Saturday, September 30, 2017

Small Joys Big Happiness by Jenn McKinlay

One of the things my mother taught me, just like her mother taught her, was to find joy in small things. I remember spending a lot of time outside with my mom when I was kid. She would frequently tell me to be still (honestly, did she even know me?) and listen to the birds sing. It was a struggle. I am now and was then usually a blur of constant motion. But I did it. I listened. I heard the chirps and trills fill the air, and I marveled that so many birds could be chattering at the same time. I still pause to listen to the birds in my yard, because it amuses me to wonder what they’re talking about (probably, the great lummox, standing in her yard eavesdropping on them).

Looking back, I realize it was so much more than just an appreciation of birdsong she was sharing. She was teaching me to be observant of my surroundings, to be present and in the moment, and to find joy in something so small that most people, sadly, miss it.
Arizona Sunset. Pink Clouds!
When my hooligans were little, I would usher them outside every time there was a beautiful sunset. “Pink clouds!” I’d yell. Even now, so many years later, if they see a sunset, they holler, “Pink clouds, Mom!” and we all run out and watch as they deepen to purple and fade into night.

People, I think, spend an awful lot of time chasing happiness like it’s some illusive pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, instead of appreciating the small joys that pop up in their every day life. Madison Avenue convinces us that happiness is attached to a price tag or a label, but I don’t believe that’s true. I have never bought anything that filled my heart like the grin of one of my hooligans or the music Hub makes when he strums his guitar. And so, with the world being rather negative lately, I’ve been trying to focus on the small joys that make it all worthwhile like birdsongs and sunsets.

So, Reds, what are the small joys that brighten your days?

LUCY BURDETTE: Well, I can think of a lot of big things having to do with family and friends. But small things? Most of them have to do with food. Like our amazing tomato crop, which is just past peak. John said tonight: "Wouldn't we kill for a tomato like this in February?" (Yes, we would.) And the Connecticut peaches from our local grower, Bishops, are so sweet and delicious. I'm eating two of them a day!

Jenn's peach tree, which also brings me joy
and a butt load of peaches every June! LOL.
And I'm also grateful that my Meniere's is under good enough control that I can have a cup of coffee (big!) every morning, and a glass of rose if I feel like it at night without worrying that I'll get instantly dizzy. And I'm grateful to have Jenn's new book to read, which I am taking to bed with me tonight...

JENN: Thank you, Lucy, you're very kind!

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I always try to  take a moment every day to look at the stars. Just to remind myself of everything. It really makes a difference.  Little things? My slippers, seriously. Nice soap. That first sip of coffee in the morning. The first sip of wine. When I have a good idea. (One little good idea and I am happy for hours.) When I am home writing and the weather is nice, I take a walk every day, and first, circuit our garden to see what's coming and going. Sometimes I see a bunny! And that is fabulous. (Even though the bunny's favorite thing is our hosta.) And of course, you know, the ducks.

Hank's flowers!
Hanks' bunnies!
HALLIE EPHRON: Top of the list, my grandchildren. I've got two pips. Nature-wise, the birds that hang out in our yard. We have so many bushes to provide cover where our neighbors have mostly grass. And the other day a painted lady butterfly through and paused on a flower. Lovely.

Hallie's butterfly!
RHYS BOWEN: I love the view from my balcony. On warm nights I sit out there watching the stars, the light of a plane crossing the sky and listening to crickets and frogs. I swim every day and relish in the blue sky. And when I'm in Arizona in winter I'm with Jenn--the sunsets are incredible. My cell-phone is full of zillions of sunset pictures! And little things? My afternoon cup of tea. Walking with friends. Dinner with family. So many things to be grateful for!

Rhys's view!
INGRID THOFT: One of the little things that makes me way too happy?  The sight of “People” magazine in my mailbox on Friday.  I love starting the weekend off with a shot of pop culture and human-interest stories, and I especially like reading it in the bathtub.  Warm chocolate chip cookies are always pleasing and seeing the gorgeous displays of fresh flowers, seafood, produce, and handmade wares at Pike Place Market never fails to give me a boost.  I love to watch the amazing variations of color and light that occur on Puget Sound on an hourly basis.  Also, the vessels that make their way range from tiny Boston Whalers to mega container ships with just about every size in between.  It’s like looking at a Richard Scarry book in which all of the different moods of maritime transportation are delineated.  Remember Richard Scarry books?  Those books still make me happy!

JENN: I loved Richard Scarry books! SO fun!



Ingrid's Pike Place Market! 
What about you, Readers? What are your simple joys?




44 comments:

  1. I am fortunate to have so many joys to brighten my days. Family, husband, children, grandchildren, sisters, brother . . . friends . . . ringing church bells . . . starshine . . . rainbows . . . gentle breezes . . . blue skies . . . sunny days . . . daffodils . . . lilacs . . . coffee . . . a good book . . . .

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  2. And, of course, reading this blog each day.

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    1. awwww... that is so sweet! To your list I'd add rainy days, chocolate, cherries, and discovering that I haven't lost my wallet after all.

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    2. Bonus points for that, Joan, and I agree. I feel a lovely sense of community here that I have come to appreciate so much.

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  3. I can at least get in on the comments, even if I didn't make the post! I am in the wilds of the Cotswolds and haven't had any time with my computer the last few days. I desperately wanted to comment on yesterday's brainstorming-with-buddies post, but my phone wouldn't let me. (Gigi Norwood, Diane Hale, Kate Charles, and Marcia Talley, I'm sure I would never come up with a plot without you.) And, Jenn, I'm dying to know how your session went!

    As for small things, there are so many. I am a "small things" person--I have been ever since I was a child. I always wanted to hold on to those small moments. I think it's one of the reasons I write. One of my big things at home is our hummingbirds. I watch them everyday and am always blown away by the wonder of them. I love watching the songbirds at our deck feeder. That first moment of sitting down at my desk in the morning with a hot cup of tea or a latte. I love it when I hear my granddaughter laughing on the other side of our fence. I love holding her in my lap and reading to her. Sunsets. Roses. Summer produce. Our farmer's market. Getting into to bed with a book at night--especially when there are fresh sheets. Ah.... A glass of wine with friends. I love when I get a plot idea or a bit of a scene and I can't wait to write it down. I love drawing my dogs.

    I'll take up a whole page if I don't stop. Thanks, Jenn, for the lovely post.

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    1. Inhaling granddaughters. Seconding one of life's GREAT pleasures.

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    2. Debs - Hub just put up a hummingbird feeder and we are besotted with those flirty little birds!

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    3. We had flocks of them in California. Now we delight when we see just one.

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  4. Ingrid, I loved the big Richard Scarry compilation book that I had as a kid and gave my nephew some mini books for his 1st Xmas.

    I'm not sure what I would consider my simple joys these days. I'm not much for the outdoors so that rules out bird songs and the like.

    Could it be a new album from a band I love? Meeting an author I love? The simple perfection of a well made bacon cheeseburger? An unplanned but much needed afternoon nap?

    I don't know if these things qualify or not.

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    1. Yes! You had me at a well made bacon cheeseburger, Jay, and the nap was the topper! Definite joys!

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  5. A good book. Fresh sheets. An early night with a good book *and* fresh sheets! A well-planned class that goes according to that plan. The early-morning quiet in my newly renovated living room. The sun - rising, shining or setting. Fresh flowers. ...small things noticed every day add up to a good life in my world.

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    1. You and Debs both had me at fresh sheets!

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  6. The first good cup of tea in the morning. Being able to sleep until 7am (no alarm!). The first cool, crisp bite of fall. The blush of turning leaves on the mountains. A clear, blue sky. Beautiful sunsets. The fact that my girl (who worries me at times) looked at me last night and said, "Mom, I spent a lot of time listening to the other girls complain about their mothers on retreat and I thought, 'No, my mom's pretty cool. I like her and I trust her.'" A big hug from my boy. Snuggling next to the hubby. When someone admires something I wrote.

    And yes, fresh sheets!

    Mary/Liz

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    1. Isn't that the best joy of all, Mary? To know that you did that good a job at relating to your child that she trusts you? That is big.

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    2. Mary, yes! One of the hooligans hit me with a surprise compliment the other day - always an unexpected rush of joy.

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    3. Considering that I'm often convinced she can't wait to get out of the house (she's 17), it's HUGE. =)

      I recently changed my hair color to a more auburn shade and it was my 15-year-old boy who said, "I really like that hair color, Mom. It makes you look younger." I didn't think he'd notice.

      I will add a roaring fire to my list (it might get cold enough tonight to light the first one of the season).

      Mary/Liz

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    4. Totally with you on the fire, Mary. One of my favorite parts of cold weather. Well, other than snuggly sweaters and socks, it's honestly my only favorite part.

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  7. I'll see your Richard Scarry and rise a Shel Silverstein! Such pleasure snuggling next to a child and giggling at the words and pictures.

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    1. One of my all time faves, Hallie! When I was a children's librarian, we would do impromptu performances in the children's area of his work during poetry week. My go to was always Boa Constrictor.

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    2. There are so many wonderful books to snuggle up and read with a child. Richard Scarry and Shel Silverstein are both favorites around here as are Eric Carle and Maurice Sendak . . . .

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  8. It's cool enough to turn off the air conditioning in Cincinnati...but will it last? With the change in seasons, I've switched from homemade blueberry muffins to fresh apple cider from a local orchard.

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    1. Which local orchard, Margaret? Since Rouster's is gone, I've been looking for somewhere local to get cider.

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    2. Cider...joy. It'll be 98 today in AZ. Sigh.

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  9. I love to collect my small joys each day! Finding a new book in the mail from a favorite author! Seeing a cardinal! (I often hear them but seldom see them.) Notice that a long requested book is in for me to pick up at the library. The first bite of a perfect Cortland apple! Not going to mention my grandchildren because they are HUGE joys to me!

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    1. New books bring me ridonkulous amounts of happy - shocker, I know!

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  10. Oh, man, I miss seeing the stars! When I lived out in the country it was really dark at night and I could see whole galaxies of stars, but now that I live in the city, there's too much light clutter for me to stand at the end of my driveway and look up in wonder.

    I love it when I come home, and stay out in the back yard as my dogs run off the day's pent up energy. Sooner or later my beautiful girl will join me on the tailgate of the truck. She'll lean into me, and I'll lean into her. It's a kind of full-body wrap around hug that settles my soul. I love puttering in my garden, deadheading roses and planning new things to plant. (Hallie, is that lantana your butterfly settled on?) And, weirdly enough for a woman with a long commute, I love driving. Not the daily grind stuff so much, but getting out and away on a new adventure. I'm looking forward to an upcoming trip to a part of the country I've never visited before. I anticipate gorgeous fall color, crisp locally-grown apples, and lots of road time to leave all the anxieties of the job behind. Heaven!

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    1. Gigi - that was lovely. And did you say "road trip"? Adventure always bring me joy!!!

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    2. Road trip to pick up a new leaded glass sidelight I commissioned artist friends to make for me! The only downer is that I'll have to rent a minivan to haul it home. Gotta leave the Mustang behind for this trip.

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  11. Jenn, it occurs to me that your mother was teaching you to be a writer, someone who closely observes her environment, to appreciate it, but also to mark minute differences and changes in your daily life. It no doubt colors your work more vividly.

    I always tried to do the same with my own children, pointing out tiny and big things that they otherwise might miss. One of my daughters, the one who is the most analytical, did this on her own, too. As a small child in the carseat she was the only one of the three who never fell asleep as soon as the car started moving. Instead, she would watch out the window and I could see her noticing things, even at a year old. I knew even then that she was bright, just from seeing how she interacted with the bigger world.

    One of my favorite things to do is to look up, whether in a city or the country, or just up at the trees in our yard. There are so many amazing architectural details above eyeline, and birds flying over, and stars wheeling around the sky. So much beauty, which we need more now than ever.

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    1. Karen, you are right. My mom is one of the smartest, most observant people I know. Also, her BS detector is unparalleled. She would love your observation about looking up - so very true!

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  12. Thinking my small pleasures are actually pretty big:
    Hearing Julie sing
    That morning cup of coffee while reading Jungle Red
    Starting a new book
    Upstate NY, with four seasons
    Having neighbors who got Eliot out of a tree after she escaped last night.
    Toby, Penny Lane and Eliot and their unconditional love
    My grandchildren
    That fabulous couch we found at a chichi consignment shop that is curved to fit our bay window EXACTLY!
    Having the privilege of being present at uncounted births and deaths during my career.


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  13. Thank you all for sharing these lovely reminders. And photos!

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  14. When one of the boys comes to me and says, 'You want to hear a piece I've learned/a song I'm writing?" Oh yes! When I come across the classical pianist and the post-punk rocker on piano and guitar, jamming on some rockabilly/Texas two-step/Beatles' tune--walking through the ravine and seeing two deer paused on the road below me, the whispering of wind through the tops of the pines--like trickles of sunlight turned to sound as I rake the grass. And looking back, even though I lived in a house full of kids--brothers and sisters and cousins galore--I was often a child alone--I sought out quiet spaces, quiet moments--to watch wind sweeping through fields of wheat, the sounds of a summer night and the mysterious signaling of fireflies--to feel sun and a warm breeze across my skin. And, always, books.

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  15. Lately I've been celebrating capabilities that I'm regaining after getting a new knee. The best one recently is tying my shoes. But also...
    Reading with the grandkids (the older one read to me on their last visit)
    A little quiet time after dinner with my sweetie
    Going for a walk together
    Mint chip ice cream
    A new book with a nice inscription
    Being in the woods
    Losing a pound
    Remembering a song that I'd forgotten I liked
    Meeting someone whose books I enjoyed



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  16. The simplest joys are the joyfullest joys -- grandkids, definitely -- the moon -- preparing a nice meal, especially for my family -- Sunday services -- how the light falls in each room . . . endless.

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  17. I'm reading these great comments while enjoying a delicious peach from the Market! Jenn, my mom has always pointed out the sunset to us, and to this day, my sisters and I text her pictures when there's a nice sunset in our location!

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  18. What a thought provoking post.....thank you. As a person with a chronic illness and subsequent limited energy, the small things are what matter most......they are actually the big things now. Grandchildren for sure, opening a new book and the anticipation that bubbles up, bird chatter in our yard, a cup of tea made especially for me by my sweet husband, daily writing in my journal capturing ordinary moments, houseplants that keep me responsible for their care and feeding and brighten our home, overflowing book shelves that I love looking at, Amazon Prime....believe it or not (!!)....which gives me the opportunity to still "shop" for my loved ones....picking out personal gifts that have meaning....and of course being able to keep adding new books to those shelves, my library card that enables me to place a hold online for books.....our Librarian knows my husband by name as he picks up books and does all the returns! My joy cup is full as it turns out......thank you for the reminder. A P.S. My best friend made it possible for me to get to see Louise Penny not long ago at Book Passage and the icing on the cake was accidentally meeting Rhys Bowen before the event started! I overheard a woman with her back to me asking a question and I chimed in with a response....and when she turned around.....well let's just say I turned into a gushing fan.....babbling to my friend, who Rhys was, how I read Jungle Red every day and loved her books. She was there to introduce her friend Louise and was so gracious in the face of dealing with a babbling deranged fan....thanks Rhys!

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  19. Helen, your post just made my day. So many things to be happy about and a reminder to count one's blessings!

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  20. That first sip of wine, the calm sound the ocean makes when the waves swish over the sand and tickle your toes, a spotted eagle ray jumping from the surf. The first peek of light over the horizon at dawn. The warm touch of fur against your thigh when my cat cuddles up on a cold night. So many things.

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  21. In these days when so many are homeless due to natural disaster or war, I'm grateful for a roof over my head and clean running water.

    I'm grateful for the public libraries where I spend quality time on Saturdays.

    I'm grateful to the person who sent me four gigantic bars of dark chocolate to help me "medicate"
    myself while recuperating from minor surgery, while she herself is being treated for cancer.

    I love to look at clouds, and watch them change shape.
    DebRo

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  22. Just enjoyed my day, had so many apples and made applesauce. Peeling and quartering them and thinking of how I used to watch my mother and grandmother do the same thing. It made me happy.

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  23. Waking to the murmur of my kids playing downstairs on weekends. I used to love this most when I was growing up, being the last up on Christmas morning, hearing the chatter over mystery boxes and quiche and oj. It makes me feel warm and safe and not alone. Like I'm somewhere I belong.

    And sitting on the porch in the first crisp mornings of Fall, sipping a coffee, just soaking it in, like I am right now. I need this moment. :)

    Megan, NJ

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  24. So glad I stopped by today. This is a few days late, though. Looking at beautiful photos posted by JRW is one of my joys. So many things bring joy for me. Kindness. Happy babies. Beautiful flowers. Sunsets WITHOUT any air pollution. hahahaha. Waling up in the morning and smelling fresh air. Gentle music. Walking with friends. Dinner with my family. Reading my favorite books. Being able to see a movie in the cinema with RWC so I can read the dialogue. Meeting authors. A good cup of coffee. When I can go through a day without an headache, it is wonderful.

    Diana

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