All Days Are Gifts

December 24, 2021

Photo by krakenimages on Unsplash

“When you drive past other people’s houses, all the windows look brightly lit and all the faces look happy. But of course that happens when anybody drives past the houses of the Holiday Impaired, too; almost everybody looks good from far away when surrounded by a warm light within a frame of darkness. Let’s face it: we—the best and the worst of us—all tango through all these times as well as we can manage. Some years will be better than others, but all such days deserve recognition and, yes, celebration.

 “Why? Because, despite the fact that the holiday is not going to be perfect, not going to be like something out of a magazine (unless you count the official publication of the World Wrestling federation), and not going to be everything you hoped, it is a chance to make what might be just another day a memorable time. All days are gifts and should be celebrated; the holidays give us a chance to do it together.”

—Gina Barreca, “The Holiday Impaired,” collected in Too Much of a Good Thing Is Wonderful

Wishing everyone a happy holiday season, and merry Christmas to all who celebrate!


4th of July

Opening the Gate to Joy

July 03, 2020

Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash

Introduction by Ted Kooser: I was once on Deer Isle, Maine, on the Fourth of July, and attended their own town parade. Deer Isle isn’t big enough to mount a very long parade, so they ran it past us twice, first down to the water, and then back up. And we applauded as much with our second viewing as we did with the first. July 4th parades are a wonderful institution. And here’s a parade for you, by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, who lives in southwest Colorado.  Her newest book, Hush, has just been published by Middle Creek Press.

In the Fourth of July Parade

Right down the middle of main street
the woman with the long red braids
and fairy wings strapped to her back
rode a unicycle more than two times
taller than she was—rode it with balance
and grace, her arms stretched out,
as if swimming through gravity,
as if embracing space—her smile an invitation
to join in her bliss. How simple it is, really,
to make of ourselves a gate that swings open
to the joy that is. How simple, like tossing
candy in a parade, to share the key to the gate.

We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2019 by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, “In the Fourth of July Parade,” (2019 ). Poem reprinted by permission of Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer. Introduction copyright © 2020 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.

Wishing everyone a safe, healthy, and happy 4th of July!


Whew, What a Year!

December 31, 2018

Remember this? This happened in 2018!

I don’t know about you, but for me 2018 was f.u.l.l. The last few months have been a mad scramble, and I’m planning some time off this week to recover. I’d take more time, but I already have writing deadlines! (Yay for writing deadlines.)

Before 2018 becomes history, I want to say thank you to you, my Catching Happiness friends. Thank you for reading, for commenting, and even for lurking (I lurk on multiple blogs myself). Working on Catching Happiness is one of the pleasures of my life.

Happy New Year, and see you in 2019!


Wishing You Holiday Happiness

December 24, 2018

Prudy, Luna, Tank, and all the humans here at Catching Happiness wish you and your loved ones much holiday happiness, whatever your traditions may be. 


Already Overwhelmed by the Coming Holidays? Here Are 7 Ways to Find the Holiday Happy

November 17, 2017

Photo by +Simple on Unsplash

Can we postpone Thanksgiving? Maybe until sometime after the New Year?

It’s not that I don’t have plenty to be thankful for, I do—it’s just that I’m feeling overwhelmed. The last three months have been a blur and things don’t seem to be slowing down. Thanksgiving is next week, and then, oh then, here comes Christmas. (That’s right. I said the C word.)

I’m not ready.

This seems to be a theme with me around the holidays—feeling overwhelmed and stressed. I don’t think it’s just me, however. There are many reasons someone might not feel that happy about the upcoming holiday season. Perhaps you’re feeling sorrow over a death in the family, fighting an illness, or you’re overloaded with work or other responsibilities.

Since I don’t want to be the Bah Humbug of the holiday season, I sat down to ponder what I—and anyone else finding him or herself overwhelmed by the prospect of the upcoming holidays—could do to find some Holiday Happy.

Here’s what I came up with:

1. Work on your communication skills. Communicate what you need for yourself and what you need from others. If necessary, practice saying what you need to say so that you don’t explode or cry or go silent when you have the chance to speak up.

2. Ask for and—even more important—accept help. Gatherings are more fun for everyone when we all get to contribute. No one wants to see you become a shell of yourself because you spent the entire day cooking a fabulous meal and then it was all over in 10 minutes and WHY DID I EVEN BOTHER, YOU UNGRATEFUL WRETCHES. No, no one wants to see that.

On a related note, cut back and outsource. Don’t try to do everything you’d normally do as well as all the holiday preparations. Pick up dinner at the grocery store, have the gifts professionally wrapped, hire a housecleaner just before your holiday party. See: “former shell of yourself,” above.

3. Don’t expect too much. We often raise our expectations about a number of things during the holidays. How our homes look, how much fancy cooking we do, even how we or others will behave. It’s OK to expect to have some special moments during this festive season. Just try not to expect everything to go perfectly. Don’t expect Uncle Elmo to suddenly become the warm fuzzy of the family when he’s more likely to be the Grinch, or that the cat won’t climb the Christmas tree and break at least one ornament. I speak from experience.

4. Take care of your health. Don’t skimp on sleep, vegetables, or exercise. A few late nights or an extra piece of pie will be much easier to recover from if you maintain your basic health habits. And I’m sorry, but pumpkin pie doesn’t count as a vegetable.

5. Choose one or two special holiday rituals and let the rest go. I know there are tempting experiences around every corner, but you’ll just make yourself crazy if you try to do them all.

6. Focus on what you want to celebrate. Being together? Gratitude? Your personal religious tradition? Your child’s (or grandchild’s) first holiday? The fact that it’s cool outside and you don’t have to run the AC on Thanksgiving Day this year? There is always something to celebrate and something to be grateful for.

7. Develop your sense of humor, and don’t take everything so seriously. It’s not the end of the world when the squirrels eat your holiday pumpkin display on the front porch, for example.

I’m going to try to follow my own advice, and make this a happy—not harried—holiday season. How about you?

What special holiday experiences do you look forward to every year?


Time Out for Thanksgiving

November 23, 2016

Photo courtesy Lutece

“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”
—William Arthur Ward

It is Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. tomorrow. All over the country, and here in the Catching Happiness household, we’ll be cooking, eating, bickering talking with our families, playing games, watching football, and so on. I’m looking forward to taking time out for thanksgiving. All is currently well in my world, and I’m grateful.

Wishing you and yours a warm and loving Thanksgiving! (If Thanksgiving is not a tradition where you live, then have a very happy Thursday!)


What Will You Do With the Gift of a Day?

February 29, 2016

Today is a gift. An extra day in the course of your year, a day that 2015 didn’t have, and 2017 won’t have. It sounds like a dream come true, doesn’t it? If you’re like me, you’d be thrilled to have someone hand you an extra 24 hours.

February 29, or Leap Day, is humanity’s way of fixing the discrepancy between the calendar year and the solar year (the time it takes Earth to complete its orbit of the Sun)—the solar year is nearly six hours longer than the 365 days of our calendar. (Click here if you want to know more about how Leap Day is calculated). 

But back to that extra day. When I think about what I’d do with an extra day, I almost always picture myself cocooning at home, reading, drinking tea or coffee (or both), hiding away from the world. I seldom picture myself getting out of my house, exploring someplace new, etc. Perhaps that is a reflection of my introversion since I’m recharged by time spent in solitude. But if my fantasies of what I’d do with an extra day all involve hiding at home, perhaps this is an indication that I’m not paying enough attention to my need for that solitude and recharging on a daily basis. Something to think about.

Since 2016’s Leap Day falls on a Monday, most of us will be doing our typical work/school activities. Even so, why not try to set aside a little time for doing something that makes you happy on this gift of an extra day?

In between going to exercise class and returning the library books and cleaning the bathrooms, I’ll sneak in a little time for myself today. (Inquiring minds want to know: will I leave my house or read on the lanai instead? What do you think?)

If money or logistical limitations were no object, what would you do with an extra day?

D.M. Dellinger

A Wish for You

December 23, 2015

“This is my wish for you: peace of mind, prosperity through the year, happiness that multiplies, health for you and yours, fun around every corner, energy to chase your dreams, joy to fill your holidays!”
—D.M. Dellinger

Happy holidays, everyone!

Good enough

Spirits of Blog Posts Past: The Good Enough Blog Post

December 18, 2015

Photo courtesy Laure Ferlita
This originally ran in December of 2011. The thoughts expressed are once again on my mind, so instead of reinventing the wheel, I’m reposting it. I’m pretty sure we could all use reminding.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the concept of Good Enough. The painting trip to NOLA focused my attention on the concept as I created sketchbook pages that were far from perfect, but were “good enough” for their purpose: to help me remember a captivating place and group of people.

For me, that’s the biggest blessing: Good Enough is an antidote to perfectionism. How many times do we avoid trying new things, obsess over details, or become stalled by the idea that something must be Perfect, or even its cousin Really Good, before it sees the light of day? (I know this blog post could be better—I could spend hours “perfecting” it, but it still wouldn’t be “perfect.” I’ve already delayed posting it once because it wasn’t—you guessed it—Good Enough.)

The holiday season is a good time to focus on the concept of Good Enough. How easy it is to fall into the trap of searching for the “perfect” gift, decorating the house perfectly, cooking up delicious and special Christmas treats, and so on. All this on top of your regular, everyday life and its responsibilities! Frankly, that way lies madness and sitting in a corner, slugging down eggnog and biting the heads off gingerbread men on Christmas morning.

Good Enough can be excellent. Or it can be average. It’s not settling, but as author Heather Sellers writes, “It’s celebrating the truth. Good Enough means you know when to quit.” It’s up to us to decide what gets our time, resources and attention—and how much of those resources we are willing to spend. Everything we do cannot be Perfect. I’m sorry, but it just can’t be.

So how can we embrace Good Enough? By applying the three Ls:

Lower our standards. Don’t have time to cook an entire holiday meal from scratch? I know from experience that many grocery stores have really fine options for the harried holiday hostess. Can’t work out for an hour? Take a 15-minute walk. Something is better than nothing, and it will keep us in the exercise habit.

Laugh when things go wrong, or don’t quite come out the way we envisioned. Laughter is a better option than tears, and others are more likely to relax and go with the flow when they see that we’re not overly bothered by the unexpected.

Love the opportunity, love the process, love the result. Sometimes we (I) forget that life is an adventure, full of new experiences, not all of which will seem “good” on the surface. It’s all a process, leading to the result of a full, rich life.

And repeat after me: Good Enough is…Good Enough.

Has there been a time when you’ve embraced Good Enough and found the outcome was just fine, or even better than you expected?

4th of July

Link Love, Independence Day Edition

July 03, 2015

Photo courtesy Edgar Olivera

Tomorrow is Independence Day for us in the U.S., and many people will celebrate with barbecues, parades, and fireworks. My family and I will be celebrating by trying to stay cool, as July 4th is typically one of the hottest days of the year here in Florida. While I know the U.S. is not perfect, I am grateful to have been born here. I know I have many opportunities and privileges others do not have, simply by the accident of my birth. So with that in mind, I’ve compiled an Independence Day edition of Link Love. Whether or not you celebrate this holiday, I hope your July 4th is happy and safe!

Click here for 15 ways to celebrate Independence Day. 

When we went to Washington D.C. a few years ago, one of my favorite experiences was seeing the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights at the National Archives Museum. After all, the Declaration of Independence includes these words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” You can learn more about the Charters of Freedom here.

Since it’s our unalienable right to pursue happiness, here are some suggestions from Dani DiPirro from Positively Present on creating happy moments.

Here are some (mostly) free ways to spark creativity and fun. 

Since many have died for freedom, not just for the U.S. but all over the world, we can honor their sacrifice by living a meaningful life. This post asks, “If you died right now, what would you regret?” It goes on to list the top five regrets of those who are dying, and some principles for living a meaningful life.

I loved this short video of a horse playing in a wading pool. Even horses like to cool off!

Happy 4th!


As the Year Turns

December 31, 2014

Photo courtesy Juskteez Vu

“There was a sighing, soft and cold, as if the year turned over
in his sleep.”
—Rose Macaulay, Personal Pleasures

Isn’t that a lovely description of the turning of the year? My favorite way to see in a new year is quietly, thoughtfully, with a book, my journal and maybe a glass of wine to keep me company. (My husband is there, too, probably reading in bed… We lead such wild and crazy lives!)

Here’s to a healthy and joyful 2015!

Ada V. Hendricks

The Heart of the Holidays

December 24, 2014

May you have the gladness of Christmas which is hope;
The spirit of Christmas which is peace;
The heart of Christmas which is love.”
—Ada V. Hendricks

No matter which holiday you celebrate, I wish you a season of hope, peace and love!


There Is No Right Way

December 19, 2014

Despite my best efforts at simplifying, I’m stressing a bit right now. In case you haven’t noticed, Christmas is almost here. And even though we’re having a quiet family dinner, we have a bare minimum of decorations (see last year’s “Link Love: Holiday Edition” for the reason why), and we have what I consider a quite reasonable list of people to exchange gifts and greetings with, I still find myself dashing around—this morning, a trip to Costco is in order and my gas tank is running on empty, so I’ll have to stop and gas up, oh and while I’m out, I think I’ll have one of Chik-fil-A’s holiday peppermint chocolate chip milkshakes (a simple pleasure I missed last year to my great chagrin)… See what I mean?

The problem is, life wants to happen at the same time I’m busy making Christmas plans.

My challenge is to take the pressure off by doing only what is meaningful to our family, not getting caught up in what other people do this time of year (no matter how fun it sounds), and letting some of “life” slide for the time being. Not that this is news to me, of course, but I seem to need to be reminded again and again. There is no “right” way to celebrate the holidays, nor is there a “right” way to be happy. There is only the way that is right for me.

I hope you are having a joyful and stress-free holiday season! If you have time, share some of your favorite holiday traditions in the comments section below.


Happy Holidays

December 25, 2013

Wishing you and your loved ones the happiest of holidays. See you in 2014!


Happy National Chocolate Covered Anything Day

December 16, 2013

I’ll take any excuse to eat chocolate—and it would be un-American not to participate in National Chocolate Covered Anything Day, don’t you think? I happen to have some chocolate covered almonds and dried cherries on hand, but there are ever so many things that can be covered in chocolate…even bacon! (I think I’ll stick with almonds and cherries.) 

Even though this is kind of a silly “holiday,” I think it’s good to have silly little celebrations all through the year. Why can’t we make up our own holidays? I’ve been known to celebrate horse and dog birthdays, as well as Marmot Day. If you were making up your own holiday, what would you celebrate?


Link Love: Holiday Edition

December 13, 2013

I'm the only ornament this tree needs...

We don’t have as many holiday decorations up this year as usual, partly because I don’t have the energy or desire to decorate the house from top to bottom (I’m wearing shorts and sweating and that’s just not conducive to putting up holly and evergreens), and partly because Prudy thinks we put up the Christmas tree for her private and exclusive use. She treats it like a jungle gym, and climbs to the top daily (not unlike her sister)—and this is without ornaments and lights. So we won’t be displaying our fancy (breakable) ornaments this year or putting the tasseled runner on the mantel (I’m sure she’d pull it and everything else down on top of her). But it’s all good. We’re expecting a cold front, Nick will be home for winter break, and I’m planning a little personal stay-cation from the usual routine after Christmas.

I hope your holiday preparations are running smoothly, and that the weather, whatever it’s doing where you live, isn’t keeping you from enjoying the season. Here is a special holiday edition of Link Love for you to enjoy in between all your activities:

Artist Susan Branch offers free downloadable holiday desktop wallpaper, stationery and other fun stuff (I especially love the bookmarks) here.

Christmas movies can be more than just happy little distractions—many of them, even the cheesiest ones, remind us of lessons worth remembering. Dani at Positively Present reveals some of her favorite movies and their accompanying lessons here.

For the book lovers among us, Belle has some ideas for end-of-the-year book “housekeeping.” 

What are your favorite Christmas traditions? This post lists 50 (!) Christmas traditions for a merry little Christmas. Some of my favorites from this list are listening to Christmas music,  turning out the lights to admire the Christmas tree (well, usually—see above), and making cookies (though I make molasses sugar cookies instead of plain ones).

A very cool thing an airline did for its passengers:

And last but not least, some tips for relieving holiday stress. No matter how hard we try to simplify, it always seems like we need these.

Ho, ho, ho

Affordable Christmas

Giving Tuesday

December 02, 2013

You’ve heard of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday—how about Giving Tuesday? Tomorrow, Dec. 3, marks the second annual Giving Tuesday (#GivingTuesday), a movement to create a national day of giving on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving. Families and individuals are encouraged to be generous in whatever ways they see fit, by volunteering or donating to a favorite cause. Last year, there was a marked increase in charitable giving on Giving Tuesday, and organizers hope for an even bigger impact this year. You can read more about Giving Tuesday here.

Every year as part of our holiday tradition, we like to choose one or two charitable organizations to donate to, and this year, we’ll start by participating in Giving Tuesday with a donation to Affordable Christmas, a program that allows lower-income families to purchase new Christmas gifts for their children at 1/10th of the retail price. 

What are your favorite holiday charitable activities?


Things to Be Thankful For

November 27, 2013

Here’s a poem for this season by Tim Nolan, of Minnesota. Once we begin to be thankful for things, there are more and more things to be thankful for. [Introduction by Ted Kooser.]


Thanks for the Italian chestnuts—with their
tough shells—the smooth chocolaty
skin of them—thanks for the boiling water—

itself a miracle and a mystery—
thanks for the seasoned sauce pan
and the old wooden spoon—and all

the neglected instruments in the drawer—
the garlic crusher—the bent paring knife—
the apple slicer that creates six

perfect wedges out of the crisp Haralson—
thanks for the humming radio—thanks
for the program on the radio

about the guy who was a cross-dresser—
but his wife forgave him—and he
ended up almost dying from leukemia—

(and you could tell his wife loved him
entirely—it was in her deliberate voice)—
thanks for the brined turkey—

the size of a big baby—thanks—
for the departed head of the turkey—
the present neck—the giblets

(whatever they are)—wrapped up as
small gifts inside the cavern of the ribs—
thanks—thanks—thanks—for the candles

lit on the table—the dried twigs—
the autumn leaves in the blue Chinese vase—
thanks—for the faces—our faces—in this low light.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2012 by Tim Nolan, from his most recent book of poems, And Then, New Rivers Press, 2012. Poem reprinted by permission of Tim Nolan and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2013 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.

Have a very happy Thanksgiving!


A Moment to Remember

May 27, 2013

Today, we won’t be going to the beach or having a cookout—typical Memorial Day activities. We’ll be giving the house a good cleaning before all the grandparents arrive tomorrow for Nick’s high school graduation later in the week—an event that merits a holiday of its own in my book.

Hope you all have a happy, relaxing and meaningful Memorial Day.

Did you know about the National Moment of Remembrance? I did not. According to the U.S. Veterans Affairs website, “The National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation.”