Month: February 2014

Seeing Ghosts

A Girls

Anita. That was my mother-in-law’s name. Technically, she was only my mother-in-law for two months…and then she died.

I saw this picture posted on someone’s wall yesterday. It reminded me of her.

My husband and I woke up yesterday to realize that it was her birthday. We are not good with birthdays. We never remember anyone’s birthday. It’s a terrible trait. But, yesterday we remembered.

Yesterday’s blog was appropriate for my mother-in-law’s birthday. She was a good soul. A really good soul who endured a really horrible death. She died of cancer. Originally, doctors found a tumor in her brain and soon after, the cancer was in her lungs. Technically, I suppose it was lung cancer that killed her…. and she never smoked a day in her life. If ever a foundation or non-profit should have been formed in someone’s name, it was certainly her name. But we didn’t form a non-profit. We formed something better. Her namesake – our daughter.

Interestingly, I wrote yesterday’s blog before realizing that it was my mother-in-law’s birthday. It suddenly took on a new meaning when my husband needed to hear something comforting…

“Beautiful things come from beautiful people. Where do you think we got our two beautiful girls?”

It did give him comfort. Almost as though that post was meant for yesterday.

Later in the day, I took my oldest daughter to her after-school activity. I sat with a new friend. I never mentioned my mother-in-law to her but, for some reason, she felt compelled to tell me the story of her father. Nine years earlier, as he was getting ready for retirement, he was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. He died.

That was a strange and heartbreaking coincidence.

Last night, after the kids went to bed, I checked in on my blog. I had another new follower. No, it wasn’t Anita. I suppose that would have been a bit too obvious. His name was Julian.

Listen. I am not a devout Catholic or a devout anything else. I don’t seek out palm readers, I have no interest in having my cards read and I don’t own a Ouija board. I simply pay attention. And when you pay attention, you notice things, you feel things and you know that there are sometimes people in the room that nobody else can see. Sometimes those people share a picture with you, sometimes they help you write a story, sometimes they tell you a story and sometimes, well sometimes, they just say a name.

Do I sound like a complete wacko yet? I hope not.

So, why was Julian significant?

My in-laws had a lifelong friend named Julius. Shortly after my mother-in-law passed away, Julius got sick and, he too, died a horrible death from cancer. When we were expecting our first child, we thought about the name Julius for a boy. It was an unusual name and we just couldn’t commit to it – even as a middle name. Instead, we settled on… Julian.

Are you paying attention yet?

Yesterday started out a bit somber. I wondered if I would be able to find anything happy to write about. And then, I paid attention and my mother-in-law showed up to make me happy.


Mr. Rogers and the Other Good People

Mr. Rogers

Last month I met someone who started their own non-profit. I added her to the list. You see, she is just one of three people that I know who have created their own 501(c)(3) organization.

It is certainly humbling, and almost embarrassing, to meet these people.

Non-profiteer: “Hi. I make a difference in the lives of hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people every single day with this non-profit organization that I was inspired to create all on my own. ”

Me: “Oh. Ummm. Hi. Well, I…well, let’s see. I. Well, geez….I am completely inadequate. ”

What are the odds of meeting just one person, in a lifetime, who has accomplished this? I don’t know, but WOW! I am surrounded by awesomeness.

There is a quote, from the incomparable Mr. Rogers, that seems to surface each time a horrific tragedy happens anywhere in the world. You probably know the one…

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'” –Fred Rogers

It’s quite possible that Mr. Rogers understood the happiness trick. He understood that bad things do happen. And sometimes bad things happen to really good people. I think he also understood that amidst those bad things, good things – beautiful things – emerge. And it is the capacity to see those beautiful things – and hold onto that vision – that will inevitably bring us happiness.

Of course, this means that the inspiration for starting a non-profit almost always comes from a sad, desperate place. And that’s true of all three of these. Each story is more heartbreaking than the next. But, from the heartbreak, there’s goodness. Sometimes, even happiness.

So, in honor of Mr. Rogers, I bring you these good people. Check them out because they really do make life a little bit happier for a whole lot of people.

Rock Out Cures – The mission of ROC is to perform charitable services and host fundraising events in our local community in an effort to raise awareness and funds for a variety of organizations that provide necessary research, support, and resources to families.

Sparrow’s Nest – Our mission is founded by love and community, cooking and delivering meals to the families of moms with cancer in the Hudson Valley.  Sparrow’s Nest provides 2 homemade trays of food to our recipients each week.  Did you know the average meal takes 4 hours to prepare: planning the menu, a trip to the grocery store, prepping the food and cooking the dish?  Our primary goal is to give a mom some of those precious hours back so she can concentrate on getting better.

Hearts and Courage:  The Tara Troy Gambardella Foundation – This Foundation has been established to bring joy to others, to help turn a tragedy into life changing experiences for others, and to carry on Tara’s personality and spirit. This Foundation’s focus is to provide Scholarships to college students who have chosen to pursue a career in the non-profit sector. Also, we have established a “Smiles for the Heart” program, which helps to provide children who have serious Cardiac issues with an adventure, a gift, or a life changing experience that would otherwise not be possible without the help of this Foundation.

Tech Support Please

Tech Support

I had a completely different post in mind for today. I was really excited about sitting down to write it and, now, I can’t even remember what it was.

The people around me will attest to the fact that it is not unusual for me to completely lose track of a thought. But this time, I had good reason. You see, this morning I woke up to this WordPress notification: You’ve received 10 follows on The Happiness Trick. Surely that was a mistake, a glitch in the system, a statistical error. I would brush my teeth and then contact technical support about this.

I better write down a few notes about today’s blog before I forget.

I logged into my site and immediately checked the Notifications list. Just as I suspected, ten followers was, indeed, inaccurate. I actually had fourteen followers!

What was it that I was planning to blog about today?

I quickly pulled up my list of followers, expecting my mom, my husband, my sister, my brother and my best friend to top the list. But, they weren’t there. Not a single one of them was on that list (note to self: call mom, husband, sister, brother and best friend during some spare time). So, who were these people that were following me? How did they find me? Why did they want to read my blog?

Original post for today? Gone!

As far back as I can remember, there have always been so many thoughts running around in my head. Copious amounts of thoughts that never seem to escape until I find pen and paper. Picking up a pencil and writing in my diary when I was seven made me feel as though I was exhaling for the very first time.

I have kept so many diaries, so many journals, written so many stories, notes and letters. Most of the time, I keep them to myself, never sharing all of those thoughts running rampant through my head. (Although, I’m sure that more than one friend will recall that my high school notes required a FedEx truck to get them to their final destination!)

I wish that I had saved them all. Hidden them in a vault – a sort of time capsule – that could only be opened when I was ready to look back and see how much – or little – I’ve grown. I wish that I could bind them all together and share them with my girls. Maybe my story will help them create their own stories, help them avoid some of the pitfalls, some of the mistakes that I’ve made. Maybe. Or maybe not.

Eight days ago, I never expected this. I never expected to have 14 followers on my blog and nearly 200 visits to my page. I never expected the private messages and phone calls. I simply wanted to do an experiment. I wanted to see if I could make happiness a habit.

Today, making happiness a habit for a few other people has definitely brought me some unexpected happiness.

Those Kids

Kids Playing

We all have them.  Those kids.  The ones from around the neighborhood.  The ones you go to school with, spend snow days and summer days with, eat dinner with, break rules with and create childhood with.

I had them.  There was Chrissy and Kim next door, Nancy across the street and John and Anthony down the block.  Occasionally another kid blended in with the mix.  We spent hours making up silly games and running around the neighborhood.  We knew Anthony’s grandmother who lived with him, Nancy’s aunt and uncle who always came to visit, John’s baby brother who always wanted to keep up with the big kids and Chrissy and Kim’s grandparents who stopped by fairly often.  We knew who was allowed to cross the street, who needed permission to leave the front yard and whose mom would yell out the door when dinner was ready or the sun was fading.  That was our ‘hood and we knew it well.

I remember keeping a journal of our activities one summer.  It wasn’t something I decided to do on my own and I have no idea whose hands it eventually ended up in.  It was John’s idea.  Come to think of it, it was always John’s idea.  And, somehow, I was always the one in charge of implementing his crazy ideas.  That got me into trouble more than once.  I’m not quite sure how he didn’t eventually become the CEO of some company.  Of course, I would never work for him so I suppose he knew that his success was improbable without me.

How did this story start again?  Oh yes, those kids.

I can’t recall a childhood summer without John and I’m not quite sure why he needed me to keep that journal.  But, for some reason, he was missing long enough to need daily updates and I, of course, was the girl for the job.  I suppose that was my first unofficial blog.  Funny how those kids can shape your life.  I think he’d be surprised to hear that.  I know I am.

My own kids are lucky enough to have those kids in their own life.  The kids who help them come up with hair-brained schemes like sliding down the steps on the remnants of a cardboard box.  The ones who have hurricane parties and spend snow days with us.  The ones they can spend 12 hour play dates with and still think it’s just not enough time.  The ones who are comfortable enough to reach into my fridge and grab a snack or sit down at my dinner table and complain about what’s for dinner.

Last night, I came home to five of those kids.  They weren’t keeping a journal of their time together.  In fact, I don’t think they know what a journal is or why on earth you would write with pen and paper when there’s an App for that.  They were scattered throughout the house and each one had some sort of electronic device in-hand.  The funny thing?  They met, virtually, in one Minecraft space and were happily playing together in there.  Wait.  Let me make that clear.  They were interacting with each other through their devices though they were physically sitting next to each other.  Ummm, does anyone else find this ironic?  Perhaps disturbing?

I did find it ironic and I found it more than a bit disturbing.  And then I peeked over my daughter’s shoulder and saw that the littlest of the five had virtually named himself ‘Sonia’ and was running amuck in Minecraft world.  We laughed until our bellies hurt.

It’s quite possible that ‘Sonia’ will help shape my girls’ future selves.  Now that makes me happy.

A Plan!

A Plan

I didn’t write this post today. I appreciate transparency, so I feel compelled to share that.

I wrote this last night because I knew that I wouldn’t have time today. Today, I’ll leave the house early to get to work, race home to a house full of kids, an unfinished science fair project, homework, dinner and swim practice. By the time the kids leave, the house is back in order and my own kids go to bed, I will be happy for a moment to put my feet up and take a breath….and possibly pour a glass of wine (let’s keep this a judgement free zone please). It’s unlikely that I will be happy about sitting down to write about being happy.

Total transparency.

So, what is it about all of this that actually makes me incredibly happy? I recognized that my lack of time would leave me in a happiness lurch and I planned for it!

I work in non-profit, so I always have this overwhelming sense that a particular project or event could have been so much better if only. If only I had a touch more time, more money, more staff, more volunteers….more planning. Is that only true for non-profiteers? Do ‘real-world’ people feel that way too? Do I simply have a mild case of obsessive compulsive disorder or perhaps some control issues? Na. Can’t be. I am certain that I suffer from if only syndrome and today I have the cure!

Today I recognize that there will be plenty of days like this. Days that will require a master plan if I am to be truly successful at this 365 Days of Happiness project that I’ve committed myself to. Days that I’ll feel as though I should be committed for committing myself to this project.

Have you noticed that my internal optimist and pessimist are constantly at war in my head?

At this very moment, my optimist is on fire! (Sing with me…this girl is on fire!) I am excited that I have a plan and I am excited that I have a running list of future posts written down and ready to come to life. Want a sneak peek?

  • Lotus Elise: a fire-engine red one. That’s a car. I didn’t know that until just recently. Now it makes me happy.
  • Common Core: surprise! This is a good one. Don’t miss it.
  • Little Friends: and the big ones that come with them.
  • Mr. Rogers and the Other Good People: c’mon! Who doesn’t love Mr. Rogers?
  • St. Paddy: and even Italians love St. Paddy!

In accordance with my total transparency rule, I should mention that these topics are in no particular order and they may, or may not, appear on this blog in the coming week(s)….or ever. They are the things in my mind right now that are making me happy. But I am fickle….just ask my sexy husband.

Happy thoughts everyone!

My Sexy Husband


Full disclosure:  This post was my husband’s idea.

“So, what are you going to blog about today?”  Those were the first words out of my husband’s mouth this morning.  I was surprised, but delighted, by his interest.

“I’m not sure,” I replied.  “It’s making me feel a bit anxious,” I giggled.  Realizing that it was Day 5 and I was already at a loss for words was, indeed, making me a bit anxious.  Would I fulfill my own prophecy of ‘crash and burn on day 5?’  That would just be sad.  Horrifying.  I just would not allow it!

I didn’t say any of that out loud.  I was simply panicking in my own mind.  My husband, meanwhile, had his own thoughts running around in his head.

“I have a great idea.  Why don’t you blog about your sexy husband?”

It took less than a second for our eyes to meet and our silly grins to turn into full blown laughter.  I assured him that I, of course, found him quite sexy but I wasn’t certain that was a story that I wanted to share on my happiness blog.  We had the whole day ahead of us.  I was certain that it held some other blog-worthy story.  And so, we began our day.

Our oldest daughter spent the night at a sleepover.  She wouldn’t be home until noon.  Our youngest was picked up early and was on her way to religion class.  That meant that we had the house to ourselves….for two hours!

Two hours of pure, unadulterated grown-up time for the parents of young children is equivalent to the elusive carrot dangled in front of the hardworking donkey:  the promise of it is always right there in front of you, yet always just out of reach.

Now, I know what you’re thinking we did with our time.  It’s likely the same thing that my husband was thinking we should do with our time.  That would certainly lend credence to the title My Sexy Husband, but that’s not why I chose to write this post today.  And, besides, I never kiss and tell.

The real reason for writing this post?  What happened during those two hours – and beyond – reminded me that I did, indeed, have a very sexy husband.  We talked about my blog, why I decided to give it a try, why it was important to me, what he loved and what he didn’t love so much about what I was doing.  We ate breakfast (he cooked), we talked about the kids (I talked a lot here), and about my somewhat opinionated views of their education (he appreciates a girl with strong opinions) and about the new molding and doors we needed to choose for our next home project (I can’t wait!).  We covered a lot of things that made me happy.

Hmmm.  That was a lot of things that made me happy.  (Long, thoughtful pause).  Well, I’m sure all of that talking made him happy too.  It certainly made him sexy 🙂

Stats! Really Great Stats!

StatsI’ve been at this for a whole four days now and I am super excited! I’m excited about the unexpected comments I’ve gotten and all of the encouragement everyone around me has offered. Quite honestly, finding something to be happy about for 365 days in a row still seems like a daunting task, but today it seems absolutely, positively possible!

I’ve created personal blogs before, but I’ve never used WordPress before. I’m still learning how to make it look fabulous and how to add widgets and photos and what the best tags to use are and how to best publicize my blog and…. well, the list goes on. But, right now, I’m happy that I’ve committed myself to this project and I’m happy that people are following it. And I know that people are following it because I have been obsessively looking at my stats!

To all of those veteran bloggers out there, my stats will sound pathetic. In the last four days, I’ve had more than 90 visitors to my blog. Ninety people thought enough to, at the very least, take a glance at my little experiment. Wow!

The public comments and likes and the private messages and phone calls have been humbling. I am so glad that my thoughts resonate with so many people and I’m so glad that I’m making people happy. Today, it is certainly making me happy.

PS – To all of my friends who have known me for 20+ years, I should have disclosed this to you at the start of this post: THIS POST HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE FORMER DRINKING ESTABLISHMENT KNOWN AS STATS. Though there are plenty of happy moments associated with that Stats, this post refers to mathematical statistics, better known as stats. I’ll reserve the place, Stats, for another happy post 😉