Exploring and Encouraging a Healthy Life Marked with Joy

Archive for February, 2012

Loving, Fun Pets Bring Happiness












2013 Savannah Irish and Cherokee Indian/Native American Book and Bee Festival

I went to the Savannah Irish Festival last Saturday.  I have some Irish blood from my father’s side of the family.  Really, I do.  Saye or Seay or Seaye = “one who lives by the sea.”  (Oh how I wish.)  I also have some Cherokee Indian blood on my mother’s side.  Is it okay to say “Indian”?  Because “Cherokee Native American” sounds a little funny.  But maybe that’s just me.










I also went to the Savannah Book Festival on Saturday.  I have books in my blood as well.  (And books in my oven–but that’s another odd story for another post.)










Between the two festivals I went to the Savannah Bee Company on Broughton.










(FYI next year I plan to host the 2013 Savannah Irish and Cherokee Indian/Native American Book and Bee Festival.)

But now I’m going to tell you a little about the Irish Festival.

After getting my picture taken at the festival entrance and buying a $5.00 ticket to win a $5,000 trip to Ireland (“Neal will win!  Neal will win!”  Say it with me), I met the sweetest Irishy-looking lady, who reminded me of an older Molly Malone.  We developed an instant rapport.










After a lunch of fish and chips, and an Irish banger, I moseyed up the Civic Center stairs to Kevin Barry’s Pub Stage and listened to the hauntingly melodic voice and guitar of Carroll Brown.  I was going to go back downstairs and ask somebody WHY the heck the famous female group Celtic Woman had the singular “Woman” in their name instead of the plural “Women,” but the folks I came with (not a one Irish) convinced me to stay for comedian/singer Seamus Kennedy’s performance.  Oh why did I listen to them!

Seamus (pronounced “shame us”), originally from Belfast, entertained with a ready wit, tongue-twisters and audience participation songs.  So of course when he introduced “The Alligator Song” and called three cute little kids to the stage to help him, he couldn’t just stop there and sing the song.  No, he looked directly at me on the second row and ordered me to come to the stage.  (Remember I’m shy, painfully at times.)  Egged on–like those weirdly dressed characters on The Price Is Right–I had no choice.  (I retract point one of last Friday’s Five Happy Bringers–2/17/12 about choice.)  The YouTube video below is not professional (duh) but captured me on stage.











Seamus has a great website:   www.seamuskennedy.com

I have decided to retire from college teaching and become a famous Irish singer.  Should I call myself Celtic Man or Celtic Men?

Introducing the JoyInciters

JoyInciter = a strategy or practice which can bring greater happiness in life

I would like to introduce you to what I call the JoyInciters, a collection of simple practices which I use regularly to increase the level of happiness and joy in my life.  And even though some folks make a distinction between joy and happiness, I use the terms interchangeably.  I have collected these strategies from my study of happiness over the years, as well as my own life experiences, and have found them to be instrumental in moving me from not feeling good to feeling better, or from feeling okay to feeling happier.

I have come to have great respect for my feelings–they help me to know “where I am” at any given moment.  I see them (all of them) as significant helpers in life.  But I certainly don’t like them all.  I’ve heard it said that we “live at the address of our thoughts,” and I would add that our feelings (sad, depressed, excited, happy, etc.) are most often set in place by our thoughts.  Especially thoughts that we allow to become dominant in our minds.

My JoyInciters, if practiced authentically and regularly, WILL increase your joy.  I like the term JoyInciter, and when I created it, I played with other similar “words,” such as JoyEnticer, JoyInsider, and JoyInsight, but I love the idea that some very simple things we can do will incite (def = spur on, push toward action) us to get to where we want to go.  And I submit to you the belief that we all want to be happier.

I will be introducing one JoyInciter every week or so.

JoyInciter #1  is the most fundamental of all the strategies (and a practice which I imagine we all do to some extent): expressing gratitude.  This is what I am suggesting–make being thankful a regular, conscious practice.  And to help that endeavor, I keep an ongoing listing of what I’m thankful for, a gratitude journal or what I call my THANKSGIVING BOOK.

Everyday (or whenever I think of it), I write something down I’m thankful for.  I have come to realize that what I write down is NOT the most important factor of this practice.  But the LOOKING for thanksgiving is paramount in causing a shift in SEEING.  And it’s SO easy.  Right now as I type, I am grateful to be able to type, to have a computer and a smart phone, to have this popcorn I am eating, to have a bed to sleep in, etc.  Two of my courses this semester are keeping gratitude journals, and we begin class each day by sharing what we’re thankful for.

I challenge you to consciously begin to look for that which you are thankful for (whether you use a Thanksgiving Book or not).  To get started, tell me a few things you are grateful for right now.  This practice is a definite JoyInciter.

Update–Twins Naming Contest

Okay, well here are the entries so far in the NAMING CONTEST for daughter Emily’s TWINS.  (See “I’m Having Twins!”  2/5/12.)  Emily is still insisting that she is going to be the one who names the twins; I just don’t know what I’m going to do with her.

** GIRL NAMES:                                          ** BOY NAMES:

Nealy, Nell  (VERY POPULAR)                    Neal, Neils  (VERY POPULAR)

Valerie                                                                Thatcher

Serena                                                                 Xavier

Grace                                                                   Conrad

Alexandra                                                           Thomas

Allison                                                                 Alex

Carly Ann                                                            Aiden

Madison                                                              Cray

Hayden                                                                Mason

Maggie                                                                 Kaleb

Anabelle                                                              Calvin

Augusta                                                               Hobbes


And even though the HGTV Dream Home Contest is now closed for entries, we are not.  Send more suggestions!


Five Friday Happy Bringers (2/17/12)

It’s Friday again! And here are Five Things I am happy about:

1. The comfort of this beautiful affirmation: “I always have a choice.”










2. That it’s not Wednesday. (See “The Absent Smile” post.)

3. Having the correct tools for writing a blog:










4. Dear Deer. Earlier this week Riboclavin txted me and asked if I would show him some more pictures of key deer. Why? He just LOVED them, he said, and looking at them made him happy (and I suspect kept his temperature at a healthy status). Some of you will remember my buddy Riboclavin from earlier posts. If not, see Item 4 of “Five Friday Happy Bringers 2/3/12.” I’ve gotten this request for pics of key deer from him approximately every six months since 2006.

Let me explain.

Back in ’06, my older daughter Amy got married in one of those small “destination weddings” on Little Palm Island off the coast of Key West. You know what a destination wedding is, right? Basically it’s where you don’t have to reserve the back room at Ryan’s for the wedding reception because everyone just shows up at the “destination” and–“wham”–every detail is taken car








Little Palm Island amazed me in its uniqueness:

* You had to be sixteen to even take the boat from the mainland and get onto the island. (My 80-year old Aunt Junaluski served as the flower girl. Kidding.)

* No cell phones were allowed in any public places.

* There was only ONE TV on Little Palm Island (in a clubhouse).

* There were private outside showers attached to each bungalow:







All true! BUT what amazed me, fascinated me, intrigued me (and eventually Riboclavin) were the tiny, adorable KEY DEER. They came right up to you to be petted and fed–organic mash mix only (except for a small bag of Doritos I slipped onto the island).













What beautiful little creatures key deer are. An endangered species, they are related to white tail deer but MUCH smaller, the male averaging only 30 inches tall. They live exclusively in the lower keys and swim between the small islands foraging for food (similar to what I did on my stay, dogpaddling for Shirley Temples and virgin daiquiris).

On the wedding day, the little rascals tried to eat Amy’s bouquet:












But we managed to get to the church (okay, the beach) with bouquet unscathed:










When we returned from the wedding, I shared photos with ANYBODY who would look at them. Riboclavin was enthralled (even more than he is with Zach and Cody, and The Suite Life on Deck). BEGGED me to try to help him procure a key deer, as in HAVE ONE AS A PET! Well, of course, I refused. (He wouldn’t pay my $5000 down payment.)







Ever since, I have to deal with txts like this from Riboclavin: “Plz! Luv those key babies! Show pics!” I like having power over people.

(Here’s an interesting article from the National Wildlife Federation: http://www.nwf.org/Wildlife/Wildlife-Library/Mammals/Key-Deer.aspx

5. Having the ability to breathe deeply and enjoy life.

Dear Whitney,

On Tuesday of this week (messy wet weather in south Georgia), I finished my Everyday Creative Writing Class earlier than expected, leaving about twenty minutes of class time.  So instead of rushing on over to Chik-fil-A, I decided to have my (wonderful) students do a bit of impromptu in-class writing.  Looking out the window and seeing the light rain, I said, “Just write about the rain.”  Seeing glazed looks, I added, “Or write a brief note to Whitney.”  Still seeing glazed looks, I told them I was going to the bathroom and to get busy.

About ten minutes later, we shared.  (Btw, fellow teachers, I have the tradition of having the class applaud a student writer when her or his work is shared in class.  I love that simple gesture of appreciation.)

Most wrote about the rain, but  a few addressed Whitney.  (But come to think of it, both prompts were basically the same, I suppose.)  Here are a few rough first drafts.



I’m not shocked that you passed away.  Yes, “I will always love you, ” but it’s no surprise that drugs and alcohol killed you.  I’m sure you just wanted to “dance with somebody” and that is why you used.  Obviously your “bodyguard” wasn’t strong enough to protect you this time.  In your process of “getting to happy” you looked at God, and he said, “I look to you.”  Now you’re experiencing “the greatest love of all.”  I hope heaven is fun.



Dear Whitney Houston,

A few years ago I heard the song “I Will Always Love you” on The Simpsons.  I didn’t know who sang the song, but I have remembered how it went ever since.  It’s one of the most beautifully passionate vocal performances I have ever heard.

I hope that singing was truly your passion and that you loved every second of it.  I know that you had a problem with drugs, but everyone makes mistakes.  I’m just sad that yours were your downfall.

You will be remembered.  If by no one else, by me.



Dear Whitney,

I know this is bad timing but wtf happened?  You threw away more than your talent; you threw away your impact on the world.  You could have done so much more for women.  Been a great role model for generations.  But you decided to get high instead.  You’ve left nothing behind but some killer songs from the 90’s and a path of great pain and disaster.

I wanted to BE you.  I remember when you were the fairy godmother in the Cinderella movie with Brandi.  I sang those songs for years.  I still remember “There Can Be Miracles” from The Prince of Egypt.

What happened?  I hope your soul is safe and we can talk through this during eternity.



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