Tuesday, April 29, 2014

What Makes You Happy?

If you read my blog, you already know I worship Oprah. 

So of course I get her "Thought for Today Newsletter" in my email.

It's a newsletter with all kinds of feel good articles, and last Tuesday, I noticed this one:  "9 Rules Happy Women Make (and Follow) by Amy Shearn.  It's an interesting list of rules, because they aren't the kinds of things you would think would be on such a list.

Here is a summary of her 9 rules that happy women make ...
and my comments:

1.  When you have two options, find a third. 
She uses an example of your being offered a job in Mexico.  You want the job, but you don't want to move.  You talk to a friend and she says, "Why not telecommute?"

OK, I get that, sort of.  But in this case, how often can most of us telecommute our jobs? 

As a librarian in a public library, that would have been a bit difficult, though there sure were times when I wished I could just click someone off when they were asking me a ridiculously stupid question.  "Oh, sorry, something must have happened to our connection.  I can't hear you."

2.  Always tent the bacon.
Actually, I never knew this.  If you fry your bacon by lifting up the center a bit, the center doesn't burn and the raw ends get cooked properly.  Her point being, steal nifty tricks from good cooks and others to make your life easier. It's the little things, after all.

Here is my nifty trick:

Keep all of your measuring spoons in a little jar on your counter or stove so they are handy, and likewise, your salt, pepper, spices and baking additives that you use all of the time, such as baking powder, in a cute little container like this one. 

You are very welcome.

3. Never skip morning sun.

We don't have sun in Seattle.

4.  Honor the someday list.
She says we all make to-do lists, those for what needs to be done right now and those others for what we wish to do "someday," such as travel to Prague or climb a mountain.  She says if you don't do the "someday" within six weeks, you never will.

So within six weeks, I need to live in England, write a novel and kiss Chris Hemsworth?  And if not, does that mean the "bucket list" will still be lying around after I really have kicked the bucket?

5.  Bring your own...
Cell phone charger, wine, whatever it is that you need to be comfortable and you would miss if you didn't.

She is so right here. 

I have a gallon size zip-lock baggie with my chargers, ear buds, armband to hold my phone so I can listen to music during exercise, book holder for the exercise equipment (I like to read on the elliptical), lint remover, reading light, scotch tape and wine bottle opener.  I grab the baggie and I am ready to go. I do the same thing with my make-up.  I have everything I need in the proper size baggies for airline scrutiny (though with my Nexus card I am a "Trusted Traveler" and get to use the TSA Pre-Check, which is life-changing by the way).  Put together your own must-haves similarly and packing for a trip is a breeze.

6.  Scootch as needed
She uses the example of her son building a Thomas the Train track one little track at a time, putting his train on the little track and then adding another track.  She wondered why he didn't complete the entire track before running the train on it.  Her point was:  everything doesn't need to be planned out before you get the "pleasure of scooching forward."


It makes me happier to plan things.  Sorry.

7.  Forget the breadstick.
Even if you started eating the bread, if the restaurant has bad lighting or anything else you don't like, it's OK to leave.

I would add, it's OK to ask to not be seated by the kitchen, the server station, the door or the restrooms. I have inherited my Dad's issues with restaurants.

8.  Sleep when you are depressed.
Rest will help your depression.

I thought depressed people couldn't get out of bed. 

9.  In 9-degree weather blow bubbles.
Somehow these little frozen bubbles are delightful and will help you forget it's 9-degrees below zero.

She lost me here.

But she is right that it's the little things that promote our happiness, and now that I am retired, that seems to be even more true.

However, despite the fact that some on this list seem frivolous and not necessary to my own happiness, it got me to thinking.

What makes me happy?

Here are my 10 rules for happiness
(I know it's supposed to be 9 but I like even numbers):

1.  People who know the rules of the road.
It makes me happy when people know how to drive.
For example, don't wave at me to go at a four-way stop when it's not my turn.
People, when we are both at a four-way stop, please don't wave for me to go. I know the rules of the road.  If we both get there at the same time, the person on the right gets to go.  Otherwise, first come, first served.  Don't wave for me to go if it's not my turn, because I won't go.  That doesn't make me happy.

And did you know that on a four-lane road, if you are on the far side of a school bus with its lights on and you are heading in the opposite direction, you do NOT need to stop?  Well, good, but no one here seems to know that.

2.  In a restaurant, being seated away from the kitchen, server station, the door or the restrooms makes me happy.  Likewise, when traveling, a hotel room away from the elevator, ice machine, vending machine or maid's storage room is a must (See Rule #4 below).
Someone has to have those crappy tables and rooms, but it ain't gonna be me.

3. My Nexus card.
When we first moved to Seattle, we planned to travel to Canada often, especially Victoria and Vancouver. 

We have actually been there often, but not as often as we would like.  While sitting in long lines at the border, we noticed a lane that said "Nexus" and there was never anyone in it.  After some research, I discovered that the Nexus card is given to "trusted travelers," who have been vetted by the State Department.  We applied and received one, and it's a life changer.  We zip across the border when the wait time for others could be up to three hours. 

An added bonus is that it works for TSA Pre-check, which means you can leave your shoes on and don't need to pull out your liquids or computer when going through security at the airport.  Makes flying a lot more pleasant.  That makes me happy.

4.  Sleeping-in.
(Which partly explains Rule #2 above).
Now that I am retired, I wonder how I ever got to work by 8 or 8:30am.  Sometimes I had to be somewhere at 7!  How was that possible?  It makes me happy each evening to know that I can get up whenever I want the next morning.  

However, my happy sleeping-in requires that the heat not be turned on, the dogs are kept away from the bedroom door (they scratch on it) and that Hubby not make too much noise (stay tuned for my blog in May celebrating 30 years of marriage, where I talk about what it takes to stay married that long).

5.  One "do anything day" a week.
I call that my catch up day...I catch up with my bad TV choices, look like crap and do whatever I want.  It's especially happy when the wine guzzling poodle chooses to spend that time with me.  He likes to watch "The View" too ( he won't watch "The Talk," though. He thinks it's derivative).

6.  Exploring.
Whether it's flying to Europe to explore or exploring in my own backyard via stair walks or trying a new restaurant, happiness is getting out there in the world and experiencing it up close and personal.  I talked about my love of stair walking in my blog "The Joys of Stair Walks" and one of my favorite vacations in "My Favorite Summer Vacation: My Narrow Boat Cruising Adventure in England."  I hope I am an explorer to the very end, because that makes me happy.



7.  Phone calls and Skyping with my adult children.
When your children grow up and move away, it is difficult to remain close.  Closeness requires creating a continuing history together, and we all know that long distance relationships don't work very well, not even with your children.  So effort needs to be made and being able to see each other or talk regularly helps. Getting to also see the grandchildren is an extra bonus.

8.  Grandchildren
Having grandchildren is not a do-over by any means, but having grandchildren allows you to enjoy those early childhood years that perhaps you were not able to fully enjoy because of what life threw at you when your own children were growing up.  I know that when I am around my little grandsons, I feel great happiness.

9.  Writing this blog
When the Internet first came onto the scene, I can remember thinking, "I am going to set up a webpage and flood the world with my philosophy of life." 

But I never did. 

I didn't learn HTML and was never particularly savvy about how to put together web pages.  And who had the time?  But then I started to write a blog for my library and enjoyed that, though other work obligations kept me from writing as often as I probably should have.

But now that I am retired, I find this to be something that brings me happiness. 

Retirement is a time to find out who you really are and to finally get to do things that you have always wanted to do. I always enjoyed writing, and I like to communicate. Writing a blog is an opportunity to express myself and hopefully, if I say something there that makes someone laugh or helps someone in some way, then that makes me happy. 

Whether it's a blog or inventing a new product or traveling the world, it's important for all of us to find our purpose in life.

I think that's what retirement is all about. 

You may retire from a daily job with its own rules and obligations, but you don't  "retire" from life. You don't retire from yourself. Retirement is an opportunity to spend that time alone with yourself to experiment, to discover who and what you really are, to find that meaning of life thing we all search for.

I will keep working on that.

But as Oprah often says, "One thing I know for sure..."

So my #10 rule for happiness?

Love and be loved.

I wish you all great happiness!
What Makes You Happy?
See you Friday for
"Must-See Biopics and The Week in Review"

Thanks for reading!

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to share it and/or email it to your friends.


  1. "And did you know that on a four-lane road, if you are on the far side of a school bus with its lights on and you are heading in the opposite direction, you do NOT need to stop? Well, good, but no one here seems to know that."

    That's actually not true everywhere! Just so you know. In fact, some states make you stop for a school bus with its red lights flashing on the opposite side of the road EVEN for divided highways. In fact, it seems as though Washington state has the most lax laws when it comes to school buses! (Sorry, couldn't resist!)

    But seriously I love your list! I'll play along!

    1. Having little rituals:
    I take great pleasure and joy in some of the little rituals I've developed for myself over the years, like having a cocktail and listening to music while cooking, or doing a Tarot reading each New Moon and journalling about it, or making Top Ten lists while listening to records and sharing drinks with my husband, etc. I find these rituals comforting, knowing that, if nothing else, I have go-to little situations I can set up for myself to bring me joy and energize me.

    2. Being active outside
    Swimming in the ocean, going on hikes, running outside. Sometimes I actually find exercise depressing if I spend too much time in the gym, but doing things outside always make me feel good and connected to myself and the world.

    3. Being outside in general
    I don't like humidity or muggy heat, but I do so love the sun. Drinking beer or cocktails or wine outside, eating outside, playing guitar outside, playing games outside -- everything's better outside on a beautiful day! Of course, this piece of pleasure can only be attained a little more than half the year in a lot of places, but still! And a cozy fire is nothing to sneeze at either, anyway.

    4. Spending time and laughing with the people I love and care about
    Husband, family, friends -- laughing is a thing best enjoyed when shared with others, especially people you love! And especially as it's often a result of sharing things that you love all love and reminding yourselves of why you love each other.

    5. ....but getting time to spend alone and recharge by myself however I want to makes me happy when I need it
    Usually by participating in one of the above little rituals

    6. Dancing
    Gawd, I love to dance!

    7. Eating and drinking
    I also love to eat and drink delicious things! And actually, I could probably combine both this one and the last one in a more general "feeling connected to and of my body."

    8. Making things
    Cooking, writing songs, DIYing. The creative process is frustrating, and sometimes it can be slow to get started, but few things are as satisfying and producing something and sharing the fruits of your labors.

    9. Victories
    The little ones, the big ones -- they're all good. Whether it's me running an extra mile or a few seconds faster, or getting a big project successfully implemented at work, or simply dragging myself out of bed on a day when I don't really feel like it, acknowledging -- and celebrating! -- my victories makes me feel good

    9. When I feel good in my own skin
    This usually involves a good looking outfit and a good hair day, but I find these things kind of inform each other. But like Liz Taylor said, "Pour yourself a drink, put on some lipstick, and pull yourself together!" :-)

    10. Recognizing the good
    This one actually really kind of occurred to me as I was making this list (inspired by you -- thanks, mom!), because writing down all these happy things was making me feel...happy! And it does get said a lot, but it IS true: it can be easy to focus on the bad, or the not-so-great, but trying and choosing to focus on the good really does help manifest more good -- even just good feelings, like simple gratitude.

    1. Wow! You wrote a blog as a comment on a blog! Thanks for taking the time. You just proved my point. It makes me happy if my blog strikes a chord.

    2. And I even made two for #9, so I guess this is a list of 11 things -- I'm just so bursting with happy things, I guues! :-)

  2. I totally understand the bubble thing. When I lived in Illinois for grad school my friends showed me this trick once. It only works when it is bitter cold and dry, but to see a bubble freeze, drop, and shatter is super cool.

    Thanks for the Nexus card tip! I haven't been to Canada recently, but it sounds like it would be worth it even if you just went once a year.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Dawn. I wonder if it ever gets cold enough here for the bubble to work. I am surprised I didn't hear about it growing up in the bitter cold winters of Michigan.

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