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A Life in Full

I want to start with a bit of humor, because it’s about to get serious!

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And now to the real!

I recently saw a “religious” post on Instagram. It was a selfie of a man with a caption that basically said, “I was just kicked out of a bookstore because they caught me putting all of the Bibles in the fiction section”. There were lots of hearts expressing approval, and expressive comments laughing at the humor of the post.

I have seen several posts on social media that express the idea that there is no God. There is a large movement that believes that it is intellectual to question the existence of God. Many say that they believe in science instead. Poor and desperate people are “believers”. Those in prison, and especially those on death row, only believe in God because they are “cramming for finals”.

I am not going to spend the space of this blog in defending my beliefs. Instead, I would like to write about what I experienced on Monday, as a response to all those who believe that Bibles belong in the fiction section. It’s really a way to remember a wonderful lady.

Monday, I attended the funeral of my aunt at Arlington National Cemetery. She was being buried next to my Uncle Gene, who had been buried there in March, 2016. Here’s a picture of my aunt from that day in 2016; as we were sitting in the waiting area, ready to be called for my uncle’s graveside ceremony.

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On Monday, as we were now waiting to be called for my aunt’s ceremony; her daughter (my cousin) reminded us of why she was being buried next to my Uncle Gene. My uncle had retired from the Navy, as a Commander. At the beginning of his career, they discussed whether she and the family would move, whenever Uncle Gene’s Navy career would change where he was stationed.

At the beginning of his Navy career, she told him that “wherever he went… she would follow“. The family could have chosen her burial at other locations besides Arlington. She had lived many years in Florida. However, they had decided long ago that they would both be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. An expression again of their love and life together. Once again, where he went… she would follow.

While we are all saddened by this loss, we are also lifted by the thought that where Uncle Gene has gone, she has once again followed. The belief that there was a wonderful reunion in heaven.

As we all talked about my aunt, we reminisced about how she lived for her husband; for her children and grandchildren; and for others. On that day in 2016, in that picture above; she knew that there would be a time that she would again see my uncle. On Monday, there was nothing fictional about the certainty of heaven.  A life lived in full.

Amazing grace! how sweet the sound, That saved a wretch; like me! I once was lost, but now am found, Was blind, but now I see.

 

Whenever I write a serious blog, I always wonder if I should end with our typical pic o’ days. Then I remember how they make me laugh… and of course that’s how we must end the blog!

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A Good Memory From Plants

Today I am starting and ending Our Blog with dog pictures…because they make me laugh!

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Today is the first day of spring. Can I wear white pants yet? Just sayin’

Sometimes I catch myself just thinking about a friend or family member who have gone on to heaven.  I think how I miss them; but I also smile, as I think of good memories.

For instance, I can remember my first bite of cheesecake.  My grandfather ordered it at a restaurant named Johnny’s, outside of Elkton, Maryland. I was eight-years-old and I was having a hard time understanding how a cake could be made out of cheese. Plus, it looked more like a pie. He asked me if I wanted a bite… and I was hooked on cheesecake for a lifetime! In many areas of my life, I am still impacted by my grandfather. Yes I know, not a serious story but… I miss him!

A story posted last year in Huffington Post reminded me of how we can be impacted by others, long after they are gone. The article was titled Woman Pulls Hilarious Plant-Watering Prank On Husband Years After Her Death. The title made me laugh, even before I started to read the content.

Here is a picture of Phedre and Nigel Fitton before she passed away.

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Shortly before she lost her battle to cancer, the 69-year-old asked her husband to keep watering the plants in the bathroom of their South Africa home.

He faithfully did so for several years. Recently, his family assisted him in moving into a retirement home. That’s when the discovery was made. It was pointed out to him by family members that the plants he had been watering at his wife’s request… were made of plastic.

Here is how his daughter described it on her instagram account

Before my mum passed away, she gave my dad strict instructions to water the plants in the bathroom. He’s been religiously watering them & keeping them alive. They look so amazing he decided to take them to his new home, only to discover they are plastic! Can hear my mum chuckling.

In sadness, there is a happy remembrance. I love that story!

And for pic o’ day….

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Just Some Random Positivity

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I have this picture on my iPad and I regularly look at it. I love this little girl’s positivity and I also feel positive when I look at the kindness and the power of encouragement of these window washers.

I am a believer in the concept that if you replace negative thinking with positive thinking…positive things will happen.

I saw a book review on the following title:

HAPPINESS IS A CHOICE YOU MAKE

Lessons From a Year Among the Oldest Old 

It was written by John Leland. I just thought that it has some good positive reminders on happiness in life, based on looking back at life. Here’s what he says, “Live in the present. Focus on the good things. Find your purpose. Love unconditionally. Accept adversity. Feel gratitude. He says to acknowledge that “problems were only problems if you thought about them that way. Otherwise they were life — and yours for the living.”

At the end of his life, Mark Twain said, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened“.

Every now and then someone will ask me for some advice on life. I have thought about that a lot. If I could travel back in time to talk about life with young Joel Bieber… I would tell him that it’s all going to work out, and don’t worry so much about it.

I wanted to close the blog today with something positive… but not heavy. Then I saw this again and I laughed:

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A Friday “Living Life Happy”

Because!

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Today, I am posting a story from livelifehappy.com. Even that website makes me smile! A story from a student…

The first day of school our professor introduced himself and challenged us to get to know someone we didn’t already know.

I stood up to look around when a gentle hand touched my shoulder. I turned around to find a wrinkled, little old lady beaming up at me
with a smile that lit up her entire being.

She said, “Hi handsome. My name is Rose. I’m eighty-seven years old. Can I give you a hug?”

I laughed and enthusiastically responded, “Of course you may!” and she gave me a giant squeeze.

“Why are you in college at such a young, innocent age?” I asked.

She jokingly replied, “I’m here to meet a rich husband, get married, and have a couple of kids…”

“No seriously,” I asked. I was curious what may have motivated her to be taking on this challenge at her age.

“I always dreamed of having a college education and now I’m getting one!” she told me.

After class we walked to the student union building and shared a chocolate milkshake. We became instant friends. Every day for the next three months, we would leave class together and talk nonstop. I was always mesmerized listening to this “time machine” as she shared her wisdom and experience with me.

Over the course of the year, Rose became a campus icon and she easily made friends wherever she went. She loved to dress up and she reveled in the attention bestowed upon her from the other students. She was living it up.

At the end of the semester we invited Rose to speak at our football banquet. I’ll never forget what she taught us. She was
introduced and stepped up to the podium.

As she began to deliver her prepared speech, she dropped her three by five cards on the floor. Frustrated and a little embarrassed she leaned into the microphone and simply said, “I’m sorry I’m so jittery. I gave up beer for Lent and this whiskey is killing me! I’ll never get my speech back in order so let me just tell
you what I know.”

As we laughed she cleared her throat and began, “We do not stop playing because we are old; we grow old because we stop playing. There are only four secrets to staying young, being happy, and achieving success. You have to laugh and find humor every day.

You’ve got to have a dream. When you lose your dreams, you die.
We have so many people walking around who are dead and don’t even know it! There is a huge difference between growing older and growing up.

If you are nineteen years old and lie in bed for one full year and don’t do one productive thing, you will turn twenty years old.

If I am eighty-seven years old and stay in bed for a year and never do anything I will turn eighty-eight.

Anybody can grow older. That doesn’t take any talent or ability. The idea is to grow up by always finding opportunity in change.
Have no regrets.

The elderly usually don’t have regrets for what we did, but rather for things we did not do. The only people who fear death are those
with regrets.”

She concluded her speech by courageously singing “The Rose.”

She challenged each of us to study the lyrics and live them out in our daily lives.

At the year’s end Rose finished the college degree she had begun all those years ago. One week after graduation Rose died peacefully in her sleep.

Over two thousand college students attended her funeral in tribute to the wonderful woman who taught by example that it’s
never too late to be all you can possibly be .

And for pic o’ day, more in the genre of dogs… because

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Disappointment and Happiness

I am going to confess something to you. It’s a mistake that I made when I was in law school, that taught me a valuable lesson.

Even though I was a third-year law student, Oklahoma had a program that allowed law students to be tested and sworn in for a limited license to practice law in Oklahoma. The law firm where I worked in Edmond, Oklahoma, took full advantage of that limited license.

They would send me all over Oklahoma to handle legal matters. At the time, they were paying me $10 per hour and billing me out at a much higher rate.  It was good profit for them and good experience for me.

On this “valuable lesson” occasion, they had sent me to a small courthouse. I am not sure that I could ever find that courthouse again. Way out “in the sticks”. I was there representing a lady for her uncontested divorce.

She and I presented basic evidence to the judge. At the conclusion of the evidence, the judge formally announced from the bench that the lady (my client) was now divorced.

I turned to her and congratulated her. She broke down crying and told me that there was nothing to celebrate. I was reminded that no one wins in a divorce… and that there are specific times to just keep my mouth shut. And that was one of those times!

Thankfully, I only handle personal injury cases. That was part of the lesson learned as well.

So today, I am posting pic o’ days as the range of emotions that can be part of a lawsuit. The courtroom is a place to resolve things when settlement is not an option. But, at the end, there is a scoreboard and a definite winner.

 

So, the first emotion I post is disappointment, which makes us appreciate good results:

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Thankfully, there is also a possibility of happiness. And the more preparation, hopefully the emotion of satisfactory resolution and happiness!

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Josh Izenberg’s “Slomo”

This blog takes us a bit off the beaten path to an article that I am posting from the NY Times. From the Opinion pages comes a documentary by Josh Izenberg titled Slomo. (also here at Slomothemovie)

The article describes and includes the movie about a doctor named John Kitchin who had become board certified in  Neurology and Psychology, but was not happy chasing a life of possessions and materialism. One day, while in the lunch room, he saw a man in his nineties who just kept piling food on his plate and looked immensely happy.

Dr. Kitchin looked at him and asked his age. The man smiled and told him he was ninety-three. Then, Dr. Kitchin decided he would kind of poke at him by asking, “How does a strapping young man like me, get to be an old codger like you?”. The man’s response, “Do what you want to”.

That poignant answer stuck with Dr Kitchin. Sometime thereafter, he began to have vision issues and was having problems recognizing faces and reading x-rays. At some point, Dr Kitchin left the practice of medicine to pursue a simpler life that includes a lot of rollerblading along the Pacific Ocean boardwalk.

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That’s a small sample of the movie. If you click on the attachment, you will see the 16 minute movie on his journey and why he is now so happy. If you can’t click on it, then I will just give you the short version: He is happy. He left behind his chase of possessions and now lives in a studio apartment along the beach. His only major expense is skates. A reminder that happiness is not found in things.

DID YOU KNOW that honey is the only edible food that will not spoil?

For pic o’ day… a dog telling a joke:

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Habits of the Happy

The snow coming down from the sky has a refreshing feel to it. Then, as you look out the window, the white across the yards and trees looks like a postcard picture. Yes,  that was my initial reaction. Then, I soon tired of that sight when we had to close the Richmond and South Carolina offices. At that point, I just wanted “normal”. Enough of the snow.

Admittedly, I experienced a rollercoaster of moods during our snow. That “cabin fever” feeling.  My escape to Virginia Beach was a welcome respite. It was interesting to see almost a line of demarcation where the snow started and stopped.

Because of my moods, I admit that I went looking for some happiness articles. Plus, for the blog I do enjoy lists because even when I skim them later, I seem to always find something.  I wish I could claim this as my own original list. Instead, it comes from a website called 99u.com  that always includes some positive articles. This article is titled  “7 Habits of Incredibly Happy People”.

Author Gregory Ciotti has listed his list of 7. I suspect that we all would have a different list. Still, looking at the Ciotti list that I have condensed just a bit, gives some positive thinking material on this Monday.

 

1. Be Busy, But Not Rushed

Research shows that being “rushed” puts you on the fast track to being miserable. On the other hand, many studies suggest that having nothing to do can also take its toll, bad news for those who subscribe to the Office Space dream of doing nothing.

The porridge is just right when you’re living a productive life at a comfortable pace. Meaning: you should be expanding your comfort zone often, but not so much that you feel overwhelmed. Easier said than done, but certainly an ideal to strive towards.

Feeling like you’re doing busywork is often the result of saying “Yes” to things you are not absolutely excited about. Be sure to say “No” to things that do not interest you. The goal is to say “Yes” to the right things.

2. Have 5 Close Relationships

Having a few close relationships keeps people happier when they’re young, and has even been shown to help us live longer, with a higher quality of life. True friends really are worth their weight in gold. But why five relationships? This seemed to be an acceptable average from a variety of studies. Take this excerpt from the book Finding Flow:

National surveys find that when someone claims to have 5 or more friends with whom they can discuss important problems, they are 60 percent more likely to say that they are ‘very happy’.

The number isn’t the important aspect here, it is the effort you put into your relationships that matters. Studies show that even the best relationships dissolve over time; a closeness with someone is something you need to continually earn, never treat it as a given. Every time you connect with those close to you, you further strengthen those bonds and give yourself a little boost of happiness at the same time. The data shows that checking in around every two weeks is the sweet spot for very close friends.

3. Don’t Tie Your Happiness to External Events

Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less. —C.S Lewis

Self-esteem is a tricky beast. It’s certainly good for confidence, but a variety of research suggests that self-esteem that is bound to external success can be quite fickle. For example, certain students who tied their self-esteem to their grades experienced small boosts when they received a grad school acceptance letter, but harsh drops in self-esteem when they were rejected.

Tying your happiness to external events can also lead to behavior which avoids failure as a defensive measure. Think of all the times you tell yourself, “It doesn’t matter that I failed, because I wasn’t even trying.”

4. Exercise

No matter how much you hate exercise, it will make you feel better if you stick with it. Body image improves when you exercise (even if results don’t right away). And eventually, you should start seeing that “exercise high” once you’re able to pass the initial hump: The release of endorphins has an addictive effect, and more exercise is needed to achieve the same level of euphoria over time.

5. Embrace Discomfort for Mastery

Happy people generally have something known as a “signature strength” — At least one thing they’ve become proficient at, even if the learning process made them uncomfortable.

Research has suggested that mastering a skill may be just as stressful as you might think. Researchers found that although the process of becoming proficient at something took its toll on people in the form of stress, participants reported that these same activities made them feel happy and satisfied when they looked back on their day as a whole.

Struggle is the evidence of progress.

6. Spend More Money on Experiences

Truly happy people are very proficient with what they spend on physical things, opting instead to spend much of their money on experiences.  “Experiential purchases” tend to make us happier, at least according to the research. In fact, a variety of research shows that most people are far happier when buying experiences vs. buying material goods.

Here are some reasons why this might be, according to the literature:

  1. Experiences improve over time. Great experiences trump physical items, which often wear off quickly.
  2. People revisit experiences more often. Research shows that experiences are recalled more often than material purchases. You are more likely to remember your first hiking trip over your first pair of hiking boots (although you do need to make that purchase, or you’ll have some sore feet!)
  3. Experiences are more unique. Most people try to deny, but we humans are constantly comparing ourselves to one another. Comparisons can often make us unhappy, but experiences are often immune to this as they are unique to us.
  4. We adapt slowly to experiences. Consumer research shows that experiences take longer to “get used to.” Have you ever felt really energized, refreshed, or just different after coming back from a great show/dinner/vacation? It is harder to replicate that feeling with material purchases.
  5. Experiences are social. Human beings are social animals. Did you know that true solitary confinement is often classified as “cruel and usual” punishment, due to the detrimental effects it can have on the mind? Experiences get us out of our comfort zone, out of our house, and perhaps involved in those close relationships we need to be happy.

7. Don’t Ignore Your Itches

This one is more anecdotal than scientific, but perhaps most important.

When the magazine Guardian asked a hospice nurse for the Top 5 Regrets of the Dying, one of the most common answers was that people regretted not being true to their dreams:

This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.

And for pic o’ day, I am including a picture from my Mom. Certainly,  love is a good emotion for happiness!

Singing Love Dog

Scared in Trial?

There are some lawyers who have chosen  business or real estate closings, for their practice of law. One of my old bosses was quick to tell people that he did not enjoy the Courtroom.

Part of happiness is to find what you enjoy and do it. During my first year of practice, I did a closing and determined to never do another one.

This pic o’ day is a reminder that you can’t be scared to go to trial, if you are a trial lawyer. You also can’t drive a boat, if you are a scared Corgi.

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