50 Things that Make Me Happy

I saw this over at Reader Voracious and it seemed like the perfect way to reset my attitude. I have been grappling with some very stressful things lately (kids, job, health, the meaning of life, etc.) and my mental health has taken a hit. It’s all too easy to get wrapped up in the terrible things, but I don’t want to spend another minute in The Land of the Bitter and Sad. So, without further ado, here’s a list of 50 little things that make me happy!

  1. Silly repartee with my daughter
  2. Hugging my sonFamily
  3. Long phone calls with my mother
  4. Sweet texts from my boyfriend
  5. The smell of yeast when baking bread
  6. Cuddling with my cat
  7. Hiking along one of the beautiful trails in the Pacific Northwest, admiring snow-capped mountains, fields of wildflowers and gem-like lakesIMG_7610.jpg
  8. Playing Brahms on the Piano
  9. Sunshowers
  10. The smell of sagebrush just after it rained
  11. Chocolate chip cookiesChocolate Chip
  12. Pretty yarn on the needles
  13. Blackberry hibiscus iced tea
  14. Sleeping under a heavy comforter when it’s cold out
  15. Guitar lessons with Ted and Claire
  16. Getting lost in a good book
  17. Geeking out over a spreadsheet
  18. Watching Amelie
  19. The heart-shaped splotch on my cat’s back
  20. Taking off on a jet plane
  21. Weekend car trips
  22. Wandering through a bookstore or library
  23. Fresh-baked almond croissants
  24. Answering the door to see my boyfriend standing there with a shy smile on his face
  25. Meeting my mother at the airport
  26. Cooking with my mom
  27. Cutting in to the good fabric
  28. Wearing a quirky hat10.366 - Yee Haw
  29. Kitty purrs
  30. Silence after a snow fall
  31. Autumn leaves
  32. Autumn sunshine17.366 - Basking
  33. Making dinner for someone who appreciates it
  34. Wearing pajamas all day
  35. Listening to music that reminds me of my father (Louis Prima, Bill Evans, Chet Baker, Palestrina…)
  36. Singing loudly along to music while driving somewhere
  37. Tidying up my apartment
  38. Eating out somewhere new
  39. Reading cookbooks
  40. Decorating cookies
  41. Jogging when in shape
  42. Using good quality art supplies
  43. Colorful sunsets
  44. Hunting for four-leaf clovers and sand dollars
  45. Joking around with my friends
  46. Wearing something pretty
  47. Drinking a good gin and tonic or a good mojito
  48. Walking in a park with the swallows circling you
  49. Spotting wild animals in their proper habitat: bears, cougars, foxes, coyotes, etc.
  50. Cat naps



Dad crouched on a boulder planted in the middle of the Wind River. For what seemed like hours, he had studied the deep pools and brisk eddies around him. With a spider’s grace, he flung his line, allowing the lure crafted from pheasant feathers or polar bear fur to settle on the river’s surface.  Its shadow was larger than the mosquitoes’. A breath and a heartbeat.  A flicker beneath the surface. Dad pulled more line from the reel and allowed the lure to slip across a riffle and into a pocket of darker water. Suddenly, there was a tug on the line. With a flick of his wrist, he set the hook and reeled in his catch. His prey struggled, swimming this way and that. Dad’s fishing pole arched, but his hands remained steady and his gaze intent.

From where I watched on the bank, it seemed as if everything happened in slow motion. I fixated on his green rubber boots as he carefully stepped towards the boulder’s edge. Next, I focused on the net as he lifted it from the river, its dripping web frustrating the trout within as it writhed for freedom.

And then everything sped up. Dad pulled the fish from the net, grasped it firmly, and dashed its brains out on the rock beneath his feet. From the many-pocketed vest he wore, he pulled out a sharp knife and dragged the blade along its belly from tail to top. His blunt fingers reached inside the cavity and pulled out the liver, lungs and heart and released them back into the stream. “That’s gonna be good eatin’,” he said, grinning.


His composure fractured from time to time. One snowy winter’s day, I hitched a ride home with my boyfriend, Doug, in his Chevy Impala. When the car skidded into a telephone pole, my head connected with the windshield. Dad came to help, crying out, “Oh God, are you ok?” I reassured him as best I could, but he couldn’t look me in the face, bruised and bloody as it was. He took me to the hospital where a doctor prepared to treat the hematoma on my forehead by unwrapping  a massive syringe.  A nurse assisted him to a seat, where he sat with his head between his legs.

In memoriam, Harold Stanton, who passed away on this date in 2013.


We fall onto the unmade bed, hands clutching and mouths exploring. Our skin is burnished by the light of a bare red bulb screwed into the overhead fixture.  We don’t talk. We couldn’t talk even if we wanted to, because music blasts forth from somewhere in the Stygian depths of the room. It’s AC/DC.  I listen to the fierce beats and shattering chords, trying to decipher its meaning.  Somewhere within it has to be the declaration I long for.   She was the best damn woman I had ever seen. Could that be it? Or, maybe, She was one of a kind, she’s just mine all mine ?

Evening Shadows v.2

As his tongue traces the length of my neck, I study the dim posters on the wall, a host of centerfolds. There’s a blond stepping out of a shower, her voluminous hair somehow dry, while her white negligee is sodden and transparent. There’s a brunette straddling a bar stool, her buttocks gleaming and her lips pouting. A redhead lounges on a leather couch, tugging at her panties, revealing that upstairs and downstairs do indeed match.  He notices my distraction. “You could be that hot too, if you exercised more.” He thinks he’s complimenting me.  But, I wonder, am I just a sorry substitute until one of those women on his walls, a “fast machine,”comes along to “shake him all night long?”

After the kids have been fed and the dishes cleaned up, I retreat to the couch with my laptop. There’s work to do and bills to pay, but Facebook lures me into its depths. Serena has recorded a video of her baby eating her first bites of mashed peas. Jennifer craves donuts but is supposed to be on a diet. Lydia shows how she applies winged eyeliner, a skill I know I’ll never master.

And then, my attention is caught by a video of a presidential candidate in a bus. I push play. All at once, someone flushes a toilet, the heater wheezes, and Fatty, my attention-deprived cat, leaps into my lap. The beginning is lost to me, but I tune in when the candidate says, “I took her out furniture shopping. She wanted to get some furniture. I said, ‘I’ll show you where they have some nice furniture.’” I wrinkle my brow. This is news?

On President’s Day, I visit my garden. I look at the rectangular bed and remember it last fall when the tomatoes were plump on the vine, the abundant zucchini crowded out the moth-eaten broccoli and frilly greens suggested where sweet carrots might be hidden beneath the soil. Now the plot is covered in mulch, a thick layer of leaves from my oak tree and a few burlap bags. The plantings must be rotated this year, to keep my garden healthy and fruitful, but it’s hard to imagine how it could be better than it was. Deciding to plant snap peas on the northern end, I kneel down, close to the cement rubble border, and begin pushing away the leaves with my gloved hands. The denuded soil is damp and black. I pick up a handful and squeeze. When I open my fingers, the clod crumbles. Not too wet then. It’s ready for tilling.

My bra is unfastened and his saliva coats my areolae. His hands sweep down my torso and land on the fly of my jeans. Alarmed, excited, I realize his intent. What should I do? We’ve kissed. He’s touched me in intimate places. He’s seen my bare breasts. Is it too late? My throat is clogged with words and my hands go limp. He says, “I need you now,” and tugs off my pants. His knee parts my legs. And then those words of mine are useless. Pain flares through my core and I squeeze my eyes shut, tears leaking through the creases. He collapses with a groan. It’s over for him, but it’s the beginning for me.

The candidate goes on, “I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful—I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.” I’m so entranced by the flickering images and grotesque sound bites streaming from my laptop that I don’t notice the subtle change in the air and dimming of the light behind me. The candidate says, “Grab ’em by the pussy.” My twelve-year-old daughter, with blushing cheeks and budding breasts, asks, “What’s he talking about?” I slam the laptop shut, but it’s too late.

As I till the soil, loosening clumps and removing hairy root systems, I think about the old saying that women start gardening when they give up on sex. It makes sense. Gardening is a sensual activity. In this moment, I smell a hint of manure, feel the chill of the soil, hear bird song and taste the imminent rain. The physicality of this work makes it seem more intimate than the mental work of balancing ledgers and composing emails. If it were a substitute for sex, it wouldn’t be a bad one. But that’s as much as I’ll concede. I haven’t given up on sex, have I? What about romance? In four to six weeks, these snap peas will mature. They will be crisp and sweet. Too good not to share.