A Happy Coincidence

Aren’t coincidences funny? In a planning meeting at work on Tuesday someone mentioned the documentary Happy, as a researcher from the university who studies Happiness (and wrote The How of Happiness) is featured in the film.  Wouldn’t you know that not twenty minutes after that conversation, whilst munching on my lunch, I was reading a post on one of my favorite blogs, A Cup of Jo (this post and this post) about the movie?

A happy coincidence, indeed. So, yes, let’s talk about happiness. For me it’s…

watching Baxter run in crazy fast circles in the grass.
cuddling on the couch.
getting lost in a good book.
eating every last crumb of my mom’s coffee cake.
singing in the car.
meals shared with great friends.
watching my dad laugh really hard.
time on the lake in Havasu.
and being married to Mumbles.

What makes you happy?


P.S. There’s also an iPhone App called Live Happy based on psychologist Dr. Sonja Lyubormirsky’s research that you can use to boost your happiness throughout the day.


Meet Jane

On a sunny Sunday afternoon in May I was driving on the freeway on my way home. I was tired. Mumbles was away and we had errands to run later that day. While part of me just wanted to be at home relaxing with Baxter, the part of me controlling the steering wheel decided to make a stop at a local Goodwill store to see if anything caught my eye…maybe something but nothing in particular for BFOTB‘s baby shower.  Perusing the store, I found a lovely set of martini glasses (perfect!) and something else I now can’t recall but it’s nonethematter because the real story here is Jane. 


This is Jane, right where I found her at a Goodwill store, sitting in the back corner next to the fitting rooms, intimidated by a daunting, head-high organizer stuffed full of bras.

 Non-chalantly waltzing my way through the aisles of furniture I might want to pick up on the cheap to paint or refinish (despite the fact that I have no room in our house for any new furniture), I decided to take a gander around the other side of the store just to be sure I hadn’t missed any hidden treasures.  And I had.  There, quietly sitting beside a wobbly stand-alone shelf of bras, somewhat blocked by a rolling wardrobe organizer in front of a wall full of discarded framed artwork, was Jane. At this point, we hadn’t been formally introduced but she was soft and lovely, with a mid-century retro elegance I was immediately drawn to.  Calm but excited I promptly but gently lifted the cushion to inspect – dusty but otherwise clean. Smell? Just the must of solitude, clearly unattended, alone for some time before finding her way here. A match? I thought so. So I sat. Comfortable. Confirmed. My mind, at this point half made up, was only further so decided when I saw her bright price tag sticker on her arm: $24.99.  Underappreciated? Well, yes, certainly here. It was all too easy.  Still sitting, purse in my lap, claiming my prize, smile on my face, I got out my phone and dialed my mother – surely she’d appreciate this event and help me sort through my racing brain’s conversation, which in the span of 4 seconds went something like this:  

“It’s in such good condition!  Well, then why is it here?  Maybe someone didn’t have room for it anymore.  I don’t have room for it anywhere!  It’s so retro and chic!  Is that person eying my chair?  I’d pay hundreds for a chair like this out of a catalog. $24.99? Really?  Something must be wrong. I don’t care. I want it.

I sent my mom a photo of my big find.  She gave the advice of a loving, supportive friend (which she is): “You sound like you love it. Get it. It will make you happy.  And, as your Grammy would say, ‘It’s too good of a deal to pass up!'” She offered to let me store it in my old room at their house so I immediately asked a store attendant for assistance to purchase and take it home.  They put the chair at the front desk where to my bewilderment she received attention from many-a-passing-shoppers.  I hastily and happily made my way to the front to join others in line.  Arms full of other goods, I noticed the woman in line behind me hefting a floor length ornate mirror.  I smiled.  Taking my smile as an invitation to talk, she relished in sharing her delight to find such a huge mirror for an amazing price, a perfect fit for her entryway.  Knowing her joy and beaming in it, I smiled, congratulated her on her score and in return, she gestured toward my arms and complimented my finds. 

“Oh, this isn’t even the best part – I found an amazing chair! It’s right over there,” I exclaimed, gesturing toward my prize. With what I could see was a glaze of tears almost filling her eyes she told me, “that’s my chair – well, it was my mother’s chair – I just dropped it off here a few hours ago.”

The conversation rallied between a solemn appreciation and a delightful enjoyment of this special moment.  

“I’m so happy to be meeting you. My mother loved that chair and she would be so happy to see you with it, such a lovely young woman,” she told me.

I assured her of my appreciation for the chair, told her I fancy myself an old soul, and that my husband and I are coming up on our second anniversary, our first year living in our first home.  Still smiling, slowly inching forward in line toward the register, she shared that her mother had greatly cared for the chair, and after I mentioned it being in such good condition she informed me that her mother had just had it reupholstered. In fact she had helped pick out the fabric; her mother insisting it stay true to it’s original 1960’s look, and then, sadly, that once back in her mother’s home that the chair had not been sat in, her mother soon passed away.  

“May I ask your mother’s name?” I inquired.

“Jane,” she replied with a firm fondness in her voice.

I told her of the coincidence and again of my joy in this moment – having just called my mother to share my good fortune with her. My mother whose middle name is Jane.  Brightly, she smiled and laughed. 

“My mother would be so happy,” she said.

We waited and chatted just minutes more – I noticed a few people passing by the chair, inquiring of its availability for purchase while the attachment I felt already had me panicked, my heart overflowing with sentimental pride of near possession.  I let it go and turned back to Jane’s daughter to say to her genuinely that I was so pleased to have met her, to have learned a bit of her mother’s story, and to have shared a real connection with her that day. When I arrived at my parents’ home just a few miles away, my mom laughed upon seeing the sparkle in my eyes and the chair in her driveway.  

“You are such an old soul,” she proclaimed.  Not new news.  “My family had a sofa just like this when I was growing up, except with a putrid orange color in it.”

Once upstairs, my dad came to investigate. 

“Hey, where’d you find the chair?” he asked, somewhat perplexed, as if my mother had been storing this chair somewhere unbeknownst to him since the late 60’s just waiting for the right time to bring it back out again.  “I had a couch like that when I was little but there was some blue in it.”

“Her name is Jane,” I told them before sharing bits of the story I had just lived, a memory I already cherished sweetly. 

We laughed, the three of us, together in my old room looking at how oddly it did seem to fit right there, matching the decor, proudly at home next to a photo of me with my mother and her mother, in the room I spent some good years growing up in.   


Jane in my old bedroom at my parents’ house. Looks like she fits right in next to a photo of me as a child with my beautiful mom and Grammy.

The Proof is in the Platter

Last night Mumbles and I went to our first small group meeting of the New Year which, after a series of events changing our small group’s plan for our next study, was also our first meeting about the new Daniel Plan at Saddleback Church.  A brief explanation is that internationally renowned medical experts Dr. Mark Hyman, Dr. Daniel Amen, and Dr. Mehmet Oz (of Oprah fame) have partnered with Saddleback to create a free healthy lifestyle program including a six-week small group study, a website with tools to help track progress, monthly Webcasts with Pastor Rick Warren interviewing leading health experts, an optional healthy choice menu, and new outdoor fitness equipment set-up on the Lake Forest campus. The goal is for everyone to feel better, be stronger, think sharper, and look better a year from today.  After hearing that statistics show a staggering 76 percent of Americans are overweight this sounds like pretty good stuff to be striving toward, yes?  I think so.

The intro to this program was really illuminating for me – I’m specifically interested in the physical fitness aspects as I don’t go to the gym or exercise nearly as often as I should and despite the fact that I’m skinny I could really use more energy to be more productive.  I could also drink more water.  And not sit at my desk for 11 hours straight per day.  On another note, I have a vested interest in this from a professional standpoint because not only am I employed in the health & wellness industry, I’m also working on a special project at one of our spas — a weight loss/healthy lifestyle pilot program.  From what I know about both of these programs, they are extremely similar in that they aren’t flashy, glamorous “get slim quick” tricks – they are truly about all-around wellbeing, making lifelong, sustainable decisions for better health prompted by a physician-developed and supervised program and supported by peer group meetings, nutrition and fitness coaching, healthy lifestyle tips, recipes, and more.  

So now that my work life is crossing into my personal life even more than before, I’d also like to tell a little story.  First I have to start by sharing the verse that was presented at the start of the Daniel Plan:

I constantly pray for you, that our God . . . by his power may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith.
2 Thessalonians 1:11 (NIV)
Proof of this verse and that God puts the right people in our lives to help us succeed: My husband and I walked in the door to our first Daniel Plan small group meeting last night with french fries in hand, having just scarfed down
In-N-Out for dinner and our group hosts had fresh fruit and veggie platters out for us to snack on. God’s perfect timing at it again. ha!  And to take it a step further in calling us out on our love for In-N-Out, when I got home and checked out The Daniel Plan website I found this poem by Pastor Rick:

Lord, grant me the strength that i may not fall
into the clutches of cholesterol

At polyunsaturates i’ll never matter
for the road to hell is paved with butter

Whip cream is cursed and jelly is awful
yes, satan is hiding in every waffle

He appears to me as a cinnamon roll
Eager to fatten and clog my soul

So teach me the evils of hollandaise
Of ribs and pasta and mayonnaise

May I have the presence to realize
that evil lurks in in and out fries

And crispy fried chicken from the south
Lord if you love me, shut my mouth

–Rick Warren

So there it is. 
The proof of God’s love and care for us is in the fruit platter.
Things happen for a reason. 
Life is full of “coincidences” that are planned (just not by you). 

If you’d like more information on The Daniel Plan, visit Saddleback’s website here; it’s full of free resources to help motivate and get you healthy!

To your health & happiness – cheers!

P.S.   Dr. Amen. That’s funny. (How qualified for this church program is that guy – perfect name!)