Posts Tagged ‘Happiness’

When Bob and I first contemplated building our ‘not so big’ house in Virginia, I remember our builder telling us we could build with reinforced concrete instead of the usual stick construction. After all, with our view of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the west, we could expect lots of wind and weather. Then he mentioned that it would be so air tight, you wouldn’t hear the birds.

Well, that would never do!

I called my upstairs office my aviary. I loved listening to the racket made by woodpeckers, and two owls calling to each other at sunset. “Whoo.” But I would never feed the birds because I didn’t want to attract bears. I enjoyed Mother Nature in real time: watching fox kits rolling along the grass; families of deer daintily strolling through trees, and two huge Pileated woodpeckers jack hammering a branch that had fallen in the driveway. My favorite sighting was a hummingbird who returned to the same flower every year, at about the same time.

There was plenty of forest for everyone to feast. It was like living inside a Disney movie, with bluebirds everywhere.

But 2020 being what it was, with the addition of a long number of days, below freezing and snow covered, I started throwing out nuts and bread for our poor city slicker birds. Soon enough, I was bringing home big bags of the most delectable bird seed and ordering a fancy, new feeder online. No bears to fear here. Now granted, our small side yard garden cannot compare with 14 acres of woods, but I’ve still managed to attract a diverse group of feathered friends.

Small wrens and finches cling easily to the bird feeder, but the bigger birds, like doves and robins, blue jays and cardinals prefer grazing. So every day I fill a bowl with seed and put out fresh water on a tree stump – the one that held the fairy house. A mockingbird can flit between the stump and the feeder, depending on traffic. And that is the view through my office window today; mourning doves displaying dominance along with an ingenious squirrel. The squirrel trumps everyone on the stump.

Am I becoming that old lady? The one who sits and stares out her window, if she’s not feeding a dozen cats; the one who runs out screaming in her nightgown at the squirrel gobbling all the goodies?

This morning I feel better about my latest obsession. The National Geographic published an article about why backyard birding is great for kids and adults. I was not surprised to read that having a bird feeder can actually contribute to our feeling of happiness.

But why are birds so important to nature’s biodiversity—and therefore your family’s potential happiness? For one thing, birds are an indicator species, meaning they basically function as a “check engine light” for biodiversity. When something is out of whack in nature, birds let us know—often by disappearing—because they need a healthy environment to survive. Of course, birds aren’t the only indicator, but since they’re found almost everywhere in the world and are easy to study, their presence—or absence—is a good way to measure the variety of life that research shows can boost mood.


You’ve heard about the canary in the coal mine. What sparked my empathy for our city birds was coming home one of those frosty winter days to see about ten doves lined up like good little grey soldiers on our porch. They spanned the length of our kitchen wall to capture some house heat and stay out of the wind. Of course they deserved a mourning dove diner on a tree stump!

It’s a diner and fly-in reality show every day.

We’ve created a city bird sanctuary in our sideyard, where birdsong competes with construction noise. And when it all goes quiet, I know danger is near… sure enough, our squirrel is sitting there on his hind legs stuffing his cheeks. Squirrels have to eat too.

Maybe I’m replacing the background sounds of a family. The Flapper used to tell me that some day I would miss those little feet running across a floor and the constant hum of children. She was right. Or maybe it just makes me smile whenever I see our bright red cardinal!

Read Full Post »

Yesterday, after listening to yet another sycophant rant about our Deflector-in-Chief, how “something” must have happened at Trump Tower if Mr T says it did, I turned off the TV and downloaded a book on my Ipad. It’s getting harder and harder to watch our democracy self-destruct from within, in 140 characters.

I was going for some peace and quiet with my morning coffee. I wanted to read about the Danes, and why they are considered the happiest people on the planet. Their winters are long and brutal, still they remain upbeat, they have a sense of “Hyggeness,” which loosely translated means cozy intimacy, well-being, or feeling tucked-in as if you haven’t a care in the world. Hygge is pronounced “HOO gah.” Now I know one can achieve this with a Zanax, but I’ve told you before I’m not a pill person.

So I opened my browser, went to Amazon Prime and bought “The Little Book of Hygge” by Meik Wiking – which was more expensive in its Ereader form than in hardcover? Then I opened my Kindle App and voila! I stopped the noise inside my head and started to read.

Instant hygge is possible. All you have to do is light a candle. Danes use twice as many candles as the rest of the world combined. So get a candle from a candle shop and light it. You may also want to switch on a lamp. Lamps can also make you feel hygge. Danes use twice as many lamps as the rest of the world combined. Make sure that if you do get a lamp, you don’t buy one from Ikea. Swedish lamps are a bit rubbish and won’t make you feel hygge.           https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/sep/11/the-little-book-of-hygge-by-meik-wiking-digested-read

That little bit was a satirical piece in the Guardian. But it is pretty funny to think of a group of Danes sitting at a table under a fluorescent lamp fidgeting like they are being burned alive. Not the actual torture part, but thinking about Danish designers and how they love diffused light. When you consider how long the winter nights are in Denmark, it makes sense. In the way that indigenous people of North America venerate snow, the Danes love fire. Wood burning fireplaces crackle and candles burn every night in just about every Danish home. And not the scented kind either.

Being surrounded with family and friends is also key to Hygge. Feeling like you are safe and at home. One night during the Rocker and Aunt KiKi’s wedding week in California, we were all gathered around a fire pit. My Sister-in-Law Jorja was there, and two of her oldest friends. And even though the fire pit was fueled with gas, so we didn’t have the smell or the music of wood burning, it was essential Hygge. Great Grandma Ada came out and started to sing. If only I had known the term at the time!

How could it have been more Hygge?

So I bought a candle and I’m determined to capture some of this Danish serenity for myself. And Bob has been pruning away around the yard; I might suggest a fire pit down by the Buddha garden. We have bluebirds flying all over the place these days, making nests and calling and dancing for mates on our deck. Luckily, nobody is knocking on any of our windows, like that cardinal a few years back. Obviously, pruning shrubs below the window ledge works for our territorial wildlife.

And speaking of migratory animals, I wish someone would point out to Mr T that flying away to his FL mansion every weekend and Tweeting away with his tiny fingers in the wee small hours is not very Presidential. Making paranoid, delusional remarks about his predecessor, ditto. He might benefit from some Hygge with the grandchildren, under a parasol, don’t you agree?       DAVECAITLY-231

Read Full Post »

Here I am, inbetween the Love Bug’s morning nap and her Mama coming home from a night shift at the hospital. It’s raining so I guess there will be no trip in the Big Bob stroller to the bagel store for lunch. The diapers were all washed (yes, she wears real cloth diapers) and put away with care, in hopes that St Nick will visit the Music City and find this new, wee one. It’s stranger still that I wrote about holiday stress right before the unthinkable shooting in CT, and now it feels like happiness may be harder to come by this holiday season for the whole country. Why did I turn on CNN this morning to hear that some savvy business is selling bullet-proof backpacks? And others are talking about teaching teachers to handle a gun. So along with learning how to administer an EpiPen shot for the occasional peanut allergy, who thinks we should require teachers to attend a shooting range?

Let’s give ourselves a break – a news break and a happiness boost. This is a short and sweet article about the 5 things you can do to increase your happiness. Or rather, the five mistakes people make; the lies we tell ourselves in order to achieve some sort peace. So by inverse reasoning, you should be able to just stop doing these things and smile. I was intrigued to find there is just one lie I tell myself:

#3 “It shouldn’t be work!”

I’m not happy because it’s just too darn hard to be happy. The author, Amy Shearn talks about her friend who is very Eeyore-like, “…terrible things befall her constantly, confirming her belief that the world is a grim place. Her Eeyore-ish, “Oh bother”-ness is so much a part of her that she seems to think happiness is simply not for her, as if some people were just Eeyores and some were just Pooh Bears (happy, simple, kind of dumb).”
So it’s good to remember that happiness actually takes some work, keeping up with our friends – and not just texting them. Taking time to help those in need – like the therapy dogs that walked into Newton and stole their hearts. Just getting out of our own heads for a time will improve any old rainy day!

The Bride has returned and when I told her I was writing about happiness, she smiled at me and said, “Like being a Grandmother?” So true baby girl!! photo

Here are the other 4 lies:
1) Happiness will come after my big success
2) My happiness comes in a box from Amazon
3) Happy people never quit
4) There’s no point in asking the universe for what I want

Read Full Post »

I live down mountain from the President who first proposed we Americans should be happy. TJ actually penned it right there, in our Declaration of Independence, that we must feel free to pursue happiness. There are just 2 problems – he didn’t define happiness, and we didn’t start measuring it until 1972. And strangely enough, we Americans seem to maintain the same score on this scale no matter what party our President belongs to, only about one third of the nation is “extremely happy.” http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/22/america-the-anxious/

Why so glum? Well last night this word nerd was impressed with how many times Mitt used the word “tumult.” I felt like I had fallen into a time warp, even the President had to remind him that the Cold War was over 20 years ago and this isn’t a game of Battleship! Tumult is a word from the last century. Sure these are tumultuous times, Arab Springs are quickly getting frosty. The Islamic world is more dangerous now than anytime in recent history, and electing a guy who seems to auto-correct his platform on foreign policy would be more like “malarkey” to me.

One thing that will always make me happy is going to the movies. In another instance of art imitating life, we saw Ben Affleck in “Argo” over the weekend. It was brilliant, right down to the set and feel of 1979. The juxtaposition of the actual photos next to the movie stills from the Iranian Revolution at the end only added to the power of the film. The attack on our Embassy in Benghazi is still fresh in our minds, http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/timeline-of-events-comments-surrounding-attack-that-killed-4-americans-in-benghazi-libya/2012/10/20/ef5addbe-1a89-11e2-ad4a-e5a958b60a1e_story.html and only added to the terror of watching angry actors in Argo scaling the walls of our Embassy in Tehran.

When we walked out of the movie theatre, Bob turned to me and said, “If our involvement in that rescue mission had been made public, Jimmy Carter would have been re-elected.”  Interested in researching the 444 day occupation of our Embassy? http://www.jimmycarterlibrary.gov/documents/hostages.phtml It was fascinating last night to see Mitt’s newer, softer approach to Libya. Maybe he realized that trying to win political points in the midst of a national crisis is not very Commander in Chief-like.

The Bride was barely eight weeks old when the Iranian hostage Crisis began. We only got one channel on TV late at night in the Berkshires, and there was no internet at the time; the newspaper was our window to the world. My memory was filtered through a new mother’s eyes. I remember being sad when Carter was defeated. Like McGovern, he was a man you could trust, a man of peace. I like to think we are a people who can learn from history. And since the Arab world is in such flux, now more than ever, we need to keep our respected world leader in the White House.

For a little comic relief, to improve your level of happiness for the morning, why not follow-up on Gov Mitt’s auto-correctness? http://www.damnyouautocorrect.com/category/best-of-dyac/

And don’t forget to vote! 

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: