A Serious Look at Happiness

April 29, 2016

My day job — at least for the moment — takes place in a building in downtown Washington, DC.  And like most commercial buildings it has an elevator, and the elevator has a little flat screen television that flashes business news snippets every fifteen or twenty seconds.  It’s amazing the stuff you can learn from that little TV in the time it takes to ride the elevator to and from the office.

Yesterday, as I was frantically musing about what to write for this Friday blog, something flashed on that TV.  The flashes are so quick you don’t always get all of the message, but in this case the words “happiness” and “Harvard” registered.  Happiness, is a key word in my life right at the moment.  I’m a happy person, but I could be happier.  So I’ve been on a pursuit of happiness recently.

So, when I arrived at my floor, I rushed to my office, turned on the computer, and opened my internet browser and searched the words “Harvard and happiness.”  Here, for you this Friday, are the interesting results:

Harvard Study Reveals the Secret of Happiness.  Apparently some Harvard researchers have been following the graduating class of 1980 and asking them about happiness throughout their lives.  The most recent results indicate that to be happy you should:

  1. Choose happiness in whatever you do.
  2. Strengthen your closest relationships.
  3. Take care of yourself physically, financially and emotionally.

So, basically, this reinforces my thought that happiness is something you actively pursue.  It ain’t just gonna come knocking at your door.  You have to work for it.  Which, segues into the second link I found in my Google search:

Harvard has a new Center for Health and Happiness.  It’s part of the University’s Public Health School, and they are studying happiness as a factor in preventing diseases. Apparently, living a purposeful life is really, really important to longevity and health.

So, once again, happiness is something you do, not something you just fall into.


April 22, 2016

photo2I have a wisteria vine in my back yard.  I didn’t buy it from a store, I snitched a root of the stuff from a vine growing by the side of the road, like a weed.  Wisteria requires constant attention, it sends out runners and it will climb over anything in its way.  It only blooms for a week every year.  And I suppose the maintenance to pleasure ratio of keeping a wisteria vine is probably high.  Meaning more maintenance than pleasure.

But I wouldn’t give up my wisteria.  In fact, no plant in my garden gives me more happiness.  When it blooms, as it is right now, it perfumes the air with the scent of tutti-fruitti bubblegum.  The bumblebees come to it for its nectar and the sound of their droning wings is surprisingly pleasant.  In fact dining under the wisteria when it’s in bloom is about as good as it gets in my back yard garden.

photo1So I mark the years by the blooming wisteria.  But even when it’s not in bloom, the vine makes me happy.  Many years ago, the Georgia Good Ole boy built me a deck and a pergola for the climbing vine.  Now, in the deep summer the wisteria gives me a living canopy of shade.  And when the winter comes the snow on the twisted vine is starkly beautiful.

I have to prune the wisteria almost on a weekly basis in the summer.  It sprouts up everywhere, puts out runners, and grows up over the eaves and the roof.  Every few years I have to thin it, or its weight would pull down the pergola.  As it is the pergola is starting to sag under its weight, but somehow the slightly off-square structure makes my back yard deck feel like some ancient Italian spot, with a vine as old as time.

My kids think I’m slightly nutty because of the emotions and the memories this one plant raises in me.  So many wonderful meals under its blooming branches or deep shade.  So many years of pictures of the kids in front of it.  So many winters with the snow lying on its gnarled limbs.  The photos above were all taken this year.  The video below is of Richard Shindell, a singer songwriter, performing his song, Wisteria — in which he uses the vine as a metaphor for a happy life that he lived in a house with a vine that climbed along the eaves.


Turkish Anyone?

April 18, 2016

My publisher recently sent me a bunch of Turkish language versions of several of my Last Chance Books.  Unfortunately I don’t know anyone who reads Turkish, but I would love to find these books a home.  So if you know someone who would like to have a Turkish language romance, please get in touch with me using my contact form.  I’m happy to mail these books to any place in the United States if they will find Turkish readers.