Broken, Blooming

March 22, 2024

Recently we had some small dead trees cut down, leaving open space we’ve never had before in our naturally-landscaped backyard. The fall of those trees crushed the ferns growing beneath them, and that whole area of the yard wears a shocked look, like it doesn’t know what happened to it. Nearby, a tall pine, uprooted and left leaning by Hurricane Irma, continues its slow decay, occasionally dropping branches onto the ground. Even though we have mild winters in Florida, there’s a lot of dead stuff. While it’s never pristine, our yard currently looks, shall we say, disheveled.

Yet at the same time, new growth is everywhere. Pale green oak leaves burst out beneath their canopies of Spanish moss and some of my favorite flowers are blooming. Simultaneously beautiful and a mess.

That’s kind of how I feel.

As time does its healing work, the internal walls I put in place to keep going when I had to, even though it was unbearably hard, are collapsing and the emotions and questions I have about that surreal period when both my mother-in-law and mom were dying (it’s a blur) are bubbling to the surface.

I find myself with questions and regrets about how my adult relationship with my mom played out. In particular, how far away we lived from each other. I missed out on frequent, “ordinary” things, like going shopping together, and I worry that I neglected her in ways I didn’t understand because I wasn’t there to see her struggles. My mom was my bedrock person, the one who loved me best. Though we had differences of opinion and viewpoint, I never doubted her love, and I did not have to do anything to earn it. I’m coming to terms with what it means to lose that.

At the same time, I’m deeply enjoying creative projects; delighting in beautiful spring weather; feeling love for my family, friends, and animals; savoring simple pleasures and everyday adventures whenever I experience them.

Even while I was going through my mom’s decline and death, sitting by her bedside daily, watching her slip away, even as I felt such great sorrow and grief, I noticed that I could still find comfort and even joy in certain things…many of them small. It was like the dial of my emotional sensitivity was turned up high—even though I was excruciatingly sad, I could take deep pleasure in a walk in nature, eating a favorite meal, or using an app to identify bird songs. I could be both sad and happy—broken and blooming. 

As I wrote in the October 2023 edition of the Happy Little Thoughts newsletter, “This year has brought home to me the truth that even though we often perceive the world in extremes of either/or, life is really more a case of both/and. 

“We can feel multiple emotions at the same time: sorrow over losing a loved one and relief that they’re no longer suffering.

“I’m working on making my thinking more flexible. Allowing myself to feel joy and grief, without judging either one. Allowing life to unfold as both wonderful and challenging...because, frankly, that's what it is, and what it's always been.”

Even though I’ve outwardly held it together and “been strong” for what feels like forever, inside I have broken and tender places. But there are also blooms pushing their way upward, little tendrils of joy reaching for the light.

There is no question that this world holds unfathomable heartache. We see it on our screens, and in the eyes of those we love, and sometimes in our own faces in the mirror. But don’t forget that this world also holds joy, love, pleasure, and beauty, too.

I came across these perfect quotes from @motherwortandrose on Instagram this week:

“You get to experience enchantment even if you are deeply heartbroken by the world.”

“You are allowed to experience beauty and pleasure even when you are heartbroken.”

My mission on Catching Happiness has always been to focus on the simple pleasures and adventures of a happy life, rather than the heartbreak. Over the past year, I’ve found that increasingly more difficult, but I’m still committed to that goal. I hope today holds more enchantment, beauty, and pleasure than heartbreak for all of us. If you’d like to share something that lifted your spirits recently, we’d love to hear about it! Please share in the comments below. 

Angie Kim

Why We Should Remember to Want What We Have

March 15, 2024

“Of course you will and can want more. You should want more. But you should also spend time trying to want what you already have. It’s slightly different from ‘practicing gratitude’ or appreciating or thanking a higher force or God for what you have…. It means: Don’t let what you already have be the baseline. Think of yourself before you gained what you have, and remind yourself how much you want that, what you already have—your spouse/partner, your family, your house, your job. Imagine you in an alternate universe where you don’t have your family, can’t have your kids or your partner, how desperate that alternate-you would be to get what you have. Or if you don’t believe in the multiverse, the you from five years ago.”

—“Adam Parkson” in Happiness Falls, by Angie Kim



Are You a Carrot, an Egg or a Coffee Bean?

March 08, 2024

Over the past couple of years, we’ve been supported by two different chapters of Hospice, first with Carol and then with my mom. I can’t say enough good things about Hospice—I couldn’t have managed without their help. Both Hospice chapters have sent me materials to help with grief and other pertinent topics for the families of people who are sick or dying. I’d like to share one of them with you today—it’s a story I hadn’t heard before, and I still think about it often.

A Carrot, an Egg, and a Cup of Coffee


A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed that as one problem was solved, a new one arose.

Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to a boil. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil, without saying a word.

After 20 minutes, she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out, placed the eggs in a bowl out and then ladled the coffee into a cup.

Turning to her daughter, she asked, “Tell me, what do you see?”

“Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” the young woman replied.

Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. The mother then asked the daughter to break an egg. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, the mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled as she inhaled its rich aroma. The daughter asked what it meant.

Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity—boiling water. But each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile, its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting in the boiling water, its inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.

“Which are you?” she asked her daughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?”

Which are you? Are you the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity do you wilt and become soft and lose your strength? Are you the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did you have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, or maybe a financial hardship become hardened and stiff? Does your shell look the same, but on the inside are you bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and hardened heart?

Or are you like the coffee bean? When the water gets hot, the coffee bean releases its fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, do you get better and change the situation around you and make it better? How do you handle adversity? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?

We all know people who have been embittered by trouble and grief—and we all know people who have grown through their suffering and become something beautiful to behold. I do not judge those who have been hardened by adversity or broken by it, but I don’t want to be one of them. I’m trying my best to “be the coffee.” 

Everyday adventures

Happy Little Lists

March 01, 2024

Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash

It’s no secret that I love a good list. In addition to ordinary to-do lists, I make seasonal fun lists, list of books I want to read, and more. I even have a “Do Not Do” list

(Maybe I love lists a little too much?) 

“Attack of the Killer Lists” notwithstanding, I think lists can be a good way to corral things you want to remember, provide you with alternatives to less healthy activities, even be a source of happiness and uplift in and of themselves. These lists are fun to make!

Here are 15 Happy Little Lists you could make:

  1. Happy Little Things—keep a running list of all the little things that make you happy. It might be only one each day, week, or month, but over time, that list will grow. (An alternative to the Happiness jar.
  2. Favorite calming and soothing activities for when you start to feel stressed out. Having this ready ahead of time can keep you from crashing and burning.
  3. Places you want to travel. I’ve started a five-year travel wish list because I’m not getting younger or fitter, and time is not slowing down.
  4. Possible little adventures and big adventures you could schedule each week (from Laura Vanderkam’s book Tranquility by Tuesday.)
  5. 100 dreams, also a Laura Vanderkam idea. 
  6. Short, fun activities you can do when you have a few free minutes and you don’t want to scroll your phone.
  7. Books/movies/music you want to consume this year. What new artists are you interested in, and what movies or books are you looking forward to this year?
  8. Places you want to explore, or restaurants you want to try in your hometown. A good way to support local small businesses as well as have some fun!
  9. Quintessential [insert your home state] experiences—beyond your hometown. In Florida, these might include visiting Disney, eating key lime pie, hitting the beach, wearing shorts in February, seeing an alligator in the wild, visiting the Everglades. What makes your state unique? If you moved out of your state, is there anything you’d regret not seeing or doing?
  10. Best dining experiences you’ve ever had. What made them so special? I’m thinking of a dinner at The Olde Pink House in Savannah, GA. Savoring happy memories, whether of a meal or some other experience, increases enjoyment of life.
  11. Favorite books/movies/music. Maybe it’s time to revisit them?
  12. People who inspire you to be the best and happiest version of yourself. Who do you care about who you don’t want to disappoint? Who would you like to emulate?
  13. Things you’re looking forward to. Maybe it’s a summer vacation, a visit with family, or even an afternoon spent doing only what you want to do.
  14. Things you want to learn. Maybe you want to try a new hobby, learn a new language, or figure out how to do a simple home repair. Learning new things is sooo good for our brains and our mood
  15. Tiny ways to treat yo-self.

 What would you add to this list of lists?