Exploring and Encouraging a Healthy Life Marked with Joy

Archive for May, 2012



May your mailbox bring you good news!

Five Friday Happy Bringers (5/18/12)

I’m smiling and happy about the following five things today:

1.  These inviting, mysterious steps tucked away in a little hidden neighborhood north of Atlanta on my fun trip earlier this week:

(For some reason, they made me think that all things are possible–just up the hill a bit.)

2.  My two-year old grandson Gabriel’s new training potty.

(It actually sings.  “I’m so big.  Look at me.  I can use my own potty!”)

3.  My five-year old grandson Daniel’s sense of adventure and daring.  “I can drive a jet ski!”

(And he did, with a little assistance.)

4.  On Tuesday of this week I had the largest number of page views ever for the blog–552!

5.  Coming to the (sometimes difficult to swallow) realization that I alone am responsible for my joy (or lack of it) in life.

Great, great weekend to you!

News? Whose?

On a belated Mother’s Day visit to my folks in Atlanta earlier this week, I did something I haven’t done in years: watched an entire TV news program from start to finish.  My mom is recovering from a broken leg, so we did not do our usual restaurant and dollar store hopping; instead, we sat around and talked and laughed a bunch.  But then at 6:00 p.m., my mom clicked on the news, in part, I believe/know, because I was in a ridiculously zealous photo-sharing mood, and kept forcing my folks to look at quite a few of the 2612 pics on my iPhone’s camera roll.

But, really now, come on, isn’t this a cool pic of Mr. Happy meditating?

Anyway, the hour-long Atlanta news show began, and “news” story after “news” story poured forth from the television and into our attention and consciousness.  Here’s a brief cataloging of what I remember:

1.  Flesh-eating bacteria and fear of local waters being unsafe for swimming

2.  Young mother of three abandoning kids in downtown park

3.  Condemned building attracting drug pushers in middle class area

4.  New shoulder lanes causing huge traffic problems on 400 north of city

5.  FAMU hazing death’s Atlanta connections

6.  U.S. military spending hundreds of millions of dollars on weight loss surgery for family members of soldiers  (I tried to get a number for a contact person for this one–my dad was in the Navy, and my last year’s swimsuit is pretty darn snug.)

7.  Obesity rates approaching 50% of population  (Apparently no problem if you’re military married.)

8.  Listing of number of metro murders for 2012  (I can’t remember how many–by this time I was getting a bit newsnumb.)

9.  TRS (Teachers’ Retirement System) of Georgia’s financial woes

10.  Negative etc. after negative etc.

Floored.  I was floored.  And VERY happy when mom, a little after 7:00, remembered to switch from the national news (“Is Obama unfit for second term?”  “Romney’s greedy big business connections”) to Vanna White and Wheel of Fortune.  Vanna really does continue to look beautiful.  And I’m SO glad she got to keep her job way back when the board went digital.  Sure, we all know that her touching each letter box isn’t REALLY necessary, like it was when she manually had to turn each box, but still, it works for the show.  It was college night, airing from Portland, and a girl with big hair won $60,000 dollars!  She kept Vanna hopping, naming correct consonants without pause and buying up vowels like “Foreign Investors Continuing to Dominate U.S. Bank Purchases” (another story-to-come on the national news we didn’t finish watching).

In his insighful book Spontaneous Happiness, one of my favorite authors Dr. Andrew Weil suggests we pay closer attention to our “mental nutrition”:  “[W]hat we allow into our minds is as important as what we feed our bodies and significantly influences our emotional well-being.”  I agree.  He goes on to theorize that “if you habitually and unconsciously listen to sad music, read sad stories, and watch sad movies, chances are you will be sadder than if you choose happier input.  If you habitually tune into news programs that make you angry and distraught, chances are you will spend less time in the zone of serenity and contentment.”  (I needed a doctor to tell me that?!)

Question #1 to self:  “If I don’t watch the news. won’t I be kept in the dark about what’s going on in the world?”

As I write this sentence, it’s Wednesday at 4:13 p.m.  CNN’s headlines:

Overall a fairly disturbing litany of bad news.  (However, it IS good news that the girl with the infection is getting better.  May she recover to great health.)   If I turn on CNN or one of the other 24 hour cable news channels I get to hear this type of reporting over and over with “breaking news” interjected from time to time.

Two-part answer to self about Question #1 above:  “First, I probably don’t really need to hear all that ‘news’ to begin with, do I?  Second, I will stay on top of the ‘major stories’ simply by being on a computer, or talking to somebody at the water fountain, etc.”

Question #2 to self:  “WHO gets to decide what constitutes the news, what the definition of news actually is?”

Question #3 to self:  “Have I been programmed to accept the above definition?”

Question #4 to self:  “Are there alternatives to this mindset?”

I don’t really have the answers, of course, but perhaps asking the questions is what’s most important.

And I’m not suggesting that the fireman getting the cat out of the treetop is breaking news (but then again, neither is Travolta’s massage woes).

In Spontaneous Happiness, Dr. Weil shares several links to “good news” sites.  Thinking they were of the kitty rescue type, I was very happily surprised with their depth and relevancy.  Here are three wonderful good news sources:



www.odewire.com (which bills itself as “news for intelligent optimists”)

Here’s a bit of a story from today’s odewire:


After years of neglect, Palestinians going green

After years of neglect, Palestinians going green.  Officials are encouraging thousands of Palestinian children to collect compost, visit recycling centers, plant trees in hopes that the young generation will learn good habits.  In a society preoccupied with….


I agree with Dr. Weil when he writes that he  wouldn’t “recommend getting all your news from such sites, but it may be worth adding one or two of them to your Favorites List as an antidote to the negativity that dominates most news outlets.”

Okay, this news program is over for now.  Here’s to your healthy and joyful mental nutrition!



This is actually true. I certainly don’t always do it, but I have the choice.

Welcome, Monday!

Welcome, Monday! Come on in! You’re such a great day of the week, all fresh and new.



Mama — Tell Her Now!

“Mama.”  Perhaps no other word in our langauge evokes such tender and loving feelings.

My mom turned 85 on May 2.  Here she is with my dad (88).  They have been married for 65 years!

Geneva Mae Reavis Saye and Harold Hulon Saye Sr.

If I had to answer the question, “Neal, what’s the greatest lesson your mother has taught you in life?” I would have NO problem at all answering.  I learned the lesson so, so early: the power and authority of humor and laughter.  Some of my greatest memories growing up consist of roaring with giggles and laughter at some of the silliest things.  My mother is a master at seeing the lightness in situations.  The Christmas when I was about six, asked for a real joke box, and FOUND IT it my parents’ bedroom closet on Christmas Eve.  Mama thought it was hilarious when I started yelling in confusion, “WHY is my juke box in your closet??!!”  She said, through fits of unrestrained laughs, “Santa wanted your dad and me to try it out first.”  (That Christmas began my distrust of Santa.)  Or the time when I asked for (and finally got) a rocking chair for my sixteenth birthday (don’t judge me), and she (like you probably) laughed and said, “WHO wants a rocking chair on their birthday?!”  I still get teased about that very practical and emotionally calming gift.

Or her ongoing confusion with the words “veterinarian” and “vegetarian.”

Or the Christmas when I was about eight and had this obsession with making sure the ornaments were placed perfectly (in my opinion) on the live tree branches.  I had gone to bed, but thought that maybe I should check the tree one more time for spatial accuracy of the bulbs and tinsel.  A big round glass ornament on a limb just out of my reach needed attention.  Reaching up, I grabbed the branch, too hard I suppose, and pulled the ENTIRE tree on top of me, electric lights and all.  Screaming in holiday terror, I flailed at the evergreen monster till my mom and dad ran into the living room.  I distinctly remember my dear mother hooting with laughter and saying to my dad (far too loudly), “Just look what he’s done now!”

Or her ongoing advice throughout the decades:  “It’s really not that important, Neal.  You’ll laugh about it soon.”  And I usually did.  (Except for early Christmas memories.)

What an incredible privilege and joy to have a mother who taught me when I was younger and who continues to teach me to this day that happiness is a choice.  That laughter is an answer, a solution, medicine.  That humor is a gift to get and to give.

My advice on this glorious Mother’s Day:  Don’t wait till your mom and dad walk out of your lives forever to tell them, show them how very much they mean to you and how much you love them.


I dedicate this beautiful version of the song “Mama” by Il Divo to my mom and to yours.  And remember to tell her now!

Staring Contest #2

Since after 14 hours I finally won Staring Contest #1 a while back, I decided to challenge a master, former GSU legendary head football coach Erk Russel in Staring Contest #2.







Oh I forgot to tell you, before the struggle of the two titans began, I invoked the time-honored tradition of rubbing the coach’s head to ensure victory.

(Hours, days pass.)

Yes!! Triumphant once again! So why is his name still up there?


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