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How to Be Happy

boxing glovesI’m writing this for you. I can see your face, your beautiful eyes and perfectly sculpted nose and eyebrows.

You are worried because you don’t know how to be happy and you are too young and brilliant to be unhappy and stressed. You know that. So the fact you are not really happy worries and annoys you even more. And you are a little bored even though you know that’s absurd.  Part of the problem might be you’ve forgotten how and what brings happiness.

It’s ok. I promise.

I can’t tell you how to be happy but I can tell you what makes me happy and maybe that will help.

There’s good news. You already know somethings most folks don’t. You know happiness is a choice. Every morning you have to decide if you will be happy.  You already know happiness is not something that happens to you.  Other people can’t make you happy.  Happiness is something that happens in your brain. It’s a switch and you have to decide to flip it.

Right now, I’m sitting in the bathroom. It’s 6:45 on a Sunday morning. I didn’t want to wake up this early. There’s dirty laundry in the corner. But I have a bottle of cold water, a cup of hot coffee. I have a book that I’m enjoying and I’m happy. That’s so weird. But it’s ok.

1. Figure out what you like to read. Biographies, math books, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, classic fiction, history, graphic novels, the Bible, collections of trashy funny essays. It’s all fine. Waking up in the morning is much better when you have something to look forward to. Fifteen minutes of putting something  into your brain, that’s only for you, will help make you happy and will actually help make you look forward to waking up.

2.Eat and drink good food. Sure you’re gonna put garbage in your body too, most of us do. But everyday make sure you give your body, this astonishing engine God has give us, lots of water and good food too. It’ll make you feel a lot better. When you don’t eat and drink enough good stuff you will not be happy. (Again, being happy is a choice, are you seeing the pattern?) A car needs gasoline and oil. If you fill the tank with maple syrup and Windex, the car won’t run. This one is pretty simple.

3.  Get enough sleep. You can’t be happy without it. Yes, there will always be days when life interferes and you don’t get the sleep you need . But don’t expect your brain and heart to be happy if you’re not getting enough sleep. You know that so make it happen.

4. Figure out some physical activity you like to do and do it. I recently discovered I like picking vegetables out of our garden. I like to swim under water, I like to look at stuff underwater with goggles and float on a raft. I like trying to dance with my children. And I like to box and kick. Why? Who the hell knows . It’s odd but it makes me happy so I try to do it with my friends who also like to hit stuff, several times a week. It makes me happy. But, it’s up to me to make sure I go to that place and be with those people.

Recently, I thought I needed to do something more reasonable for a woman my age.  I went to a couple of yoga classes. It was nice but didn’t make me happy. It’s all about trial and error.

If you don’t know what you like to do, then you need to be brave and accept responsibility to go figure it out. Get off your ass and go try some new things until you find the thing and people you need.

Think back, maybe you used to do something that made you happy. Dancing, gymnastics, sword fighting, horseback riding, martial arts. Try that again. Forget about how you look or what people will think. What’s more important to you? Looking cool or actually being happy. If you need help, Email me.

And finally, talk to God. All the time. Tell him what you are trying to do. He can help. He’s got ideas. And when you get some good sleep, read something fun, drink some water and eat something delicious. Say thank you. You’ll enjoy it a whole lot more.

There’s more, but I’m going to stop right now. Remember, you have to love your self and take care of yourself first. Then you can help others and that’s where things where things get really really happy!

But for now, it’s all about baby steps and moving forward just a little everyday.


Rude Brother, Offensive Sister

brother and sisterDear Brothers and Sisters, all of you out there.  Promise me you won’t do what I did. I’ve written about it before but is still sits in my heart.

Understand, that all you brothers and sisters are the same, you are a herd of zebra, as connected and similar as possible without being identical. You are the same,  your stripe patterns are just a little different.

You are the same, more so than anyone else you will ever know on this planet, but you have different internal clocks from each other, a different moral compasses, different electrical impulses racing through your heart and brain. But you are the same and know the same stuff, instinctively.

granger prisonMy brother, Granger, and I were always really close though he was eleven years old.

But when I was in my late twenties and had young kids he started really pissing me off. He was always late, sometimes hours sometimes days. the kids would spend hours anxiously waiting for him, because he said he was coming. Sometimes he arrived sometimes he didn’t. He accidentally took my kids on minor drug deals. They went hiking and he only remembered to take beer and vodka. But they did just find sucking on ice cubes. He’d bring one kid a present and forget the other. He talked about himself constantly or told wildly inappropriate stories about hookers and  inexplicable trips to small South American countries.

In my eyes, for years, he never said or did the right thing. So I was perpetually annoyed and pissed for five years.

Then, one day, something clicked in my brain. Why was I wasting so much time being annoyed, offended and angry? What a waste of valuable, precious time with my only living family member. I was a bitch and an idiot. So I stopped.

We were the same but different. Thankfully, God changed something in my heart  and all I felt was love, compassion and understanding. If we owe anyone one unconditional love….it’s our brothers and sisters. So stop wasting time wanting a person to act the way you think they should. That’s just dumb.

I still struggle with this. Sandor has friends and I have friends who are constantly changing plans, not arriving on time, not letting me know their plans change. For years I would seethe and fume. How inconsiderate, how rude. Secretly, I felt superior because I was punctual or organized.  What a bitch I was!

Recently, however I’ve realized these schedule meltdowns actually don’t have anything to do with me. I’ve learned to say or text “No worries.” Because I love them and they really don’t mean to be inconsiderate. Their day just blew up.

And one more thing. If you do blow up or snap or gripe at your brother or sister, that’s not surprising.  Your family. but do yourself a favor and learn to say, “Sorry I was an ass.” That’s all you have to say and all the negative vaporizes. Have the guts to say you’re sorry. It makes life so much easier.

I’d give just about anything to have a year back with Granger. I don’t care how bizarre, inconsiderate, inappropriate and self absorbed. He loved us and he was just being Granger. He was the last zebra with my stripes.

Love your brothers and sisters, as different as they are. That’s all you have to do.

Your Dad Is Not An Idiot

family without richardDad’s are in a very tough place right not and it’s really not fair.

In the 50s, 60s and 70s dads in America knew their place and their job. It was pretty black and white, even on tv.  Dad’s were the bread winners, the wise men with a steady hand. Their job was to support the family.  Look at tv dads from that era. Leave it to Beaver had Ward, there was Andy Griffith, in the 70s Mike Brady was the voice of reason and a money making architect and Howard Cunningham on Happy Days was steadfast rock the family could count on.

Now tv fathers are bumbling idiots. they are laughable in their ineptness. The dads in Modern Family, Blackish and Fresh Off The Boat are morons and mom always has to clean up their mess.And dads today are expected to be kind of metro-sexual pansies in order to be effective caring parents.  Well that’s not fair.

It’s true, studies and my life experience have show a woman’s work day is on average three hours longer than a dad’s because after we get home we do the majority of the cooking, cleaning and child care. But those numbers are shifting. Now that I work and Alex stays home there has been a 100 percent flip in our house and I have to be careful that I don’t over look his hard work.

Today is Father’s Day. Appreciate the dad and husband he is. Moms need to stop allowing the kids to be disrespectful to their dads. Make your girls stop their eye rolling. Maybe your dad doesn’t know much about texting or PMs on facebook, but he knows other stuff, that’s a lot more valuable.

Don’t get mad at him when he’s trying to protect you. He’s only doing that because he loves you so much. And an over protective dad is a whole lot better than one that’s not there or simply doesn’t care.

Listen to your dad, and watch  what he does.  Men sometimes speak a different language.  They may not say “I love you” all the time but they show up in the middle of the night to change flat tires and they sit through endless band concerts.

Today, give the old man a break, a hug and let him have the tv clicker all day long.family without richard

He Doesn’t Know He’s Sexy

alex 21cLast night  I was wrestling with hamburgers on the grill. They were big fat burgers,  we always call “Love Burgers” (thanks Uncle Daley). I kept trying to flip them too soon so they wanted to fall apart.

Then, just as things started to take shape with my grilling efforts, I got distracted.

Alex was playing catch with thirteen year old Sandor in the yard and it was just about the cutest most wonderful thing I’ve ever seen.  Alex is still pretty slow moving because of his surgery in October. But he was trying.  Wearing a bulky catchers mitt, he gamely threw the ball at his son.  Unfortunately, every fourth or fifth throw the dog got involved and snatched the ball our of the air, or chased it down before Sandor could get to it.  Then there was a ridiculous chase scene that ended up as slobbery wrestling match.

Alex didn’t get annoyed or impatient. And when they were finished, Sandor walked past me and said, “that was awesome.”

I flipped the burgers again, looked up at the Lord and thanked him. Then I gave Alex a hug that he didn’t really understand. Standing there in his grubby jeans and old tee shirt he had no idea how much I loved him because he played baseball for a few minutes.

Men don’t seem to understand that the sexiest thing they can do is be a good dad. When they love their children and make them happy, women naturally find that not only desirable but smoking hot. It tells us we picked the right guy, our instincts were correct.  And you know how much women like to be right.

It was a sweet moment until Sandor walked back out of the house. We were still hugging and Alex had his hand on my butt.

Sandor interrupted, “Hey there Mister, keep that hand north of the equator.”

“But I like the equator, it’s warm,” Alex replied.

“Noooo,” Sandor replied and disappeared back into the house as the Love Burgers burned up on the grill.



Saying Thank You

yard 7This blog only matters to five people in the world, so nobody else needs to read it, unless you really want to.

I’ve been trying to be more thankful lately and not just thankful for people. I’ve been trying to figure out the things and actions and people who bring me joy.

So, today, as I sat in one of the new blue Adirondack chairs Alex got me for Christmas and Aries the giant puppy has chewed all to hell, I realized I needed to say thank you to our yard and porch.

First let me say I’ve had a love hate relationship with our house for 25 years. It’s a beautiful mess, a five acre red neck ranch.  Projects are never finished, the laundry is never done and there’s always an old broke down pick up truck somewhere on the property. But it’s ours.

And we have an enormous front yard. Because of all the foliage you can’t see our house, yard or driveway from the highway, but here we sit.  Some of the happiest, most magical moments of my life have taken placeyard 3 out there, despite the stickers, dandy lions,the rocks and the patchy grass.

yard 2I remember twenty years ago, lying on my back, all by my self, when I was pregnant with Lex and smiling because I knew I could feel the gentle curve of the earth. I remember twenty two years ago hiding in the bushes while Mary and Jack waited for the school bus.  Jack didn’t want me to walk them down because he said he could protect Mary though he was only six or seven.

After a big snow, I remember telling the kids not to have a snowball fight with Alex because he grew up in inner city Detroit and snowball fights were lethal.  They didn’t listen and ended up crying and bruised because Alex packed his snowballs until they were as hard as cannon balls and he always aimed for the head.

sandor trampolineWe set up so many swimming pools in our yard, and they all collapsed because our yard isn’t flat. We have a running joke “Warning Eminent Pool Wall Collapse.” We had historic Ramin Noodle wars, chased puppies and Fred the Goat.

All four of the kids have jumped on the trampoline so much over 25 years, we’ve gone through three mats. In elementary school Lexie spent hours jumping jump rope and talking on the phone on the trampoline.When Jack was 13  I thought he and his friends were all out there “talking” on the trampoline and years latter learned they were all making out. Sandor and Sam love pulling the trampoline under the basket ball goal and making epic slams. Sadly, last week they thought smearing the trampoline with Vaseline would make it more fun. That didn’t’ work and we still cant get it off.

There’s a special place in out big yard where Mary buried her dead parakeets.  She forgot to water and feed them sometimes. And once she accidentally kicked her dog Bear in the mouth. We thought she broke his jaw yard 5but found out from the vet, after I payed him two hundred dollars, that he’d been chewing on a pork chop bone and it was just stuck in his mouth.

We’ve shot bottle rockets, paint balls and bb guns at each other in the yard, hunted for eggs and candy, run out into snow storms in our underwear and had massive water balloon fights. We’ve slung each other behind a four wheeler with a ski rope. for years Alex beat young  Jack in basketball in the yard until one day, when Jack was 13…..things changed. It was a shocking day for Alex.

Once Jack got mad at me and climbed the Magnolia tree, said he was going to stay there all night, so I threw him a pork chop and told him to enjoy dinner.

yardThere’s been a lot of dancing in the yard, especially between Mary and Lexie. Ask them to do the Sexy Dolphin Dance…it’s fun. We’ve argued, played guitar, howled at the moon, chased and hugged in the yard. We’ve welcomed new and magical family members and puppies into the world. It’s been a really good yard.

Today in the yard, our garden gave us a massive zucchini and cilantro for our tacos.

Thank you yard. You’ve given me so much and I’ll never be able to repay you.  You’ve made my life better.



Weird Little Miracles

milkThis morning I was grumpy. Schools out so every one in the house get’s to sleep late. All I wanted was coffee and a moment to sit in the bathroom and read my book with the hot water running. This morning ritual drives my husband, Alex, crazy, because it is very wasteful, but I love the cocoon of steam, I love my little straight back chair, my time to read and my cup of coffee.

But this grumpy morning, I was out of milk. Slamming the refrigerator door  I mumbled something like, “Seriously?” My black coffee was hot, bitter and not what I wanted.

Before disappearing into my steamy bathroom, I let Aries is our 110 pound German Shepard type dog out. She’s a happy, goofy  dog and as my ex-husband used to say about me, “untroubled by serious thought”. Our biggest problem with Aries is she’s a kleptomaniac .  The things she steals from our neighbors at night are bizarre, and sometimes useful. In the last two months Aries has appeared on the porch with a twenty pound bag of fancy cat food (hair ball reducing), a very fresh three pound cat fish, a full bottle of Windex and a brand new pair of Toms (still in the box).

After reading for twenty minutes I gave up on the coffee. I’m a baby.  Black coffee just doesn’t work for me. I showered, dried my hair and tried to find something to wear.  But it was one of “those” mornings when nothing looks right and nothing feels right.  I think women are the only ones who understand these dreadful days, when discarded clothes pile up on the foot of the bead like fallen soldiers.

With my phone and bag in hand, I stepped outside and there on the porch sat Aries, with a jug of milk. It was plastic gallon with at least a pint left.  The jug was dirty, obviously Aries dragged it through the woods to bring it home, but she was so proud of herself.  I have no idea how old the milk was in that jug, but I went back  inside and found a treat for my beautiful piliferous Aries.

I believe in miracles . They happen every day, though some refuse to acknowledge them as such. I truly believe God or Aries, or both, were trying to get me out of my funk. And it almost worked.




Is There Hope For County Music?

margoI hate most country music right now. That’s a bad thing because I work at a big county radio station that I love. I make my living on county music. But most of it just sucks right now and doesn’t work for anyone over thirty five cause we aren’t hot girls any more, most of us don’t wear Daisy Dukes and dance in the back of pickup trucks in corn fields. Most country music right now is horribly over produced, predictable, commercial oatmeal. I’m not sure how it got so far away from it’s original sincere story telling roots.

I’ve had a long life with country music. When I was five and  my mom was listening to Fiddler On The Roof in the living room I stayed locked in my room listening to How Highs the Water Mama? by Johnny Cash. In the eighties, when my friends finally got out of my car I’d take out the Talking Heads or Cheap Trick tape and listen to Waylon, Merle and John Prine.

But there’s hope!  For months my oldest son, Jack, has been telling me about this girl in Nashville. Margo Price. At first he just talked about how good she was. Then, when she got signed by a real record label he was really encouraged and I started paying attention.  When her first album, Midwest Farmers Daughter came out and I saw her on a news program I started telling the country DJs in the building about her. I stood behind them and forced them to watch videos and I said stuff like, “Look, she’s a real musician, and check out her band. It’s freaking awesome.”

Then Margo was interviewed on NPR and appeared on Saturday Night Live. For the first time I started to think there was a little hope for country music.  If you haven’t heard her she’s a lovely mashup of old school, traditional, twangy country with a brilliant modern twist. She’s honest and smart with a killer steel guitar player. And this womanl has actually lived, she’s suffered and sinned, loved and lost…. so she  has something to write about. This is so much better than the vacuous frat boy stuff we’re listening to now.

And today it happened. Tom Duke a legendary country music DJ, walked past and said, “Well, I noticed that girl charted today.”

Maybe the crappy country tide is turning. Maybe Margo was the necessary stone on the country music scale that will start the tipping.

Yaaaahhhh. Thank you Margo Price. You’ve given something to me that I loved and lost. And for the first time in five years I might start listening to our station again, and I’ll even listen to the music, not just the commercial breaks to make sure my clients are taken care of.

Here’s one of my favorites: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9b7QwdCWhw

Being 19 is The Worst!

lexoBeing a nineteen year old has to be one of the hardest things on the planet. Your technically and adult, so you are supposed to know what you’re doing. But nineteen years olds don’t even have fully develop brains so they might be crazy smart and still do the dumbest stuff. And it’s not really their fault!

Most 19 year old are on their own for the first time. So they have to deal with things they have never ever even considered. Landlords for example. He has power, he’s a grown man, he owns the place you live. You have to pay him money but you have to hold his feet to the fire and insist he fix things when they are broken.  Demanding a grown up do something for you for the first time is awkard. But that’s what happens at 19.

At 19 you don’t have your mom or dad making  judgmental observations about your friends. At first you think it’s great. But then, bad things start to happen because you accidently pick terrible friends.

When you were 16 you folks would say things like “Honey, I think your friends are kind of snarky bitches, kind of back biting don’t you think?” And you would realize it was true.

Or “Honey, I think your friend is a drug dealer and maybe using you for your car.”

I remember once, years ago, one of my kids was 19. They moved into a terrible terrible Little Rock neighborhood. They thought they were friends with the low life neighbors. I tried to warn my kid. “No Mom, they are my friends. You don’t understand.”

A week latter the trashy friends stole everything in the house including the laptop with lots of irreplaceable creative stuff on it.

Nineteen year olds have to move away and grow away from their parents. that’s natural. But it’s so hard.

For a nineteen year old there are just so many new and really important issues and situations they want to handle and need to take care of but they end up calling home for advice. Even though that’s the last thing on the planet they want to do because they are trying to be independent. There are insurance deductibles, and deposits,  and groceries, bills, over draft charges, flat tires, dead batteries, lost keys, tax returns, utilities and direct deposit pay checks that arrive two days after all your bills are due. Parents handle most of this stuff until you move out on your own.

Even health is an issue. Without your parents hovering and annoying supervision 19 year olds don’t get enough sleep and eat really crappy food. Then they get sick and feel terrible. After months of feeling puny, though you are in the prime of your life, you relize what your parents preached was true. In order to be strong and feel great you have to eat well, sleep well, help other people and exercise. You have to take care of your body if you want to feel good.

But little by little they figure things out, they learn what to do. They don’t call home every day for help, or even every week. They figure out how to be an adult. And for a parent that’s a really proud and heartbreaking day.

Woman vs Man

danceI was in the soup isle at Kroger when a couple rolled up behind me.

The forty year old wife said “I didn’t really like that thing I fixed last night. It wasn’t very good.  What did you think.”

The man wisely said, “It was ok.”

“You’re lying,” she snapped. “What are you doing?”

I accidently laughed out loud. “He’s trying not to fall of the ice burg into the cold black water, that’s what he’s doing.”

The husband laughed out loud and I’m sure the wife glared at me as I rolled away. I probably got the guy in trouble.  Once in the car I’m sure she hounded him about who I was and why I would say such a thing.

The truth is women are always setting traps for men.  And I don’t know why we do it.  We turn their words around, upside down and back wards then accuse them of being heartless, uncaring, cold or distant. When in reality men are just trying to figure out how to answer a question without getting in trouble.

But women can’t let it go.  We insist on making a fight out of absolutely nothing. I’m guilty too.  When I’m feeling insecure or unloved and I ask Alex how I look he sometimes makes the unforgivable mistake of saying “Fine.”

Well, that just blows me up. “Fine is average, fine is ok or mediocre. You’re saying I’m a five out of ten? Cause that’s what fine is. You didn’t say fine like Barry White your fine is a five.” and our night out is ruined.

Splash, my unwitting husband has fallen off the ice burg into the bottomless , frigid pit of my heart.  And he didn’t even know he did anything wrong.

I will agree that most men, including my husband, don’t realize how callous they can seem, even accidently. And they don’t realize how hard it is to be a woman over 30.  We are sensitive and needy creatures.

But maybe it’s time to cut them a little slack. We shouldn’t use their own words to crucify them when they were actually trying to be nice. I’ve started trying to warn Alex before he says the thing that will set me off. I say “The water is very very cold,” and most of the time he backs up from the edge and trys to say the right thing.

You see, if we let them fall off the ice burg, or we push them off all the time, pretty soon we’ll find ourselves standing there all alone. And nobody wants to be alone.


greenDear Granger, I’ve been thinking about you a lot.

Today Alex and I repainted an old doghouse that the dog absolutely refuses to enter. But it’s too big to move. At least it looks  better.

I was winding up an electrical extension chord in the yard and discovered a big animal had pooped on it. Pretty gross but I guess that’s why they make soap.

Mary in in Indianapolis working at a super inner city Boys and Girls Club. Good Lord the stories she calls with all the time. You’d be so in love and proud of her . She’s unspeakably gorgeous and silly.

Sandor is thirteen now and off riding his dirt bike. Last night he stayed with a friend.  His brother got a fish hook caught in his face so that was the big story for the night. He’s selling some kind of meat sticks this week so he can go to band camp.  I’m sorry your not here to help with the cause.

Jack called this morning. He went to see John Prine last night. Fifth row at the Ryman in Nashville. We are working on a screenplay together about Dad.  I know you’re glad to hear that.

Last night Alex made me chicken picata and Lexo stopped by the house for a little while. She’s so beautiful now, you’d be astonished.  She brought her guitar too and played.  I wish she wasn’t such a good song writer so I could discourage her.  She and Alex put on Leprechaun garb and I laughed till I had to pee.  You would have loved the chicken and the two of them. Every time you called on the phone you always asked what Alex was fixing for dinner.

It’s been a pretty good weekend here on planet earth.  I had a dream last night that I died and when I got to heaven you were all there. But I missed the kids so much that it wasn’t heaven at all, so I asked you all to send me back.

Tomorrow will be a good day too because I have my family.  Tomorrow is also March 15th, The Ides of March. Remember? that was the day Mom killed herself. She left me that note on the door that said, “Beware of the ides of March.” She was nuts! Who does that?  It’ll be a good day.

I love you and miss you. You’d be proud.

Love Pooh


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