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Posts tagged ‘Happiness’

Happiness is My Choice, 14

With all the noise and clatter of today’s world, the incessant advertisements and social pressures, the still small voice of the authentic self—our souls—can be easily drowned out. We are sensual beings, experiencing the world through our skins.

Red Maple. © JustHavingFun

Listening to birdsong can lift my heart if I allow myself to pause, and recognize the miracle that it is. Birdsong is a gift. How can it be? A creature the size of my fist has the power to fill the air with song! Birds have a syrinx, a special organ to produce that multi-note trilling. We don’t have them. Do we lack?

What about the cricket song symphony of a summer’s afternoon? How is it that stridulations of an insect’s limb or wing, multiplied by a thousand, can blanket the air with sound? If I stop what I’m doing, I realize they are singing. It’s only in my silence that I hear their songs.

What message do the lightning bugs encode in their evening travels? I’ve watched them shape the dark with Morse code-like flashes. Their travels define a unit of space, their paths as distinct as a fingerprint; their flashes stutter a secret pattern as they fly through the night. To think as a child I trapped them in jars, quieting their dialogues forever.

And flowers, oh the abundance of flowers! Colors, textures, scents, foliage. From early spring to the beginning of winter, these bursts of color elicit deep sensations.

Hydrangeas

Hydrangeas. © JustHavingFun

When I desist from my busyness and resist the lure of my phone, screen, kitchen, and bed, I turn to the sky. The moon in her brilliance, the clouds in their majesty, the rustling of the wind in the trees gain my attention. My soul gets nourished by nature’s caress. My authentic self can breathe a bit deeper and savor the sensations.

Happiness doesn’t come from things. Rather, it’s events, experiences we share—or not. I relish simple pleasures like breathing deeply in fresh air, feeling heat prickles when I enter my car in summer,  the sound and feeling of snow crunching underfoot, the breeze ruffling the fine hair on my arms—things I notice when I’m not distracted.

I recall the scent of peonies and the fuzz on that juicy peach tickling my nose. The sounds of trains rattling down nearby tracks stitch through the night’s darkness. And the succulent sourness of a fresh-cut lemon puckers my lips. These pleasures have been described in ancient literature and we can still relate to them. They rely on nothing save our senses taking in the beauty of the world. They  speak to my soul, refreshing it, and bringing it back safe to this body for another day.

Simple pleasures? Yes.

Universal? Yes, oh yes!

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Happiness is My Choice, 13

Waves Lapping on the Shore, ©Batya7, JustHavingFun

Writing this piece, on the eve of Passover, is the last thing most Jews would think is important. As Jewish holidays commence after sundown, the daylight hours before the Passover seder are easily the busiest for many Jews. The house has been searched top to bottom for chametz (i.e., leavened products). Ordinary year-round utensils are stored away and new ones designated for Passover use have been brought out. The whole house is topsy turvy. A yearly chaos, hated yet beloved.

Many preparations need to be performed during the day before the seder: calling friends and family to wish them a happy holiday, making sure the children have matching socks, last minute purchases because yet another guest is coming. And the cooking!

I used to spend the entire day before the seder cooking and preparing. I felt like an artist, carefully selecting my ingredients like colors, figuring quantities like determining to use a fine paintbrush or a trowel. My palate consisted of chicken and vegetables for the golden soup, and tan matzah balls to accompany it. Romaine lettuce provided the green. Red was the beef tongue I prepared, a delicacy saved for twice a year. Wine and grape juice provided rich burgundy and purple colors.

All of the busy-ness gave me so much pleasure. Then sunset would fall and I’d light my holiday candles, singing the ancient blessing. The men would come home from synagogue about an hour later, and we’d start the seder. The children would participate, the youngest saying the mah nishtanah. We’d all groan about the amount of food to eat at midnight and the late hour the seder would finish at. Somebody would retire to the sofa and fall asleep, inevitably. Strangely, I’d look forward to the washing up ritual, making sure the kitchen was in order for the next day’s festive noon meal, although ordinarily I dislike cleanup. I was very much “in the present” at those times in the past, not blindly participating in the ritual, but appreciating the ability to do what I was doing.

Wavelets, © Batya7, JustHavingFun

I’m not preparing a seder this year. I will be a guest. I will not have the same pleasures as previous years; I expect I will have new pleasures. I can enjoy another’s family customs and make new memories. I can be in the moment yet feel the echoes of years past lap against my mind like wavelets upon the shore.

I could choose to dwell on what I don’t have—but rather, I choose to enjoy what the present provides. If I live in the negative shoals I will only bring sorrow and misery to my life. I choose happiness, being present in the current day. I choose to open my eyes to the beauty that is every day and grab at the chances for being open to miracles. For isn’t each day a new miracle?

Redemption is near. Until then, I choose happiness.

Happiness is My Choice, 12

Expanded, ballooned, swelled—that’s how my heart behaved when I heard the announcement. Increased, surged, rose—that’s how my joy reacted upon learning the news.

One of my oldest friend’s oldest daughter just got married! I held this child when she was four hours old and now she and her beloved stood under the chuppah/marriage canopy as her parents did before her. I danced and hugged. My heart was full.

Other friends just became grandparents! The first grandchild, a girl, was born to their firstborn whose wedding I was privileged to attend last year. I delighted in the family’s joy at the wedding and blessed the new couple for a long, happy married life. Their well-being became my heart’s desire, their future as precious as that of my own children. Now the joy continues.

So why am I so happy some might wonder. Others might be jealous, blasé, or worse, bitter. I am grateful to have a heart that sings when others encounter happy tidings. Why not be happy for my friends? Their fortune, their gains, the fruition of their dreams does not detract from anything that is due to me. I am not losing anything or threatened.

Quite the contrary. The Creator wants us to be happy so He gives us opportunities to be happy. We need to recognize these opportunities and grab them with gusto! When we are happy with our own lot, the world looks brighter and everyone else’s good fortune rains upon us as well.

Ben Zoma says:
Who is rich?
The one who is appreciates what he has…
(Talmud—Avot 4:1)

Don’t I deserve happiness? Of course I do! That is the way Man is meant to live. Hashem gives me all I need; my needs will always be met. I know that everything coming to me will be provided… but sometimes it doesn’t feel that way. My wants are not always in concordance with my needs. I need shelter, clothing, nourishment, health. I have all that. Maybe I also want that vacation trip, a newer car,  relief from bills, and the ability to eat anything I want when I want without consequences. (The former three are within the realm of the possible and the latter is a pipe dream for sure!)

So how do I stand it—no, bask in it—when others around me “get” something and I don’t? Reframe the situation.

Others receive no gifts that are being withheld from me. Others get what they deserve. For whatever reason, I am not destined at this moment to receive that same gift. That doesn’t mean I will never have the new car or the means to go on vacation. I understand that if I do what I need to do in this world to be a kind, moral, and righteous person, I will be showered from Above with all that is coming to me.

Sharing joy in the blessings my friends experience enlivens me and wraps me in the surety that there is a Presence for Good in the universe. It binds me to my people. It creates good will. Sharing someone else’s happiness grows and grows. When we can view the world with eyes focused on the bounty available to us, we can only increase our own happiness and satisfaction with our lives.

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Happiness Is My Choice, 11

Windowsill

Looking up and outside all I see is possibilities.

Sitting on the sofa, glancing outside: the window blinds are open, sunlight illuminates the plants on the windowsill, the sky is blue, and  a mug of coffee steaming on a coaster — life is good.

I woke up. Yikes, those birds are loud!  Look! It’s a whole hour earlier than I’d planned to wake up. Better turn off the alarm clock so it doesn’t startle me later. Don’t want the toes to be cold; slide feet into the fuzzy slippers. My knees creak as I walk across the room. The mirror catches my eye. My hair looks like the rooster’s pride!

I woke up.

I woke up.

The furnace clicks on and the blower purrs warm air. An unseasonable freeze grabbed the region last night. I’m warm and decently clad. Heat some water for the coffee. Breakfast choices? I’ll settle for oatmeal, my old favorite.

Thank you G-d for starting my day with comfort and optimism. Did I ever thank you for the color green? Thanks. And thank you for hair I can simply tame with the pass of a hairbrush.

Hidden Gems

Man-made crystal specimen

This specimen is man-made but oh, what glory! © JustHavingFun

Why would crystals like these exist deep inside the earth? Hidden, secret, rare… perfect. I can appreciate them on so many levels. Their beauty is undisputed; they delight the eye. Their chemistry is exquisite; they reveal the order of the universe.

Red stones in the corundum family are rubies, and anything else is a sapphire. While pure corundum can be colorless, sapphires might be blue, green, yellow, orange, pink, purple or even show a six-rayed star. Only a tiny atomic change, the inclusion of the element chromium, makes a deep blue sapphire become a red ruby.

Carbon lacks the sparkle of diamonds. Coal. Graphite. Soot. Yet tons of pressure and kilocalories of heat create diamonds, harder than any other natural rock or mineral. Quartz crystals emerge as gems (amethyst and topaz) or captivate us as clear crystal spears. People carve and polish it into a crystal orb and divine the past and future in its depths.

The hardest carbon is diamond. Science explains its allure: the high refractive index allows light to bounce around within the cut and polished stone and sparkle in myriad colors as no other gemstone.  De Beers coined the phrase “A Diamond Is Forever” in 1947. They created a lust for diamond engagement rings like never before in history.

But isn’t a diamond just a rock?

Minerals

Minerals” by Eric Hunt, used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Why are some crystals needle-like and others cubic? Why are some embedded in volcanic rock and others, geodes, inside hollow nodules? Why are opals iridescent yet moonstones glow? Knowing the chemistry explains some details but it doesn’t explain my captivation. Wonders beyond wonders.

These gifts from on High can remind us of the Order in the universe. Things don’t happen randomly. These wonders were emplaced for us to find, study, and rejoice in.

The lessons I glean from my fascination with gems, crystals, and mineral specimens parallel my determination to live a life of happiness:

* Looking within hidden places for treasure just might reveal some.
* Adopting minute changes can make grand differences.
* Embrace everlasting truths for what we value can be capricious and trendy (they are just rocks, after all).
* Enjoy the beauty and sparkle while you can.

Happiness Is My Choice, 9

What difference does it make

What difference does it make? – Peanuts © Charles Schulz

I could have put my pedal to the metal and sped up when being asked to slow down. I could have seated the guests on the right, facing a painting, instead of the left, across from the bookcase. I could have sliced the dessert lengthwise instead of widthwise. I could have worn my hair styled in a fancy manner instead of wrapped in the bohemian scarf. I could have done many things just for spite, control, or defiance.

For some reason, all of these mild requests irked me and had me thinking to do the opposite of whatever the request was. My back arched and my fur bristled. “Who do you think you are?” my inner control freak screeched.

A well-meaning person made a request of me and I bristled internally with hubris: “I’ll darned well do it my way!”, “Harumph! Who are you to tell me what to do?”, “No, I’m not going to kowtow to you”, and “Who asked you?” I could have worked myself into a fine tizzy, gotten angry, spit out unkind words. What was happening? What set me off like that?

Do I have ODD: Oppositional Defiant Disorder? No. It’s more simple than that: I felt irritated.

Irritation, a feeling of not being in control, led to arrogance. My way or the highway. Conceit, pride, haughtiness, and egotism all raised their crusty, creaky voices to get a piece of the action. Hauteur, contemptuousness, smugness, disrespect, and self-importance yammered for attention. My self became more important than you, her, him, them, and those others. My yetzer hara, the “evil inclination,” the nether self, that lying, poisonous snake coiled in the pit of my gut, took over my brain and implanted insanity.

Oh dear reader, don’t think I’m a saint because I identified the snake. He still lashed and slashed. I recognized the beast, then let him feast anyway. I fumed; he gnashed and snarled, gurgled and fussed. I stewed in smug self-righteousness… until it tired me out. I don’t want to be that person. Happiness is my choice. Lest I let the beast and chaos rule, lest I get into an accident or hurt someone’s feelings, I needed to oust it. I needed to choose what to do, how to respond.

But the first step was recognizing what was going on.

I’m not normally offended or offensive. I’m typically calm and not snide. I want my life to be pleasant and placid. I choose to surround myself with good: good intentions, good wishes, good feelings. I want to have the pure joy you get from recognizing someone else’s good fortune, taking pleasure in the beauty and good surrounding us. I want to dance at weddings, reveling in the gladness. I want to spread smiles and good cheer. I have the discipline to put myself in a place to harvest joy.

What difference does it make?
—Charlie Brown

I consciously remember good events and minimize the not so nice. I find ways to allow others their faults and let them have a “pass” when they’re not filling my expectations. I’m easy, pretty unflappable. The world will keep turning if I am not in control. Let it be. Irritation pushed me down a short slide into the maws of unhappiness. It erected a barrier between me and my serenity.

I can’t allow anything to exist between me and serenity. If I do, I get detoured from my daily connection with the One, the Source of All Good. I can put that snake down by refusing to succumb to its venom. All joy beckons me because I recognize the illness causing my discomfort: a false sense of reality. I’m not so important that my will matters above all. Does it really matter whether they sit here or there? Charlie Brown had it right: What difference does it make?

Next time the evil inclination bites me, I’ll know what to do: I’ll drive slower, let the guests choose their own seats, slice the dessert as each wants, and wear my hair as I please.

Ode to My Blender

My Osterizer circa 1990s

My blender will likely burn out this summer.

I remember the Osterizer® blender of my childhood, circa 1955, a stainless steel beehive-shaped affair with a single toggle switch. It was the “modern” way to prepare meals (see illustration below) when I was a kid. The Oster® Beehive Blender lived on our kitchen counter top and blended many Carnation Instant Breakfast™ servings (with added raw egg), poured many pancakes, and caused confusion while washing the sharp doohickey on the bottom. The iconic glass jar finally shattered and the base burnt out, I suppose. I haven’t seen it for years, that is, if Mom still has it, which is possible.

My Blender's Buttons

My Blender’s Buttons

Mine is a standard, plastic-jarred Oster® blender that I bought more than 15 years ago–maybe even longer–from some discount department store. It has 8 buttons, a “low-high” slider, and boasts 12 speeds plus “Pulse”: Easy Clean, Grate, Puree, Blend, Cream, Shred, Chop, Grind, Whip, Liquefy, Mix, and Ice Crush. Have I cheated and shredded on whip? You betcha. I’ve also grated on ice crush. There’s a method to my madness, however.

It’s been a faithful companion all these years.

Companion? Yes, I traveled with it. I remember carting it about with me one summer when on a medically-recommended liquid diet. Specifically, I remember in an Ohio turnpike rest stop asking for ice at the conveniently located Starbucks, then going into the family restroom stall, plugging it into the outlet there, and blending myself a delicious, nutritious liquid meal which I sipped from the container with a long straw. Who knows what people thought when they saw me emerge from the bathroom with a blender full of … stuff…!

I’m addicted to sucking up icy sludge. Sludgees. I don’t know what else to call these blender treats. They’re not smoothies; smoothies are healthy full of kale or yogurt or berries. They’re not Slushees or Slurpees, which are trademarked products dispensed at convenience stores; nor are they any alcoholic mixed drink. They’re C-O-L-D; that’s all that matters. And they go down quickly. Sludgee.

The primary component is ground up ice. Without the ice, the beverage is not fun. Next is some milk product. I use powdered milk (and water) whenever possible for the convenience. (I also don’t like the sound of people crying in the kitchen in the morning over dry corn flakes when the last of the milk has been used up.) I’ve also used ricotta cheese, yogurt and ice cream, although it’s a waste of good ice cream. For volume or consistency, a piece of fruit is good. Frozen bananas work well (peel them and put them in plastic wrap when they start to turn brown on the table), but I also use an apple, skin and all, rarely berries, and most unusually, a half of a cooked yam. Once in a while I’ll add something “healthy,” like ground flax seed or psyllium powder. Cocoa powder and some artificial sweetener, a splash of vanilla extract, and a shake of cinnamon complete the sludge. Blended up, adding one ice cube after another until the motor strains in protest, it resembles… sludge. If you omit the cocoa, it’s just ugly, not sludgy.

My blender is on its last leg. The gasket allows liquid to seep out slowly. Sometimes when I blend I can hear a strain on the motor, a pulling. Sometimes I sniff a little of that electrical odor, the kind you smell before a motor burns out. (Aside: What is that odor, by the way?) I surmise this happens when an ice cube drops in the way of the blades, preventing them from spinning. That’s when I hit the “off” button, poke about with my long straw (never use the straw while it’s still spinning), and then hit the “pulse” button. Vrooom! It whooshes around.

Lately though, the liquid has been separating into two phases (note the scientific word I used): a liquidy phase on the bottom and a slushier phase at the top. What I desire is slushy all the way through.

Oster(R) Beehive Blender

Contemporary Oster(R) Beehive Blender – similar to that of my childhood

I should be wearing earplugs. That would be easier than sticking my fingers in my ears.  Also, I have never tried the blender with ice only although the rightmost button is labeled “ice crush.” That sounds so daring that maybe I’ll do it before the end of summer or the end of the blender, whichever comes first. Live dangerously!

Now you have endured my trivial notes on my on-the-way-out blender. My love of it, and sludgees, has evolved from a desire to stay cool. If I can’t provide 24/7 air conditioning for my body, at least I can freeze it from the inside out. So, having subjected you to this paen to my blender, here is my recipe for a Sludgee:

1 cup milk or (⅓ cup powdered milk plus water to equal 1 cup)
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
2 packets Equal sweetener
Some fruit: 1 banana, 1 apple (cored), OR ½ cooked yam
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon (or 1 shake) ground cinnamon
10-15 ice cubes

Start blending ingredients, then add ice cubes one at a time. Whiz until it is slushy. Stick in a long straw and suck. Experience brain freeze. Rinse and repeat.

Happiness is My Choice, 8

My happiness, serenity, contentment, appreciation, and ability to give depends upon my attitude. Any challenge I am given is a loving nudge from G-d saying, “Hey, you need to work on something to refine your character and here’s a chance to do so.” He only gives us good. How we view situations changes agitation to mere irritation, anger to understanding, stress to an opportunity to practice patience, and adversity to a chance to grow.

What is my attitude toward things that happen in life? Where does it come from?

The people I surround myself with influences my attitude greatly. When I’m with an impatient crowd awaiting a bus that is wildly off schedule and late, I can pick up on that irritability, anger, stress and go along with the crowd, start to feel twitchy myself. Where is the bus? Harrumph, I can huff and puff while looking at my watch every two minutes. Each glimpse at the watch face without the bus appearing hikes my anxiety higher. How dare they? I’m going to be late. Mutter mutter. I’ve even heard people complaining about how much time it takes to pick up wheelchair-bound people, delaying the bus further. Grumble grumble.

I am stronger than my surroundings, however. I can choose to channel the anxiety, fear, disappointment into thoughts that bolster my spirit instead of feeding the snake of ill-humor. I can focus on the good even though the situation discomfits me. To those who grumble about wheelchairs, let them never suffer the helplessness you feel when you are dependent upon others for transportation, the lack of autonomy and diminution of the ability to travel. I remember with great gladness how my ability to walk was restored to me after an injury that rendered me incapable of even bending my leg! What a wonderful thing that people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to travel unassisted can now travel by public transportation!

I choose to wait patiently at the doctor’s office as a gift. Fuming will not make the appointments move any more quickly. Anger and annoyance won’t get me into the exam room any sooner. I sit back glad that I have doctors to watch over me, happy to have health insurance coverage. Or, on a more esoteric note, I’ll contemplate why dogs are hairy and rabbits are furry while I’m waiting. Look at my fingernails. Compose a blog post. Ripple my abdominal muscles. Ponder why Pluto was demoted from planet status. Wonder what the world will look like in 2100. Etc., etc.

Changing ones attitude requires being aware what attitude exists in the first place.

When I surround myself with kind, thoughtful people who act in a genteel manner, I become more like them. I remember to say please and thank you. I give smiles readily. I greet people with a glad face. I act respectful and feel respected. I absorb attitude from those around me. I gravitate to people who exhibit their happiness in spiritual ways. Being around them makes me feel uplifted. I feel hopeful and get sparked that I can better myself.

I ask myself when I do something or react to something: Is that the way the person I want to be would act?

Did you ever imagine yourself to be the Queen?

The person I want to be is kind, soft-spoken, friendly, respectful, pleasant, loving, disciplined, ladylike, calm, and giving. Benevolent, even. By envisioning and trying to live like that person, I take on her characteristics. Therein lies one aspect of my happiness. It’s all in my attitude. I’m not being handed troubles; rather, I’m given challenges from the One Who has my best interest at heart.

I can make happiness my choice.

When Is A Job Not A Job?

Watch Gears

The Gears are at the Heart of the Work

Question: When is a job not a “job”?

Answer: When the job is doing something you love.

I recently re-entered the work force. I found a job that will not be a “job” but a labor of love, working at a social service agency. The co-workers are pleasant, the hours great, clients interesting, and it’s a meaningful job. The organization aids needy people and therefore betters the world. That’s a good foundation for a labor of love. I’m one little tooth on the gears in the mechanism that makes the agency work more effectively. That’s me!

I’m glad to have a place to go every day and contribute something positive. I can change someone’s day just with a happy greeting; I can ease stress with a well-placed assist. What better than to make many peoples’ days become more pleasant?

Satisfaction (i.e., happiness) can be gleaned in the small things. Happiness is doing a good job and recognizing that to be the case, contributing to a group effort, getting a pat on the back, sitting back and pondering the good feelings. For isn’t pleasure gained from the sublime, what we’re here on this earth to collect?

An ice cream cone or a glistening glass of iced tea on a hot day brings great pleasure. So does scratching an itch. As much as I like my physical pleasures, I’m looking for something more holistic. For me, being a tooth on a small cog of the works suffices and pleases, a spiritual kind of pleasure.

55+ Happiness Quotes to Make Your Life Better

Today is another day to think about happiness. Especially #30.

J'adore Journey

IMG_9056

  1. “Science of happiness lies in our understanding. The secrets of happiness lie in our capacity to expand our heart.” – Amit Ray
  2. “Whoever is happy will make others happy.” – Anne Frank
  3. “The moments of happiness we enjoy take us by surprise. It is not that we seize them, but that they seize us.” – Ashley Montagu
  4. “Let us never know what old age is. Let us know the happiness time brings, not count the years.” – Ausonius
  5. “Action may not always bring happiness; but there is no happiness without action.” – Benjamin Disraeli
  6. “If you have not taken the time to define what happiness means to you, what have your spent your whole life pursuing?” – Bo Bennett
  7. “When we recall the past, we usually find that it is the simplest things – not the great occasions – that in retrospect give off the greatest glow of happiness.” –…

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