The 28 Happiest Parts of February

Cheryl Publicity Photo
Today marks another 28 day period of happiness.

I have to say that adding to my “Happiness Jar” has become one of my favorite activities of each day. It requires thinking. It requires remembering. It requires sitting with your thoughts and plunking down the ones that really matter. Some days it requires stretching.

It isn’t as easy as it sounds either. Sometimes I have to choose between something amazingly different like holding my 8-week old granddaughter and eating a chocolate almond ice cream cone. They both make me happy. They actually both delight me. But I made a rule when I started the year long Happiness Jar that I would select the ONE thing that made me happiest each day.

Sometimes you want to censor yourself. Sometimes the things that make you (and me) the happiest seem so simple (or so odd) that they shouldn’t even make the list. But they do.

28 Days of Happiness for February 2013:

Day 1: Giving blood on my late Dads birthday (in his honor)
Day 2: The saleslady at Ulta Cosmetics telling me I knew how to ‘work it’. She was a former runway model for 13 years.
Day 3: Holding Bubby (Max) in my arms for 2 hours while he took a nap in the rocker
Day 4: Three mile walk in the park with Dennis
Day 5: Movie (Silver Linings Playbook) and pizza at Next Door pub with Dennis
Day 6: Watching Travis and Kaylin hold hands in church
Day 7: Sledding with Max and Dennis (and dancing with Max in the bedroom when we got home)
Day 8: Laying on the couch with Livi sleeping on my chest for 2 hours
Day 9: Cleaning the house so it looks beautiful
Day 10: Dinner at Bob Evans with Dennis and Trav
Day 11: Candice cutting my hair and styling it
Day 12: Finding hope with Dr. Shawn Wilson
Day 13: Seeing Legally Blonde with the Harpers
Day 14: Dennis leaving the words “I Love You” in Q-Tips on the counter for Valentines Day
Day 15: Watching Dennis read “The Cat in the Hat” book to Max with “The Cat in the Hat” stuffed animal in Max’s arms
Day 16: Max bringing me a “Love You More” sign
Day 17: Having lunch at McAllister’s with Kim, Rudee, Candice, and Margie and seeing Menopause the Musical at Crown Center
Day 18: Driving through the blizzard with Dennis in our Excursion (4 wheel drive) to get a pizza
Day 19: Shopping at Target
Day 20: Hearing Travis’ dirt bike was recovered by the Sherriff
Day 21: Snow day with Dennis…making lunch in our clean kitchen together
Day 22: Frying bacon
Day 23: Reading “Happier at Home” by Gretchen Rubin in front of the fireplace
Day 24: An entire Friday off with Dennis…Eating at Wells Restaurant in Waldo, painting the kitchen cabinets, Waffle House, a fire in the fireplace, buying an old chest at the Restore
Day 25: Afternoon nap with Dennis
Day 26: Road trip with Dennis and Travis to pick up Travis’ stolen dirt bike
Day 27: Yelling ‘Hey Good Lookin’ at Mary Shockley and watching her reaction as we went in to eat at Applebee’s
Day 28: Listening to Italian music at Ciao Bella before friends arrived for lunch

As I unfold the tiny slips of paper to record these ‘happy moments,’ I once again experience a bit of glee. There are things I would never in a million years remember if I hadn’t written them down. Things like frying bacon. Who knew that would actually make me happy?

I’m also amazed at how many days include my dear husband Dennis. We’ve been married for 31 years and he is my rock, my Prince Charming and my best friend. And when I look at February’s list, I’m reminded at how much our relationship brings me joy on a daily basis. Simple things like eating dinner together. These fill me up. Repeatedly.

The happiness jar is emptied and ready for March.

How To Have 365 Days of Happiness…Guaranteed

TAC-BH-3300_be_happyI’m one of those genuinely happy people but I also struggle with anxiety and ADHD in massive amounts. My life is not perfect. My obsessive thoughts and dark demons accompany me on most days, even when I try to silence them. A few years ago I developed a system called The Happiness Factor for tracking my daily ‘happy’ status. (I’m not going to go into that one here but just so you know my Happiness Factor is 88%.)

Anyway, I can usually dig deep into each days’ happenings and find something good. But, I’ve never tracked my happiness in concrete ways like I’m doing this year.

I don’t believe in making resolutions. But on the first day of the new 2013 year, I made one. It wasn’t one of the ones that I’m going to break after 3 days. This year I made a resolution to have 365 days of happiness

I got an empty big ole’ blue mason jar (aka My Happiness Jar) and some colored post its. I like color so for January I used yellow and white striped post-its. It sits on my nightstand so I don’t forget.

Every night, I capture the one thing that day that made my happy. Some days I’ve logged as many as 11, so I really have to sift down and find the one thing that made my soul sing for that day. Some days, finding even one has been a challenge. Makes you scratch your head at the end of those kind of days.

Anyway…here is Month 1’s happiest moments (January):

Day 1: Hearing Raul Minon sing “Listen to the Rain” on KCPT
Day 2: Buying “hot pink” running shoes
Day 3: Listening to Travis play his guitar in the living room
Day 4: Buying a corn dog, cheese popcorn, Heath bar and Diet Coke at Gibson’s General Store
Day 5: Seeing “Zero Dark Thirty” with Dennis, Rudee and Roy
Day 6: Addressing the Save the Date cards for Travis’ US Army commissioning ceremony
Day 7: Making chocolate chip cookies with Kelsey & Max in Candice’s kitchen
Day 8: Hot steamy shower under the skylight with rain hitting it
Day 9: Holding my Livi all Sunday afternoon
Day 10: Cleaning the Mercedes inside and out
Day 11: Sitting over lunch with Mary at her new bungalow in her pretty flowered sweater discussing life
Day 12: Buying the “Nest” pillow for Gavins new wife’s wedding shower
Day 13: Browsing around TJ Maxx looking for presents for Valentines Day
Day 14: Sitting in church with Den, Candice, Kelsey, Travis, Max, Kaylin and Kiley and singing “I Belong to the King” while I cradled Olivia in my arms
Day 15: Drinking “Comfort & Joy” hot tea at Cockrell Mercantile
Day 16: Working out with Dennis and doing our secret handshake
Day 17: Making biscuits and gravy with Max
Day 18: Weightlifting with Dennis and Kelsey
Day 19: Shopping for scarves with Helen and Max and making magic wishes in the waterfall pond
Day 20: Making my bucket list and sharing it with our old friends Mike & Mary
Day 21: Eating lunch with Kelsey at MiMi’s café (a chicken, walnut and strawberry salad) before I took her back to the airport to go back to Texas. She had a beautiful big mug of hot chocolate
Day 22: Driving to and from Warrensburg with Janece
Day 23: Reading “The Traveler’s Gift” in front of the fireplace with Dennis
Day 24: Long lovemaking session
Day 25: Reading Mickey Mouse to Max as he snuggles on my lap
Day 26: Holding Olivia for 2 hours
Day 27: Eating cheese corn and a big ole Diet Coke
Day 28: Having hot tea with Fawn Brents at the Whistlestop
Day 29: Making a big ole’ pot of vegetable soup/stew
Day 30: Shopping in the Crossroads district with Candice and Livi
Day 31: Walking in the park (2 miles) and saying hello to the sad-looking old man

These are the moments. 31 of them. There were thousands of other significant moments…happy things that made a difference. But these were the ones that at the end of the day, I knew the word ‘happiest’ was attached to each of them.

None had to do with goal setting. None had to do with conquering a huge struggle. None of them had to be broadcast over Facebook or captured in a photo. Most of them had to do with simply being. In 10 words or less.

They don’t teach you this stuff in school. Tucked between kindergarten coloring and 9th grade geometry, you learn to fit into the system. To be like everybody else. I like to think that the most important thing we can ever teach another is how to truly love life and be happy.

On to February. The journey of discovering what really makes you happy is soul-stirring. It makes you realize that perhaps doing less and being more really is a good life mantra. And it makes you realize that these are the moments that really matter.

(It’s not to late to start your own Happiness Jar. It’s perpetual. All you need is a jar, some colored scraps of paper and a pen. At the end of each day, simply jot down the one thing that made you the happiest that day. One moment. One thing. In 10 words or less. You’re on your way to 365 days of happiness. Guaranteed.)

Book Review: The Traveler’s Gift

David Ponder (the main character) is down on his luck. At 46 he’s broke, unemployed with no purpose for the future other than how to survive. He has a wife and a daughter to support, and his daughter is in need of an operation he can’t afford. A car accident turns him into a traveler where he unexpectedly meets some of the world’s greatest teachers including Anne Frank, Colonel Chamberlain, King Solomon, Gabriel the Archangel, Christopher Columbus, Harry Truman and Abraham Lincoln. This is what he learns.

Seven decisions that impact personal success:
#1: Take responsibility for every single part of your life
#2: Seek wisdom
#3: Be a person of action who makes decisions
#4: Have a committed heart
#5: Choose to be happy
#6: Greet the day with a forgiving spirit
#7: Persist without exception and focus on results

The author Andy Andrews is a gifted storyteller. He speaks of a ‘hedge of thorns’ that protect each of us (which I believe is Christ) until we have fulfilled our life purpose and teaches that “the ultimate outcome of anyone’s life is a matter of personal choice.” You’ll experience how David uses the wisdom of the ages to transform his broken life into a beaming beacon of hope.

Great read for anyone who’s stuck, questioning your purpose in life, want to make a big difference and live outside your comfort zone or simply for someone who knows they’re destined to do more.

Outstanding book with direct actions to take!

-The Traveler’s Gift
Author Andy Andrews

Does Your Life Need a Before and After?



I love before and after makeover shows.

The ones where the house is falling in and needs a new roof…where the family has been living in a shambles with electrical that doesn’t work and plumbing that’s shot. And then, with the Goliath help of a thousand man crew…the house is rebuilt from the foundation up in 7 days and every single room looks like Ty Pennington personally handled every detail…from the faucets to the throw pillows to the appliances to the perfectly positioned tulips on the lawn. And the family gets treated to an all expenses 7-day vacation in paradise, conveniently removed from all the mess and dust and frustration.

Or there’s the style shows. The one where Stacy and Clinton hand a $5,000 Visa card to a deserving woman who is frumpily stuck in the 80’s and in two whirlwind days she shops til she drops and ends up looking like Cinderella at the ball. She gets styled and coiffed and pitches the clothes that’ve been holding her back from the life of her dreams.

You can do it with weight too. Chris Powell, host of Extreme Makeover Weight Loss Edition chooses a morbidly obese person to cajole, coach, cry with, train and coddle over the course of a year…usually resulting in at least a 100 pound weight loss. Then, Wal-Mart hands over a $50,000 gift card as a reward.

Life isn’t like this.

You don’t get a new house in a week.
You don’t makeover your closet or your personal style in two days.
And most of us don’t need to lose 100 pounds and certainly couldn’t do it in a year without Chris’ help.

Life is, well, much harder than they make it look.

We don’t have sponsors or TV production crews. We have to go to work and raise kids and squeeze eating and living in around all of it. It’s impossible to have a single focus like these shows make it seem. All magically wrapped up in a 60-minute vinette.

But what you do have to know is what direction you’re going. What do you want to do with your life? What does it look like now? What do you want it to look like after?

Ty isn’t standing in front of your house yelling ‘move that bus.’

Wal-Mart isn’t handing over any gift cards.

No one is doing your hair and make up. Heck, I even ran out of hair product this morning and no one rushed over a replacement.

Life is messy.

It took me 6 years of dating my husband before we said “I Do” (we’ve been married 31).

It took me 7 years to figure out that the chaos full-time work made for my family with 3 small children wasn’t worth it.

It took me 25 years to finish raising my three awesome kids…all the way fretting over what parts I was screwing up.

It took me almost a decade of writing before I considered myself ‘good enough’ to publish.

Good things usually take time. More than we want to give. More than we think we have.

We believe we’re going backward if we don’t see instant results. Just because you can drive through McDonalds and get dinner in less than 10 minutes doesn’t mean it’s going to be a good dinner.

Good things usually need to simmer.

The before and after shows still have things to teach us. They have a plan we can follow.

You have to know what you’re starting with. (The benchmark)

• You have to know where you want to go. (The journey)

• You have to know what success means to you. (The destination)

• You have to know what resources you might need along the way. (The tools)

• You have to know whose on the team and who isn’t. (The team)
When you know these key things, life seems simpler. You feel more content. You can stop wondering and worrying and overprocessing and obsessing. You can simply get to work. You’re on the path. Your path.

I’m suggesting you complete an Extreme Life Makeover. Your life is worth it. It’s a magical mosaic of a million tiny pieces…all coming together to form your days that in turn form your life.

Try this.

Write down what your life before looks like. Every single detail. All the parts. Your health. Your money. Your friends. Your work. Your relationships. Your spirituality. Your house. And the list goes on.

Then, write (or draw) what you want all the parts to look like. Where do you want to live? How much do you want to make? Who do you want to love? What or who do you need to let go? What kind of car do you drive?

Life makeovers are tough because unlike television, you can’t stop everything else and focus on one area. Life is swirling and it never stops.

Tomorrow marks my one-year fitness anniversary. I’m 51 and this is the first time that I’ve spent any concentrated or long-term effort on my health. This time last year I weighed 207.4 pounds. Today I weigh 181.2. Total weight loss = 26.2 pounds. I did two simple things…I joined Weight Watchers and I walked 2 miles a day, 6 days a week.

I wanted to lose 47 pounds. I barely lost half of that.

Did I fail? No.

I’d give myself a C- at Weight Watchers. I didn’t track. I didn’t eat Power Foods or drink a ton of water. I did attend the 30 minute weekly meeting and I did weigh in.

I’d give myself an A- at walking. I walked 6 days a week regardless of everything else that was going on. Sometimes I got up early. Sometimes I had to walk on vacation. But I did walk.

Were there other benefits of this fitness makeover? Definitely. My mind is stronger. My body is stronger. My clothes are smaller. My energy is higher (even though most would say that my trademark energy was already off the charts). My blood pressure is insanely good.

One decision moved me in the right direction. One decision and daily perseverance. Before, I was fat. After, I’m healthy. And happy with how walking makes me feel.

This is the formula to use. A decision and daily action steps. Steps that will take you to the life of your dreams.

Don’t worry that Ty Pennington or Stacy and Clinton or Chris Powell aren’t going to show up in your life. You’re not going to win the lottery. Sadly, Santa isn’t real.

You have the power to change. It’s in you. You possess everything you need to produce your own before and after life makeover.

You can create your own amazing life. Step by step.

5 Simple Steps for How To Get More Of What You Want

My grandson Max is almost 3. He asked me if I wanted to be a pirate for Halloween and I instantly said yes. The way he presented it to me was irresistible. He got in close, he made eye-contact and he waited for an answer without flinching.

He knew what he wanted. He wanted Grandma to be a pirate. So guess what…I’m driving to US Toy to hunt for pirate hats, eye patches, a hook arm (for Grandpa) and wondering which thrift store I can hit to buy a white blouse and a vest. I’ve even turned this into an opportunity to buy some tall brown boots I’ve been wanting since last season. I’ll be adding gold necklaces and huge gold hoops to top it off and there may even be a parrot perched on my shoulder.

Secretly, I’m wanting to look as good as Penelope Cruise co-starring with Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean.

Never downplay the influence of a 3-year old in getting what he wants. You can use this same magic to get more of what you want in your life whether you’re ordering a meal, asking for a raise or or buying a new house.

5 Simple Steps for How To Get More Of What You Want:

#1: Know what you want. Do you want to be a pirate or Cinderella? Do you want to trick or treat around the neighborhood or go to the mall?

#2: Don’t overanalyze. Women especially play through at least 5 different scenarios of outcomes before we do anything. I call this the ‘retreat mode’. We talk ourselves out of things before we even get started.

#3: ASK. You have to ask for what you want. Make eye contact. Don’t flinch. You have to let it be made known than you WANT SOMETHING. It’s okay to want something. It’s even better to get it. If you don’t ask, the answer will almost always be NO.

#4: Be more childlike. Don’t question every single thing you do. Be silly. Be yourself. Allow yourself some fun. I thought about the last time I’d dressed up for Halloween and it was in 1986, when my daughter Candice (Max’s Mom) was 1 year old. We even hosted a Halloween party that year. She was Superbaby and Dennis and I were Supermom and Superdad.

#5: Go with it. Once you decide, don’t waffle. I’m over 50. Dressing up like a pirate for Halloween isn’t exactly ‘mature behavior.’ But the excitement I feel for this Halloween and being with Max all dressed up outdoes my last 25 Halloweens all put together. In other words, celebrate!

Life doesn’t give us what we deserve. Life gives us what we ask for. So ASK. And then go celebrate when the answer is yes. Arrrgghhh Matey!

What’s Your Dream?

Dreams. They’re the big things of life. They’re the ‘write a New York Times Bestseller’ or ‘create a foundation’ or ‘make a million bucks’ kind of stuff. The ‘find my soulmate’ or ‘start my own business‘ or ‘have 6 kids’ kind of dreams. Dreams are BIG. HUGE. And scary.

Most of us don’t reflect on our dreams much because well, after you’ve reached the age of 30 or so, most of them seem too hard. Or we’ve listened to so many people say ‘you can’t do that’ or ‘this happened to her’ or ‘you need a ton of money to be successful’ that we quietly fold our dreams up and tuck them nicely into the deep recesses of our heart.

Oh, there are days when they seem to well up inside us, but most of us quietly tamper them down again and reserve them for shower time and long walks on the beach vacation days. They seem so out there. Unreachable.

We quit working on our dreams before we’ve even started.

We give up on our dreams before we’ve even failed.

We believe destiny is what happens to celebrities and millionaires.

But not us.

It’s not true. It’s far from true.

My next door neighbor desperately wanted a 2nd baby. Nature wasn’t cooperating. She was slogging from doctor to doctor with little hope…or the hope she was given had huge dollar signs attached to it.

But I know down deep in her heart she still wanted that dream. Baby number two.

I was sad. She was heartbroken.

I barely had the words to comfort her.

We moved away and didn’t stay in touch.

A year later I was shopping on New Years Eve and I saw a young woman walking and waving toward me with her husband. My eyes did a double take. It was my dear sweet neighbor with her hubby, 3 year old and not only was she strolling one newborn baby in the stroller, she was pushing TWO.

God gave her twins. One of each. A boy and a girl. I was so overwhelmed with joy I almost hugged her to death.

She just shyly smiled and said…’we relaxed and look what happened.’

But she never gave up on her dream. Now she’s playing zone defense as a young Mom with too little time, too many responsibilities and a life full of love.

Dreams are real. If you can see it in your mind and feel it in your heart, it exists. If you consistently wake up thinking about your dream, it’s because it’s a real desire…not something you made up. God gives us desires for a reason.

He wants us to go DO something with them. To impact someone. To help. To spread joy or inspiration…or maybe God just wants to make us deliriously happy. (He does that you know.)

Dreams come with a price. You may have to give something up to go after your big dream. You might have to be patient and watch the dream unfold over a decade instead of a year. You might have to turn off the TV or give up a few nights of fun to realize your big dream.

Dreams are worth waiting for. Working for. Praying for. Sacrificing for.

My neighbor now drives a mini-van with three carseats in the 2nd seat. She rarely puts on make-up and the dog doesn’t get walked that often. But the dream she stored inside her heart…the one she never quit wanting was real. Is real. In the form of a tiny girl and a tiny boy and a big brother named Tre.

Dreams do come true. What’s yours?

How to Make Someone Wildly Stupidly Happy

My friend just remarried after a very long time of being single. She met a guy she fell totally and completely in love with despite the fact that they live in two separate states. He had a health scare and the next day they went to get the marriage license and then GOT MARRIED.

She didn’t ask for everyone’s opinion or worry about the fact that she didn’t have a dress or any flowers. They didn’t send out invites. They’re in love. And they wanted to be together. So they went and pledged their love before God and the justice who married them. That was it.

And all I can think is how happy I am that she’s so happy.

Which puts me in the mode to celebrate. I’m planning a romance shower. A very small, very intimate evening of just the girlfriends so we can surround our friend with the love she deserves. We’re going to makeover her boudoir with gifts and goodies. We’re going to eat cake. We’re going to laugh and love on her.

And I know this…if you want to make someone wildly and stupidly happy, all you have to do is celebrate them.

Tell them what they mean to you. Show them with actions, not just words. Happiness is created and is born out of love. And that makes all of us wildly and stupidly happy…to know we’re loved.