Oh, precious gifts.

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Oh, how precious life is. Oh, how precious are the gifts we are given each day…health, comfort, freedom, family, joy, suffering…I awoke this morning to my sweet daughter crying in pain from an earache. My heart struggled seeing her in such pain. I took little soothing remedies and got her calmed down. I looked at her and prayed that she would sleep in comfort and feel better. I also looked at her and had a tinge of sadness for parents who watch their children struggle with harsher illness and feel like they are helpless. I instantly had a feeling of relief and gratitude that she does not suffer daily.

These are the moments where I find myself even more grateful to have those I love close to me. We often take those closest to us for granted, so here is an opportunity for all of us to gain a greater understanding of our feelings, of our gifts of the wonderful people around us. *Think about the following questions regarding any important person in your life: What would I be missing if that person were no longer in my life? In what specific way would I miss that person? And, What would I like to say to this person if I only had one more chance? 

Pensively, James A Farley adds other questions he asks of himself and others: “How much do most of us appreciate the countless little daily acts of…kindness by others that make our lives more comfortable? How grateful are we, really, for the privilege of living in a country where most of us can take freedom, justice and security for granted? How much thankfulness do most of us feel for the marvelous gift of life itself, and how adequately do we express this to the Giver?”     In hostly assessing his own answers, Farley faced the painful truth: He was not nearly as appreciative as he should, or would, like to be. So he committed to the following resolutions:

“To thank the people who make my world run smoothly…not just with a casual word or an impersonal tip, but with some expression of genuine interest in them as fellow human beings.”

“To make myself more aware of the miraculous privileges involved in simply being an American, and to show my thankfulness by working without thought or reward to make my country better.”

“To remind myself every day of the infinitely precious value of every minute of existence, and to show my gratitude to God not only with prayers of thanksgiving but by living as close as possible to the way He wants me to live.”

And Farley finishes: “A basic rule in showing appreciation, I have found, is this: do it now. Do it while your sense of gratitude is fresh and strong. If you feel a flash of thankfulness, act on it before the impulse dies away.”   [taken from The Heart of Goodness]

So, here and now I am giving thanks and gratitude for those closest to me, for their health, our happiness and the gift we find in one another. Love and peace to you. May you find the precious gifts within your life and give thanks. -H

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Is Happiness a Game?

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The word happiness is derived from the thirteenth-century Old Norse word hap, which means “a chance or luck occurrence.” Thus, our question—or perhaps, our QUEST—can be framed as “If happiness is a game of chance, then how might I increase my odds of winning?” -Dr Craig Rodgers

According to a Harris Poll in 2013 of 2, 345 U.S. adults, just ONE in THREE say they’re very happy.  According to another source, 70 percent of Americans hate their jobs.

According to Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology,  says 60 percent of happiness is determined by our genetics and environment, the remaining 40 percent is up to us. In his 2004 Ted Talk, Seligman describes three different kinds of happy lives: The pleasant life, in which you fill your life with as many pleasures as you can, the life of engagement, where you find a life in your work, parenting, love and leisure and the meaningful life, which “consists of knowing what your highest strengths are, and using them to belong to and in the service of something larger than you are.” [huffington post]

The pursuit of happiness is not uniquely American either—in a study of more than 10,000 participants from 48 countries, psychologists Ed Diener of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Shigehiro Oishi of the University of Virginia discovered that people from every corner of the globe rated happiness as being more important than other highly desirable personal outcomes, such as having meaning in life, becoming rich, and getting into heaven.[Psychology Today]

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Here are some tips to TIP HAPPINESS in YOUR direction:

I took & combined ideas from huffingtonpost, Inc, Psychology Today

HAPPY PEOPLE…

Express thankfulness.  Whether it is your personal relationships, those at work or on a personal level, actively expressing gratitude increases good feelings. One study showed people who wrote down five things they were thankful for once a week were 25 percent happier after 10 weeks; in effect they dramatically increased their happiness set-point.

They enjoy being outdoors. Want to feel alive? Just a 20-minute dose of fresh air promotes a sense of vitality, according to several studies published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology. “Nature is fuel for the soul, ” says Richard Ryan, Ph.D, the lead author of the studies.      I know for me personally, getting outdoors is definitely fuel for my soul. I feel like something is missing from my day if I don’t get outside.

They exercise. Exercise lowers symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress. I can personally tell you from experience–my husband has had some depression and exercise has been a huge key in being able to bring him out of such a dark space. Exercise give you a natural ability to feel happy through the endorphins that are created through exercise. It is like a natural, happy pill.

Surround themselves with other happy people. Joy is contagious. Researchers of the Framingham Heart Study who investigated the spread of happiness over 20 years found that those who are surrounded by happy people “are more likely to become happy in the future.”

They have to allow a certain bit of curiosity and adventure into their lives.  Truly happy people seem to have an intuitive grasp of the fact that sustained happiness is not just about doing things that you like. It also requires growth and adventuring beyond the boundaries of your comfort zone. Happy people, are, simply put, curious. In a 2007 study, Todd Kashdan and Colorado State psychologist Michael Steger found that when participants monitored their own daily activities, as well as how they felt, over the course of 21 days, those who frequently felt curious on a given day also experienced the most satisfaction with their life—and engaged in the highest number of happiness-inducing activities, such as expressing gratitude to a colleague or volunteering to help others. Curiosity, it seems, is largely about exploration—often at the price of momentary happiness. Curious people generally accept the notion that while being uncomfortable and vulnerable is not an easy path, it is the most direct route to becoming stronger and wiser. In fact, a closer look at the study by Kashdan and Steger suggests that curious people invest in activities that cause them discomfort as a springboard to higher psychological peaks.

They actively pursue goals.  Pursuing goals, though, does make you happy. According to David Niven, author of100 Simple Secrets of the Best Half of Life, “People who could identify a goal they were pursuing [my italics] were 19 percent more likely to feel satisfied with their lives and 26 percent more likely to feel positive about themselves.”     If you want to envision a happy person’s stance, imagine one foot rooted in the present with mindful appreciation of what one has—and the other foot reaching toward the future for yet-to-be-uncovered sources of meaning. Indeed, research by neuroscientist Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin at Madison has revealed that making advances toward achievement of our goals not only causes us to feel more engaged, it actually helps us tolerate any negative feelings that arise during the journey.

They Bounce back up after they fall. Happy, flourishing people don’t hide from negative emotions. They acknowledge that life is full of disappointments and confront them head on, often using feelings of anger effectively to stick up for themselves or those of guilt as motivation to change their own behavior. This nimble mental shifting between pleasure and pain, the ability to modify behavior to match a situation’s demands, is known as psychological flexibility.

Do what you excel at as often as you can. the more you enjoy what you do and the more fulfilled you feel by what you do, the happier you will be.  In The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Anchor says that when volunteers picked “one of their signature strengths and used it in a new way each day for a week, they became significantly happier and less depressed.”

They get plenty of sleep. Anyone knows if you don’t get enough sleep you are more irritable, cranky and not enjoyable to be around. When you get the right amount of sleep–all is well.     Dr. Raymonde Jean, director of sleep medicine and associate director of critical care at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center told Health.com. “You get more emotional stability with good sleep.”

They laugh. Laughter releases the same ‘happy’ chemicals as exercise, so laughter truly is one of the better medicines.  I can personally attest for laughing to fight of sadness and depression. When my husband was out of work, we would put in comedies to take away our worry and pain. It definitely helped.

They TRY to be happy. You have often heard the phrase–“fake it to make it” Well, I LOVE the word TRY. You truly can’t “TRY” anything. It is like “trying” to push a pencil. You either have to or not. there is no middle, so if we are “trying” to be happy—we are doing it.

They enjoy the simple things. When you begin to notice the small things that make your life beautiful happiness will fill up the empty spaces. It’s just being grateful for the small pleasures…the evening walk & the way the light plays on the forest floor, the yummy taste of a waffle cone, the warm shower

They understand that money does NOT buy happiness.  Money is important. Money does a lot of things. (One of the most important is to create choices.)  But after a certain point, money doesn’t make people happier. After about $75,000 a year, money doesn’t buy more (or less) happiness. “Beyond $75,000… higher income is neither the road to experience happiness nor the road to relief of unhappiness or stress,” say the authors of that study.   “Perhaps $75,000 is the threshold beyond which further increases in income no longer improve individuals’ ability to do what matters most to their emotional well-being, such as spending time with people they like, avoiding pain and disease, and enjoying leisure.”  

I have also head another statistic—there was a study done on 22 people major lottery winners & 22 people who had become crippled. A year later—the lottery winners were not any happier than the paraplegics.  Doesn’t that make you think!

They “give” They enjoy spending money on other people, they enjoy the “high” of doing something that makes a difference for another. They take the time to write a thank you note, to make cookies for others on the weekends, to help build conscious awareness about a cause, they volunteer for a local organization, they do little things that make a difference—big or little, it is about the giving feeling.

They look on the brighter side. Optimism creates less stress & better health. When you look at the world with rose colored glasses you are choosing a better life.

They power walk. Ever notice your joyful friends have a certain spring in the step? It’s all about the stride, according to research conducted by Sara Snodgrass, a psychologist from Florida Atlantic University.     In the experiment, Snodgrass asked participants to take a three-minute walk. Half of the walkers were told to take long strides while swinging their arms and holding their heads high. These walkers reported feeling happier after the stroll than the other group, who took short, shuffled steps as they watched their feet.     Try it! See if you feel happier. I think even holding your posture straighter makes you feel better too.  I always tell my daughter to sit tall & when you walk to pretend there are strings pulling you up from the tip of your head that run all the way down your back. It helps to visualize. I know I definitely feel better when I have better posture and walk the walk!

The sound of music. Music is powerful. So powerful, in fact, that it could match up to the anxiety-reducing effects of massage therapy. Over a three month period, researchers from the Group Health Research Institute found that patients who simply listened to music had the same decreased anxiety symptoms as those who got 10 hour-long massages.

They unplug. Whether you do big, belly breaths, meditate, go on a walk, or just deliberately unplug from our world of technology, you will have happiness advantages. Talking on your cell could increase your blood pressure and raise your stress levels, while uninterrupted screen time has been linked to depression and fatigue.

They get spiritual. When you create sacred space, a place that allows for stillness, gratitude, compassion, you are opening a door that will allow calm moments, time for reflection, a deeper space.

Be HAPPY.


A great, big question for you!

“A hundred years from now will the world be any different because I was important in the life of someone?”

I don’t know about you, but I always am hoping of touching someone’s life, whether it is through my writing, sharing a story, giving something of myself to a friend, sharing life lessons with my daughter. I am always seeking and hoping that little parts of me will make a difference some how. But, I do often have a greater yearning of doing more and often my heart becomes troubled wondering what I am missing to share. I often question if I will ever be selfless enough that I will not miss opportunities, that I will be in tune to my greater purpose, that I will not miss every moment that is suppose to bring something greater to this world. I am constantly inspired by great stories of others who sacrifice, who give unconditionally, so this week I am going to be sharing a few different stories that move my heart & prove they are making the world a little better through their giving hearts.

Here is a great example of someone making a difference to his family each and every day—My heart was truly stirred as I was watching a re-run of American Ninja Warrior a couple of nights ago. The Kansas City qualifier was on & there was a story that moved me. I have tried to find the actual video that was on ANW, but to no avail. The actual story was so good—a husband that was out of shape, turned Ninja through the necessity to move and carry his wife since she couldn’t walk because of a quick genetic disorder that is slowly taking her life. They drove over 24 hours to wait in the walk on line because she was not sure she would be around another year to watch him. Wow!! I didn’t even hear or understand that the couple was from my home state of Utah, so here is their story. http://www.ksl.com/?sid=34855384

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Here are a some little ideas that will make a big difference to someone else…SMILE.   Teach a skill you have to someone who would like to learn.   Give HUGS.   Give a sandwich to someone in need.   Send someone a nice note of thanks, encouragement or just a friendly hello.   PRAISE people.   Spread a little LOVE by putting together a Bag of JOY (fill it with things that will lift or inspire, a funny movie, comfort food, a great book, uplifting music, etc).   Just be there to listen.   Offer to babysit someone’s kids that just needs a break.   Share a sincere compliment.   Volunteer at your child’s school or for a community program.   Buy someone lunch.   Pay a toll.     Always say Thank you with a smile.   Write and article or post that will influence others in a positive way.   Take your family and pick up trash at a local pond or park.   Donate your old clothes and toys to a good charity.   Bake up something for your co-workers or neighbors.   Ask lots of questions in a conversation and then just listen.   Choose to strive daily for ways to inspire others.    Listen for inspiration and direction that will touch others lives.   Just LOVE.


Great Stories

I have been reading a great book filled with wonderful stories, so every now and then I am going to do a post titled: Great Stories that will have a great story I come across that inspires great feelings. I don’t think you can ever get too many good things to fill your life, so take a few minutes and read these Great Stories.

Audrey-in-My-Fair-Lady-audrey-hepburn-11216574-880-900Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady

Here is a good one for today…Many of you have heard of the musical “My Fair Lady” but did you know this… In the 1920’s Frederic Loewe, Vienna-born composer of My Fair Lady arrived in the United States. At the time, Loewe, a gifted pianist unable to find a market for his talent, was discouraged and depressed. And because he had no money to make further payments, his one prized possession, his piano, was about to be repossessed. This looming event represented a final blow to his musical aspirations.     On the morning the movers were to arrive for his piano, and while he gloomily waited, Loewe decided to play one last time and did so with rare inspiration. Bent over the keyboard and intent on his music, Loewe did not hear the moving men enter the room. When at last finished, he glanced up and was startled to see an audience—three moving men seated on the floor.     The men said nothing and made no movement toward the piano. Instead, they opened their wallets and pooled enough money to pay the overdue installment. Placing the money on the piano, they left empty-handed.     These men, themselves probably existing on meager wages, gave because they recognized Loewe’s musical genius and realized they could not, in good conscience, take from Loewe the one thing that gave him comfort and offered hope. Deeming the needs of another human being superordinate to their own, they walked away, never to know, through their humble giving, the gift they bestowed upon mankind.   -taken from The Heart of Goodness

I think this story illustrates the good heart people have and genuinely want others to succeed.

I think this is also a great story that gives hope and shows that no matter how bad things may get, there are bigger plans for you and your purpose. Have hope and continue on in your passionate pursuits, you never know where they will take you. Have faith in the bigger picture. You were made to do amazing things.  -Peace and love to you.  H


Lessons learned from the movie All About Steve!

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This movie I know will have a variety of reviews—many will think it is a waste of time or not find the humor in it. Others may enjoy it, but for some reason I LOVE Sandra Bullock in this movie. I was endeared by her optimistic, quirky character and here is why…

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Mary Horowitz: crossword puzzle creator, loves words, wears red boots with everything, she is an eternal optimist despite what others say, she is smart, pretty and just wants to be normal—she thinks! She speaks 17 different languages, knows an unending number of random facts, talks to her pet hamster “Carol” and is such a joy to be around that her parents let her live with them, while her apt is being “fumigated” (for years).

Here are some great quotes and lessons learned from this cute movie…

Mary LOVE’S Crosswords, so there are some good quotes to take to heart

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In life as in crosswords, some days are harder than others, and that’s what keeps your brain alive. To keep surviving those tough days is to pick yourself up, and stay focused on your life’s purpose. For me, that’s imparting the joy of crosswording to all mankind. Ahhh.. crosswording the most spectacular fun a person can have without passing out. -Mary         I think all of us have those moments where we need some sort of distraction to pull us through a tough spot in our life. I think each of us has our own way of dealing with things, whether it is losing yourself in a golf game, reading the paper, doing a crossword, swimming laps…some days may be harder & having a good outlet to let go is a good thing.

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We really should try and make it work, because, so he decides for me to be normal, then normal we shall be.
– Mary          Mary wanted so desperately to feel normal, to be accepted, to be on the path to what everyone expects, so she decided if Steve wanted her to be normal, than that was what she was going to strive for. I think too often we can get caught in the trap of what everyone else expects us to be, to do, to dress like, to…we get lost for a bit, until we are able to define who it is we truly want to be.

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Yes crosswords are a lot like life in that way, they’re only boring if you don’t have sense of adventure. – Mary          Life does need a bit of adventure, even little things. The other night I went on a hike with my husband & came across a large log across a stream. It wasn’t very high & the water wasn’t too deep, but I wanted a little sense of adventure, so I looked at my husband and said, “I am going to cross it!” I knew if I fell in, it would be a little swim, but I wanted that little sense of adventure, so I went for it. We need that every now and then.

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Mary is not a psycho, you’re the psycho. She’s just a smart girl with red boots. – Angus          Often we are judged by the clothes we wear, the way we talk, the things we say. But I hope over time we can realize that what others say doesn’t matter unless we make it matter. I have had many discussions with my young daughter about people calling her things like, “Fat”, “Little Miss Perfect”, “Brainiac”…I have always looked at her and said, “Do you think you are fat or perfect or…” I always explain that others may say all sorts of things they think, but its what you think about yourself that truly matters the most.

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Mary: You know one of my favorite ingredients in crossword is, perseverance. If you quit a puzzle you can’t finish it.
Sure every once in a while you’ll run into a doozy that you can’t ever solve in a million years but if you stick with it, 
you’ll figure it out… eventually. Worst thing you can do is leave it unfinished. It’s never the solution is it?
Howard: You know what my favorite part of our crossword is? When you realized you know something you didn’t think you knew.

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She doesn’t pretend to be someone that she’s not. -Steve (about Mary)          This was a hilarious part in the movie. The one time Mary steps out of her natural character this is what happens. (shorter skirt, bra showing, wild catastrophe) I think this is a great lesson for all of us. We should always be striving to be ourselves, no pretending, no illusions of self, just straight up who we are. No regrets.

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Words, people, words. There are meaningful words, there are pointless words, and then, there are words that hurt.
Mary why can’t you be like every other girl, why do you know all that useless information…why do you wear those stupid, red boots all the time – Mary          We have all experienced all of these types of words and people. What have you learned?

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I wear these red boots because it feels like ten friends on a camping trip! -Mary          Mary tried to take her own happiness everywhere she went.     What do you do to try and make your life a little brighter?

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He was my ticket to normal -Mary     Why do you want to be normal? -deaf girl          I thought this was a great example of times in our life where we hold a certain expectation of something & then reality brings us back to truly understanding what it is we really need in our life.

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If life is like a crossword puzzle, then its worth, its greatness should be judge in the same way.
Is it solvable? Is it entertaining? Does it sparkle?- Mary        I just loved her positive way of being.

Mary, Don’t ever change for anybody. -Steve           Redemption! Finally. Mary gets the lesson & so does Steve.

image49New York Times crosswords editor Will Shorts says, “we have a natural compulsion to fill empty spaces.” I like to think he means not just crosswords, but the empty spaces inside of us that come from making your way in a world that doesn’t always embrace unique. I tried to fill my empty spaces with words, and puzzles, and steve. But that wasn’t the answer. Now I know. On the journey of life just find someone as normal as you, if not a whole bunch. -Mary          I love that analogy of finding oneself. We often FILL our voids, our spaces with many things (good and bad) in hopes that we will FEEL something. The world and all that is in it will not make us a better version of ourself, that is up to us.

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Oh, and here’s a little bit of fresh Mary Horowitz wisdom,if you love someone set him free, if you have to stalk him he probably wasn’t yours in the first place. – Mary          Just a cute, funny, silly show with heart.

Mandatory credit: TM & copyright 20th Century Fox. No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No Book Cover Usage. No Book or TV usage without prior permission from Rex Manadatory Credit: Photo by c.20thC.Fox/Everett / Rex Features (998550m) ALL ABOUT STEVE, Sandra Bullock All About Steve - 2009

On the journey of life find someone as normal as you. -Mary

It is a sweet show with heart. I hope all these fun images made you want to watch. smile. smile. FYI–There is a little scene in the van where she jumps Steve & it gets a little hot. There are also a couple of swear words, but other than that—I truly enjoyed the journey. Enjoy and make your own judgement!


Life IS Beautiful

lifeisbeautifulOver the weekend we saw the movie Inside Out with our daughter and the greatest lesson from the movie for me…you have to HAVE the good with the bad in life. Together life is sweeter, so with that, here is a great video about LIFE and how beautiful everything about it is! Enjoy.

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Have a beautiful day.  -H


In honor of His day

I awoke this morning & the house was quiet. It was six a.m. & I decided to sit and have some time to do a little reading. I opened my book &  began to read. The chapter I began was all about compassion for all living things, I continued reading only to be stirred within my heart of a conversation I had just had the night before with my daughter. We had been to a family dinner with her cousins who were sharing their details of killing the local nuisances in their yard. The parents had been frustrated by the voles and golfers, so the kids were talking about how they were shooting them during a dinner discussion.

Later that night, my sweet daughter, innocently brought up the discussion & shared how she couldn’t believe they were shooting the animals. My heart sank at such a conversation.

This morning as I read I came across a very sweet story that accompanied this very topic…here is the story.

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“Every creature is full of God and is a book about God.” -Meister Eckhart

Albert Schwitzer tells of the moment his reverence for life’s creatures came within full consciousness. As a boy, Schweitzer was with friends who proposed that they go up into the hills and kill birds. Reluctant, but afraid of being scorned, he accompanied the group. Arriving at a tree in which a flock of birds was singing, the boys prepared for the kill by putting stones in their catapults. But then Schweitzer heard the church bells begin to ring—mingling music with birdsong—and to him, the music was represented a voice from heaven. Shooing the birds away, he went home, his priorities clear: reverence for life was more important to him than any fear of being taunted or laughed at by his peers. Notes Schweitzer, as the bells rang, he remembers how deeply moved and grateful he was that, on that day, “they rang into my heart the commandments ‘Thou shalt not kill.”    [taken from The Heart of Goodness by Jo Ann Larsen]

I was pondering further this morning & thinking of the upcoming Father’s Day holiday. What greater time to honor the greatest Father of All. I pray that as you celebrate those fathers you love this week, that you will take a sweet moment and also think of all the great gifts and blessings that are bestowed upon you and your family by the most loving Father of all. I think a great way of honoring our Father in Heaven is to see the beautiful things all around you and give praise and appreciation. I think listening to the song of birds and marveling at their existence, their heavenly voices, the small miracles they are and finding a deeper sacred reverence for life itself would also be a great gift. I think teaching our innocent children about having a greater respect for this sacred reverence and then taking a quiet moment in the solitude of the day, filling our hearts with gratitude and joy to be able to experience this world as a whole–that would be a beautiful way to honor Him.

-Peace to you.  -H


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