me horseback riding even though she was afraid of horses. She was proud of me and didn’t try to change me, even when she didn’t understand me. For so many years it was just the two of us (my parents divorced when I was three), and it wasn’t until I was a mother myself that I realized how challenging it must have been for my mom to support us financially and take care of me at the same time. My father didn’t live in the same town and it wasn’t until I was older that I was able to spend significant time with him.

When I moved to Florida, we didn’t get to see each other nearly as much as we wanted. I missed the everyday simple pleasures of being able to meet for a meal or go shopping together, and as she got older, I hated being across the country from her. She had troubles and challenges in life, but she’d tell you, as she told a nurse, “It’s been a great ride.”

One last loving act

I think my mom performed one last, loving act as a mother. My friend Kerri arrived on the afternoon of April 8 to spend her spring break with me, and no more than an hour later, my mom was gone. I don’t know how I would have coped if I’d been alone and I think my mom waited until my friend was with me.

As I went through some of her belongings, I found old date books filled with dinners out, church activities, and family visits, and literal drawers filled with cards and letters from loved ones. I found notebooks with lists of goals, art and craft supplies, and file folders with decorating ideas and places she wanted to go. (I do the same thing: fill notebooks with ideas and folders with cut out pictures and articles!) I found awards she’d won in 4-H, lists of books she read in high school, and a medal from the Arthur Murray Dance Studio. My mom loved to dance, and I like to think of her dancing again now that she’s no longer in pain.

I have more family articles to sort through, and more memories to explore as I begin the task of living without my mom. I am slowly looking at a few of these at a time, to avoid being swamped by grief. Recent memories like playing cutthroat games of chicken foot dominoes, and older ones, like the day when I was a teenager that she came home driving a brand new, electric blue Camaro, a gift she'd given herself. 

I’m home again briefly before we return for a graveside service next month.  The last thing I can do for my mom is to fulfill her wish to be buried with my stepfather.

I miss my mom already. This Mother’s Day will be painful, since I’ve lost two of my three moms this year. Even when grief squeezes me like a giant hand, or my eyes well with tears at odd moments, I know that even though it hurts, I was lucky to have Judith Allen Weingarten as my mom.

*One of my friends used this phrase when I told her my mom was declining and I was going to be with her. I thought it perfectly described the situation.

Edith Eger

What Hope Isn’t

March 24, 2023

Photo by Alex Shute on Unsplash

“We never know what’s ahead. Hope isn’t the white paint we use to mask our suffering. It’s an investment in curiosity. A recognition that if we give up now, we’ll never get to see what happens next….

“To ask how hope is possible in the face of dire realities is to confuse hope with idealism. Idealism is when you expect that everything in life is going to be fair or good or easy. It’s a defense mechanism, just like denial or delusion.

“Honey, don’t cover garlic with chocolate. It doesn’t taste good. Likewise, there’s no freedom in denying reality, or trying to cloak it in something sweet. Hope isn’t a distraction from darkness. It’s a confrontation with darkness.”

— Edith Eger, The Gift: 12 Lessons to Save Your Life

Tough times

Getting Through Tough Times

March 17, 2023

Since I last posted on Catching Happiness, life has been so challenging it hasn’t seemed real. First, Carol’s condition took an abrupt downturn, and after a week of trying to stabilize her, and then a few days of round-the-clock care, she passed away Feb. 17. Still reeling from this, the next day I was on a plane to California to see my mom, who had been in a rehab facility with fractures in the vertebra in her back. By the time I got there, her condition had taken a turn for the worse and she’d been readmitted to the hospital. When I stopped at my aunt’s house to pick up the keys to my mom’s house, I learned from a note from my cousin that my aunt was in the hospital with fractures in her back as well (they are twins, but this is carrying the twin thing too far)! 

And that was just the beginning.

I stayed in California for two weeks, partly to figure out what was going on with my mom and to help get her the care she needed, and partly because I caught COVID-19! That’s right, at a time when I needed to be with my 84-year-old mom in the hospital, I was sick and staying at her house by myself.

Practically everything that could go wrong, went wrong. While I was still sick, we had a big snowstorm (see photo above) and I needed to sign some documents to admit my mom into Hospice care. Since I was sick and I’ve never driven in snow, we needed to find a way to get the documents to me and back to Hospice without my leaving the house. My mom doesn’t have internet service, so I had been using my phone as a hotspot. On the day I needed to sign the documents, it didn’t work! I wound up using Starbucks’ internet from the parking lot since I was still supposed to be in isolation. Coming on top of the last intense weeks of Carol’s life, I felt pushed to the very edges of my ability to cope with all I had to deal with in California.

When the tough times seem to go on forever

For nearly a year, we’ve been living with uncertainty and curtailing of “normal” life. We felt unable to make certain plans and do certain activities while caring for Carol. Our world shrank. It’s been a year of digging deeper, finding strength we didn’t know we had, making mistakes and moving on from them, and trying to find happiness in an unhappy situation. I’ve been through difficult experiences before, but none that lasted so long and affected so many areas of my life.

I know I’m not the only one who is or has been going through tough times, of course. But since these experiences are fresh in my mind, I thought I’d share five tips that have helped me the most:

1. Take it one moment and one step at a time. Deal with the situation immediately in front of you. Do not think about what could happen. The “ifs” are what keep me up at night. How will I handle it if… What should we do if… I don’t know how I’ll cope if…

Just stop. None of those things has happened, or is happening at this moment. It’s been my experience that when something traumatic happens, you don’t have time to worry about what to do—you just have to do something.

If you have a legitimate huge mess to deal with, break that down into the smallest doable actions. Go slowly if you can. Let yourself fully take in the situation and solutions may present themselves.

Our Hospice people are big on the “one day at a time” concept. Particularly the aspect of simply enjoying what we can enjoy today, and not worrying too much about what tomorrow will bring.

2. Make a list of battery-recharging activities. Make sure you do at least one of these every day. Even in the toughest of times, a tiny pleasure helps you to remember that things will not always be so hard. For me, these things included climbing in bed to read for at least an hour before going to sleep, taking a hot bubble bath, stepping outside to breath some fresh air and look at the sky. These things made me feel calmer and more relaxed and they cost virtually nothing.

When possible, plan a small treat sometime in the near future so you have something to look forward to. Anticipation boosts happiness.

3. Ask for and accept help. Maybe you don’t “need” help right now? Accept it anyway. One of my friends offered to make dinner for us just after Carol’s initial illness. At that time, making dinner wasn’t really a problem for me so I was about to refuse, thinking there would likely come a time in the future that I would need that kind of help. My friend simply said something like, “I’ll make you dinner then, too, but right now I’d like to do this for you.” Sure, I could have made dinner that night. Instead, we all enjoyed a nice meal while feeling cared for. I can’t emphasize enough how important just feeling like you’re not alone, and that someone cares about what you’re going through is. So if someone offers to do something for you, take them up on it.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Most people really want to help and support you, but they’re not sure how. They may feel awkward and unsure of what you need, or not want to overstep any boundaries.

4. Let go of perfectionism. You are going to make mistakes and do the wrong thing. You are only human, but guess what? Those around you are only human also, and they make mistakes too. We all need to remember this and be kinder to each other when we slip up, rather than pounce on one another’s mistakes.

5. Take care of yourself. Take care of yourself. Take care of yourself. You’ll do this imperfectly, but don’t forget to spend some time caring for your own needs. No one benefits if you martyr yourself. I’m not surprised that I got sick just a few days after Carol’s death. I knew I was tired and rundown. I was lucky that my case of COVID-19 was mild. 

This, too, shall pass

When you’re dealing with terminal illness, it feels weird that the world is just moving on as normal. You feel like you’re on the outside, looking in. It can be frustrating when others don’t realize your situation, yet you don’t want anyone else to have to go through what you’re going through.

It feels like it will never be different, but know that it will.

If we let them, extended hard times, whatever the cause, can help us build strength, resilience, compassion, and humility. While I wouldn’t choose to go through the experiences I had over the past year, I believe I’m a better person because of those experiences.

“Happiness” is not always possible. But often acceptance, contentment, and meaning are. We don’t need to slap on a happy face when we’re coping with one of life’s inevitable challenges. Life isn’t all simple pleasures and everyday adventures. However, I believe seeking out and savoring those simple pleasures and everyday adventures helps us cope when we are going through the hard days, and helping to fill our well of strength and kindness.

Thank you for your patience and kindness during my absence from Catching Happiness. I plan to resume posting semi-regularly again as long I’m able, depending on my mom’s condition. My mom is currently stable, under Hospice care for now. I’ll be going to California more often to check on her as we continue to monitor her condition. My aunt is improving and able to get around on a walker.