Happy Things June 2024

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It is the end of June. Its hard to believe that half of 2024 is over. There have been many happy things to acknowledge and be grateful for. Of course there have also been things that I found annoying, uncomfortable, unfortunate, irritating, bothersome, or scary. That’s just real life. I am working hard not to overfocus on those less than happy things. That doesn’t mean that I won’t take action when needed but I am committed to only giving things the attention they require. Sometimes that takes some work. But really, how does it help to spend mental energy thinking about my computer frustration? It doesn’t change the fact that I just have to wait until the new computer arrives.

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My harp
Electronic harp tuner
Black tea
Fresh Blueberries
Singing in the choir
Power naps
Hot chocolate flavored lip balm
Audible books
Duolingo Gaelic lessons
Computer glasses
Deep tissue massage
Peppermint candles
Buying my new harp
A summer rain
Learning a new song
Topical Benadryl
Live stream church
Indoor swimming
Tie dye t-shirts
Sunday naps
A kind word
Unexpected cool summer days
Much needed rain
Music playlists
Dried mango
Patient IT people
Unexpected days off
Peaceful mornings
Puppy kisses
Pumpkin Seeds

close up photo of swimming rope
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Right now I could chose to be focused on the fact that I can’t get the pictures to line up the way I want them to. What good would that do? Even if they aren’t situated perfectly you get the point. Now I can go focus on things that make me happy.

Amplifying The Bad

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I woke up this morning wondering if people amplify the bad in their lives out of habit or for some other reason. What I was noticing is that many people use really dramatic language to describe the annoyances, frustrations, and misfortunes that happen in a day, week, or month. Instead of saying “I didn’t like that” or “that made things harder” I hear about “trauma”, “overwhelmed”, “catastrophe”, or “disaster.” If we use those words for our daily struggles how do we then describe floods, famines, starvation, or wars? I’m not saying that people don’t actually experience trauma or disaster, just that we need to be really selective about how we use the words in order to them to have real meaning.

Before you start calling me bad names or thinking bad things about me, hear me out. If you’ve been following this blog you know that I am a fan of the book 14,000 Things to Be Happy About by Barbara Ann Kipfer. That book prompted a lot of thinking about how what we focus on can change our mood. I’ve been trying to implement that in my life and I can say that I see a big difference in my overall daily outlook. So this morning the importance of the more “negative” descriptors became an interesting topic.

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Neuro-linguistic programming has always been fascinating to me. This school of thought considers that there is a connection between our language, thought processes, emotions, and behaviors. Then, by changing our language it can have an an impact on the other areas. Not everyone buys into this, but I see evidence of it every day. In his book Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life Steven C Hayes devotes an entire chapter to the many ways our language can lead to suffering. It just makes sense.

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Then why would we want to tell ourselves that something is a disaster when it is really uncomfortable, challenging, or time-consuming? If I draw from observations in social media I think it could be that these terms are being normalized there. In addition, the more dramatic our language the more attention or support we think we will get. I don’t mean this as an intentional or conscious decision. I think it happens below our level of awareness most of the time. Lastly, those more dramatic labels may serve to distance ourselves from taking personal responsibility. I can’t be held responsible for managing a “disaster” when I am “overwhelmed,” but if I label it as a challenge or a setback it does seem to have more of an expectation to just deal with it. Again, I believe most of this is subconscious processing.

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Why talk about this at all? Because it is possible to change the way we feel by amplifying the good rather than amplifying the bad. I can use even more positive language when describing the good things in my life. Consider the word “happy.” Synonyms include cheerful, joyful, merry, ecstatic, elated, and enraptured. Say those words out loud. Do they have a different feel to you? Use the words that really elevate the mood. How about the word “satisfied?” Instead you could use pleased, proud, contented, fulfilled, gratified.

Lets stop watering down our positive emotions and stop amplifying the bad. It can change your day in amazing and satisfying and exhilarating ways.

A Thought Can Be Changed

“The only thing we are ever dealing with is a thought, and a thought can be changed.” ~ Louise Hay

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

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People have a tendency to believe that their thoughts are facts, even though getting distance from the thought can reveal a different conclusion. Have you ever been hiking in the woods and noticed something up ahead that you thought was a snake? Did it ever turn out not to be a snake, but instead you found a crooked stick? These things happen all of the time. I think that my glasses are on my desk, but find them on the piano. I’m at the grocery and I think that I have chicken in the freezer, so I don’t buy any. Then, I get home and find out that there isn’t chicken in the freezer. In each of these examples, I believed my thoughts to be factual.

When this type of thinking happens about things outside of ourselves most of us are able to update our thought patterns with the new information. That doesn’t seem to be particularly true if the thinking is about ourselves. We hold onto those thoughts very rigidly, and are often aware that we are doing it. That awareness isn’t enough to cause us to chose a new, more accurate thought.

Change Your Thoughts – Change Your Life

In his book, Change Your Thoughts – Change Your Life, Dr. Wayne Dyer describes this from the vantage point of the Tao Te Ching. He notes that the Tao Te Ching describes a way of living that is “balanced, moral, spiritual; and that works for all facets of life on Earth,” but it requires us to change our thoughts and our habitual way of thinking. Dr. Dyer’s book incudes all 81 verses of the Tao Te Ching as well as 81 essays about their meaning.

Get Out of Your Thoughts & Into Your Mind

Steven C. Hayes, in his book Get Out of Your Mind & Into Your Life, also describes how our inability to distance ourselves from our habitual ways of thinking creates emotional pain and suffering. As verbal creatures, humans are always surrounding or “swimming” in our thoughts. We don’t regularly take the time to think about them in a rational manner. This book walks you through some of the brain science, offers memorable examples (for instance The Virtues of Saliva on page 56), and offers some exercises or methods for changing the way you think as well as the arbitrary connections we often make between our thoughts, emotions, and experiences.

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I see the solution as falling into the same category as a social mantra I grew up with “question everything!” You might see it as “don’t jump to conclusions.” In either case, we need to take a step back, consider the facts, acknowledge our emotions. But, we do not need to let them rule our thoughts. This is not always easy. Currently, we are being bombarded with messages that our emotions are of primary importance. Don’t buy the messaging! Question everything…even our thoughts.

Happy Things May 2024

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Its that time again. Here is my Happy Things list for May 2024. I’ve started keeping a running list, much like the one in the book that inspired me, 14,000 Things to Be Happy About, by Barbara Ann Kipfer. I’m not as faithful with it as I aspire to be, but am getting better. I’ve decided to include it with my Morning Pages (inspired by Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way). I’ve already established the habit of writing Morning Pages every day so doing the two together could improve my consistency.

You may have read this before, but living in a state of gratitude helps your brain to help you. When you are intentionally focusing on gratitude your brain automatically screens out everything that isn’t gratitude unless it is really urgent. Poof – all of those minor annoyances can fade into the background. Whew – what a relief. I can’t help but think that this world would be a much more pleasant place if everybody was focusing more on what makes them happy or what they are grateful for.

May Happy Things


Spiral notebooks
Dry erase markers
Dusty Strings harp strings
Organic green grapes
Requests to play my harp at church
An open lane at the pool
Having crutches when you need them
Window AC units
Donated piano music
Aluminum foil
Cherry tomatoes
A new skirt
Refills for my mechanical pencils
Sturdy erasers

brown wooden harp on garden
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Perhaps some of the things that make you happy are the same as mine. Its almost certain that some will be different. I’d love it if you would share your list with the people around you and possibly even share it with me. Does anybody else have a harp on their happy things list?

Happy Things April 2024

Lemon Pecan Pancakes

Once again I feel blessed with a wonderful month of happy things. Composing, singing, playing the harp, playing the piano, are definitely highlights of every month. These things were also the heartbeat of my life in April. In addition I was able to get out of town for a long weekend to see family and experience the joys of another city. During that trip I ate some great food that was both unexpected and indulgent. I had some lemon pecan pancakes that almost brought me to tears. Given all of my food allergies I rarely get to have something like that, both safe and delicious. When topped with maple syrup it really made my day.

Other things that may be happy in April:

brown wooden harp on garden
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A patient harp teacher
Breakfast with a talented composer
A zoom conference with a famous composer
Beginner harp music
Singing a duet with my favorite Scotsman
Find your airbuds app
A kind veterinarian
Phone calls from my son
Potato chips – a guilty pleasure
Composer and mentor Andrew Maxfield
Voice Teacher Timothy Wilds
Pictures of grandchildren
Blooming lilacs
Mechanical pencils
Maple syrup

I hope you have started keeping track of all the happiness in your life. I’d love to hear about your list.

Happy Things March 2024

I forgot to post my list. I’ve still been keeping track, but have been so busy with lots of wonderful things that I forgot to upload this. March included a trip to Disney World with family, starting to learn to play the harp, some early gardening and garden planning, and finishing several compositions. Whew! As April has already started I’m looking forward to a little less snow and a lot more sunny skies. I’m not particularly looking forward to the summer heat that will soon follow.

March Happy Things

free checked luggage on Southwest Airline
adjustable music stands
pocket-sized dictionaries
learning Gaelic
homemade beef jerky
red pencils
Lever harps
excellent chefs
Peppermint tea

What were your happy things in March?

Happy Things February 2024

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I must say that February has been a bit better than January for finding happy things. And, as a result it was a lot easier to focus on the things that make me happy. Like so many other things, this requires practice. In case you missed the January post, this idea comes from 14,000 Things to Be Happy About by Barbara Ann Kipfer. In the process of writing this post I turned to the book for encouragement to observe more, recognize more, and savor more. While it is true that I probably could list at least many more things that I was unhappy about than I have on this happy things list, I do see the benefit. Even reading back through my list I notice a smile spreading on my face.

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Even better, February had 29 days this year. There’s something just special about leap year. I once knew someone who was a leap year baby and used to joke about how unfair it was to have less birthdays than everyone else. I’m certainly trying to make the most of this extra February day with lots of things that make me happy.

February 2024 Happy Things List

A helpful florist

Voice lessons

Composition lessons

Tea bags

Suet feeder

Flat Stanley


90 minute massages


Italian Sausage

Gluten Free pasta

Gel pens

Spa day

Irish harp music

Maple syrup

Sleeping dogs


Dry erase markers

French fries


Coming home

Irish harps

Compassionate veterinarians

Leap year

Charles Anthony Silvestri‘s poetry

monochrome photo of woman playing harp
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Have you started your Happy Things list yet? I’d love to hear how it is working out for you.

May The Love of The Father

May the Love of the Father is yet another moving prayer from John Birch. It calls upon the power of the Holy Trinity to lift our spirits bringing peacefulness to our lives. John Birch has an ability to convey the mystery God’s love in language that speaks to the modern day heart.

May the love of the Father, the tenderness of the Son, and the presence of the Spirit gladden your heart, and bring peace to your soul; this day and all days. Amen.

I chose to set these words as a benediction response or blessing. The composition debuted in worship for the first time at Rio Rancho Presbyterian Church in Rio Rancho NM. It is written for four-part (SATB) choir with piano accompaniment. The voice parts are in a comfortable range for most volunteer choirs. The flowing accompaniment supports the choir, rising and falling to provide a sense of movement and encouragement.

I have always loved the sung responses used during worship. I have enjoyed writing a variety of introits, prayer responses, and benediction responses. Sometimes they take me a while, but this one seemed to speak to me almost immediately after I read Mr. Birch’s prayer. I added an Amen to this composition simply because I just like the feeling I get when I sing them.

A midi audio of the composition is available for you below.

If you would like a copy of this composition you can find it HERE. A selection of other compositions can be found at Music Notes Market Place.

Happy Things January 2024

I’ve written before about the book 14,000 things to be happy about by Barbara Ann Kipfer. I think that focusing on happy thing of the things we are happy about is a fabulous strategy for improving health and happiness. So, I decided to do a monthly blog post about my happy things. Finding things to be happy about in January was a little tough. But, that’s probably when I need it the most.

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January is the month of my deceased daughter’s birthday and this year it was the month when my mother died. If that’s not bad enough, it was also my mother’s birthday. This involved frantic travel to get to her before she passed, the painfully sad event, and the family drama that frequently rears its ugly head around such events.

If I wasn’t intentional about it I could have easily missed all of the things I’m grateful for and feel happy about.

Here’s my January 2024 list:

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  1. A caring Hospice chaplain
  2. Abundant sea shells on the beach
  3. Watching ocean waves under an amazing cloudy sky
  4. Finding a restaurant that could manage food allergies that overlooked the water.
  5. Phone calls from friends and family
  6. Successfully completing a composition I’d been working on for a long time
  7. A hotel that offered compassion and a last minute reservation change without a fee
  8. Slip on shoes
  9. Flights that left and landed on time
  10. Unsweetened iced tea
  11. Puppy kisses
  12. Beautiful hymns of faith
  13. Allergy medication
  14. A large woodpecker on the tree outside my office window


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One of the lessons I am learning as an adult student of both composition and voice is humility. This humility is necessary in order to set aside any excess pride or superiority that can interfere with my learning. That isn’t always comfortable. Some definitions of humility include.

  1. A modest or low view of one’s own importance
  2. Freedom from pride or arrogance
  3. The feeling or attitude that you have no special importance that makes you better than others
  4. Not believing you are superior to others
old books side by side on library shelf

While I believe all of these definitions are accurate, they don’t fully capture my experience as an adult learner. Then I found a description that was more illuminating. It said that people who are humble can still think highly of themselves, but are also aware of their mistakes, gaps in knowledge, and imperfections. This awareness of mistakes, gaps in knowledge, and imperfections has been very important in my current student status.

Jeff Boss at Forbes.com (3/1/25) wrote that humble people are confident and competent in themselves so much that they can help others. They don’t feel the need to boast but let their actions speak for their ideals. They don’t feel the need to show others how much they know. Humble people actively listen to others, and they are eager to understand others because they are curious. They are perpetual learners and realize that they don’t have all of the answers. Also, they glean knowledge from the experiences of others and crave more opportunities to learn. They accept feedback, assume responsibility, and they ask for help.

When I am able to engage in this manner I find that I am able to focus my attention on learning rather than trying to prove how much I already know, a practice that interferes with learning. It is also sometimes very difficult for me to ask for help. Unfortunately this has been my default mode for most of my life and now I’m trying to fill in the gaps in knowledge that resulted.

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So what can we do to show up ready for learning in this way? I think the first step is to take a good look at your reasons for being in the situation. Are you there to get praise or acknowledgement for your brilliance or are you there to expand your knowledge? What behavior or attitude will help you most to achieve your goal. Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE praise and validation. But I learn the most when I don’t let that be what motivates my behavior.

The second step may be to identify where your areas of weakness might be as well as how willing you are to be vulnerable enough to show those areas of weakness to the person(s) that are trying to teach you something. For me that is sometimes not at all vulnerable and other times I can choose to be extremely open. This does not always feel comfortable, but with a trusted mentor or teacher, it can be so extremely effective.

Give it a try.