Thursday, March 14, 2013

Finding Happy

Happiness
is an inside job.

~ William Arthur Ward






She grew up poor,
in the material sense.

She worked her whole
life, yet never 
owned a home.

She bought her first
new car in her 80's.

Her husband left her
with two children to
raise alone when
she was 30.

Her son contracted
polio at age nine. 

And more.





Not exactly a life
you'd describe as
happy.

Yet, I will always
consider this lady
to be my happiness
role model.

Did you know that
there is a science
to happiness?

It's true.





Stanford, Harvard,
MIT and Oxford are
just some of the cutting
edge universities around
the world who have
researched happiness.

Their scientific studies
have drawn some
amazing conclusions.....

The things that most
people assume will
bring them happiness ~

money
being attractive
living in sunnier locations

are not correlated
with improved happiness.





But things like 
marriage, relationships,
 and good health, are.

Another key to happiness?

Being a person who
is grateful, kind and
compassionate.

Like my mentor.

She truly savored the
small stuff.  A great
cup of coffee or tea.
A flower's hue.  The
beat of a favorite song.
A beautiful sunset.
A funny joke.





My happiness mentor
was always thankful
for the kind deeds of
others, and always 
told us so, whether in
person or in a note.

This happy little person
saw the glass as half-full.
She looked forward to
the future and didn't dwell
in the past.  If she did
feel down in the dumps
about something, she'd take
herself to the mall, to be
distracted by the stores
and to, in her words,

 just be with people.





My guru of happy loved
giving to others.  Whether it
was a gift that she saved up
to buy for you or the gift
of organizing your pantry,
she was always looking
for ways to bring joy.

Because my happiness
guide's life was not a
smooth road, she could
always put herself in the
shoes of others.  I can recall
how she would absorb
stories from the news
and truly empathize with 
the people involved.





Turns out, she embodied
the very traits that science
has linked to happiness ~

optimism
self-confidence
gratitude
hope
compassion
purpose

and empathy.

Recently, I was asked
to become a Pioneer for
a new website called
Happify.






Happify was created
to help people fully
develop happiness
in their lives.

Yes, it is something 
that you can learn.

The learning activities
and on-line community
at Happify are not only
a lot of fun, they are also
a bit addictive.

In a good way!

And, it's free.





At this time, to join
Happify and start
enhancing your own
happiness quotient,
you must be invited.

Luckily, you know
someone : )

To access your own
keys to happiness ~ er,
Happify, simply click
here and sign in with
your Facebook account.

{You do have to be on
FB.  Which is why I
joined, myself, a few
weeks ago.  That in itself
has been a very happy
experience, as I wrote
in my last post.}





Unlike some exercises,
I really look forward
to those I do on Happify,
and I believe you will, too!

If you happen to
bump into me* over
there, please say hello : )

Oh, and my sweet
happiness mentor?

My 95 year-old 
grandma.


♥♥♥
Thank you, Gigi.

You taught me well.



xo
Suzanne


*Once you join
Happify and are
logged in, click 
here
to find me.













Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Filling in the Blank



I hesitated, my hands
hovering over the keyboard,
as I filled out the form.

Hometown, it asked.

I did the same mental
dance that I've done for
over 25 years when faced
with this question.

And then I left it blank.

As I've mentioned before,
I attended nine schools
in my life, not counting 
college, due to various
moves, mainly for my
dad's career.





In November of eighth grade,
I also started my eighth school, 
in a little border town in 
northern Minnesota.
Tall, gawky, shy and fairly
fed up with being 

the new girl,

again,

I nervously climbed the
stairs and crossed the
threshold of yet another
unfamiliar school building.





I expected to feel awkward.
I expected to feel alone.
All the normal things that
you experience as a kid 
when you start anew.

What I didn't expect was
to be greeted with such an
outpouring of interest.

In me.

And kindness.

The girls that I met thought 
I had an accent, coming from 
Oregon, and asked me to repeat
How Now, Brown Cow
many times, always laughing
when I obliged.

I laughed, too.




And even though I wasn't
able to chime in when talk
turned to elementary school
memories, I absolutely loved
living in a small town.

That said, when I graduated
from high school, I couldn't
wait to burst out into the
world, seeking new vistas
and new experiences.

So off I flew, secure in the
knowledge that I would be
returning from the big city to
my hometown for Christmas.





Where are you from?

I'm from International Falls.

Really?  Isn't that the coldest
place in the continental U.S.?
The one on the Canadian border?

Why yes, it is.

I have to admit, I enjoyed
this hometown notoriety 
amongst my university peers : )




Little did I know that when I
returned to our beige brick
house for spring break my 
freshman year, it would be for 
the last time, as my dad 
had accepted a transfer,
beginning in June.

I stayed at college that 
summer, taking classes
and working.

My parents moved five
more times with Dad's
job before retiring in the
Pacific Northwest.




As I myself moved, from
college to working girl,
wife to mother, state to
state, the question,

Where are you from?

No longer seemed so 
clear cut.

I-well-we moved a lot
with my dad's job.....

I'm not really from anywhere,

I'd say with a wistful smile.





That's been the standard
reply, for years and years.

Fast-forward to last week,
when I decided to create
a personal Facebook page.

As friend requests from
high school classmates pinged
my in-box, I felt the same
outpouring of affection that
I did that cold November
week in The Falls, when
I was the new girl.




Although I'm neither new
nor a girl anymore, but a
middle-aged woman, my
heart lit up at their kind
and welcoming words.

Over the years, when I thought
back to former classmates, a
word seemed to attach itself
to each of them.

Smiley
Serious
Laughing eyes
Smart
Focused
Studious
Shy
Warm




As I lingered over pictures
on their Facebook pages, it was
evident those characteristics
were all still there.  And even
though I now know what they
look like all grown up, in my
mind's eye when I think of
Berta or Stacy, Brenda or
Taunya, it's still their maiden 
names and their girl's faces 
that I envision.

But I know that behind
the smiles, and the laughing
eyes and the warm faces,
there are both joyous and sad
moments that I cannot see.

Because that's life.





However, cloaked in experience,
they seemed even more beautiful
to me then when we first met,
so many years ago.

That's when it struck me.

Those six years my family's 
story was woven into the
bigger story of that little 
mill town were truly the 
most formative ones of
my childhood.


My son in I. Falls, 2005

So, five days after joining
Facebook, you can
guess what I filled in
for Hometown ~

on the screen,

and in my heart.



********
Where is your
hometown?



xo
Suzanne