What Makes You Happy?

Happiness, is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing or that, but simply  growth.”     William Butler Yeats

Gretchen Rubin in “The Happiness Project,” suggests that “an atmosphere of growth”  and striving for a goal, not its attainment, are hallmarks of happiness. Growth, for me, has occurred through mental and physical challenges.  When my life lacks these challenges, I’m not happy.

These challenges do not come easy to me. I’ve always loved learning, but technical subjects, like photography’s F-stops and apertures, still confuse me.  Photoshop is a continuing source of frustration, even though I’ve taken classes.

I love going to school.  “How to” classes are always fun, but not necessarily successful.  I took a watercolor class in which the instructor was obsessed with us painting pears.  My pears looked dismally inedible.

Another “how to” was a class in burrata making.  Burrata is a luscious Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream.  It looks like this:

Mine, most definitely, did not look like this.

Physical challenges were even more demanding.  Until my early twenties, “physical activity” was not in my vocabulary. I was the poster child for “couch potato.”  My husband, a natural athlete, taught me my first athletic endeavor, skiing.  I fell constantly. I was so out of shape, I could not pull myself up to a standing position after falling.  Every time I “skied” off the chair lift, the only way I knew how to stop was to crash into other skiers.  More than once, frozen by fear, I stayed on the chair lift, and rode back to the beginning.

My next challenge:  running.  My husband began training for a marathon.  He quit smoking, and lost weight.  He’d come home from his workout, and I’d be in bed reading the Sunday paper and smoking a cigarette.  Not good.  I began plodding around Kapiolani Park in Honolulu to save my  marriage.  Little did I know that this was the beginning of many years of long distance running for me.

Hiking was another physical challenge for me.  I’ve hiked the Canadian Rockies in a thunderstorm with lightning cracking the sky.  I’ve been eaten alive by mosquitoes the size of small Yorkies while hiking in Idaho.  I pounded sticks and sang at the top of my lungs to scare off a bear in Yosemite.

As I mosey into my third trimester, I’ll keep, keeping’ on, just like the ladies of the Vineman Triathlon, experts in the art of personal growth.

P.S. If you want to learn something new for free, check out  https://www.coursera.org/

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Dear America

Dear America,

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Happy 236th, America!  I want to talk to you for a few minutes.

The last few years, I’ve thought quite a bit about what is wrong with you.  Today, I want to focus on what is right about you and what I love about you.

I love your open roads, mile after mile, across the most spectacular scenery in the world.

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I love hometown restaurants serving a breakfast of country light biscuits, applewood bacon, and steaming cups of fresh coffee.

I love the soaring architecture of your cities, your bridges, and your skyscrapers and the brilliant minds that conceived them.

I love your parades, festivals, and events that bring communities together and help us understand one another.

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I love that I can eat fresh, organic food from my local farmer.  I love the diversity of your cuisine: Vietnamese pho, Korean kalbi, burritos, burrata, Texas chili, cannellini beans, bok choy, pad Thai, mango sorbet, turkey drumsticks, and millions of other delectables.Image

I love that I can speak my mind.

I’ve done my share of teeth-gnashing over where America is going and gotten my dander up over countless dunderheaded decisions by folks I don’t agree with, but today, I’m most thankful for your persistent pursuit of your ideals.

You’ve always strived for freedom, the pursuit of happiness, and the absence of tyranny.  You and I both know, you haven’t always gotten it right, but what is important to me is that you always keep trying.  Happy Birthday.

P.S.  Here are some photos of you that you might enjoy.

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