Seeking Out Happiness in 2017

2017 was a challenge.

A buffoon was sworn in as president, beloved musicians succumbed to depression or hard living (RIP Chris Cornell, Chester Bennington, Tom Petty), a madman killed 58 people at a country music festival, and Mother Nature showed us through hurricanes and wildfires that climate change is no joke

On the home front, a tree fell through my house during a storm in February.

fallen tree
The thing keeping that tree from laying flat on the ground is my house.

Okay, through my house is an exaggeration. It fell on my house, creating a big hole and lots of damage and a ton of drama. And due to the drama (battles with the insurance company, contractor issues, etc.) we weren’t able to get new flooring until the end of the year. So instead of looking like this four days before Christmas:

decorated for Christmas
I love my living room at Christmas.

My house looked like this:

Welcome to my nightmare.

Yes, ten months later. Because of the tree.

And no, my house did not look like this all year. But the scheduling for our flooring could not have been worse – new laminate floors throughout the house the day after Thanksgiving and new carpeting in the bedrooms four days before Christmas.


But I did manage to put together a Christmas in miniature in our den.

yule log
When you can’t put your tree next to your fireplace, move your “fireplace” next to your tree.

The kids got the gifts they wanted. And both told me separately that it was one of the best Christmases they’ve ever had.


And amidst the chaos, a bunch of good stuff happened as well. Things both humongously big and infinitely small. And I tried as best as I could to capture them in my happiness journal – the calendar that I keep to write down my happiest moment from the day before when I get up early to write (or more often not write) and drink coffee in quiet solitude.

And on January 1st, I sat down in my living room (that looked better than the picture above, but was (and is) still deep in boxes) with a glass of champagne and my happiness journal to reflect on 2017.

Here are some of my moments. Some of them big. Some quite small. But all of them filled me (at least momentarily) with joy:

January 3:  When Chandler told me good night he said, “Sweetest sweet dreams in the whole wide world and have good luck.” (Which is what I used to say to him when he was little.) I will miss him when he goes back to school.

January 21:  Marching with Marley and Arlyne and Marisa and thousands of other women for women’s rights. The signs. The sisterhood. The feeling. All of it.

February 12: I went to a clothing exchange and was talking to a woman who lost 90 pounds (the hard way – through diet and exercise) and she told me what a blessing the exchange has been to her because she could never have afforded to buy clothes in all the sizes she’s been. Listening to her gratefulness made me so happy and grateful myself.

March 23: Watching Marley audition for TedX. Wow! That kid is amazing.

March 24:  Writers’ Group – Julie telling us that Lily by Any Other Name is going to be published. I’m so happy for her.

April 28:  Heading out to Stagecoach was fab, but the highlight of my day was Chandler calling to say he got into Berkeley. OMG! Berkeley!

May 7:  My mom’s 70th birthday party. I really think she had fun. Seeing her face when we brought out the cake. I love her so much.

May 20:  Hearing the first drum beats of Sunday Bloody Sunday as U2 opened their set literally filled my heart with joy.

Joshua Tree tour stage
Yep, our seats were crap, but U2’s Joshua Tree concert was amazing.

June 11: Chandler clipping a rose from the front yard because he loved the pop of color against the gray sky. And knowing that I taught him that – to seek out everyday beauty.

June 23:  Driving home from Friday night yoga, I was singing in my car. At a stoplight I looked at the car next to me and saw Steve (also driving home from yoga) rocking out in his car.

June 26: Waking up early to read The Goldfinch. It’s so good.

July 16: While I was making dinner we were listening to music and Dave was sitting on the couch reading, I noticed he was swinging his feet back and forth to the music. That made me smile.

August 20: Taking an hour long nap on the couch in the afternoon. Heaven.

August 25: Dad literally crying tears of joy at dinner and telling us this was his best birthday ever. (My brothers and I flew out to Texas to surprise him for his 70th birthday.)

September 23: Tailgating at Coastal Country Jam. All of it. All of it. All of it. Hanging with Lindy and Kerry. Getting a pic with Matt Ramsey. Meeting so many people. Putting my feet in the water. The music. The love. Dancing on the truck. Sharing all of it with Rita who feels it too. Best day ever.

Most fun you can have in a parking lot.

October 13:  Awesome date night. Dan Wilson at the Troubadour. I loved what he said about writing: It’s 10% hope (at the beginning), 80% self-hatred (in the middle) and the last 10%… Well, I didn’t die. OMG! So true!

Dan Wilson at the Troubadour
Seeing a singer-songwriter sing his songs and tell his stories is something everyone should do.

November 1:  Singing Something Just Like This at the top of my lungs in my car. There were sun rays beaming through the clouds. It was magic.

November 17: I say it every month, but only because it’s true. Writer’s Group fills my soul with love and my heart with happiness.

December 18: I said to Dave, “I made you laugh,” and he said, “Every day.”

So yes, 2017 was a struggle. But also, it was pretty great. I’ve read time and again that the key to happiness is gratefulness. And I am grateful – for the big moments (did I mention Chandler is attending Berkeley?) and the little moments (whether it’s for giving her a ride or making her breakfast or putting her clothes in the dryer (but only so I can put mine in the washer), Marley tells me “thank you” every day) and everything in between.


I’d love to hear from you. Tell me a big moment and a little moment that made you happy in 2017.




7 thoughts on “Seeking Out Happiness in 2017

  1. I love this! You’ve inspired me to do a better job of keeping a happiness/gratitude journal. The women’s march with my daughter was also a big highlight for me. I hope your living room is back to normal soon and falling trees stay clear in 2018!

  2. Love this, Charlene! I record my gratitude a little differently, I write notes when anything big, small or inbetween happens, then save them all in a jar and read them at the end of the year with the family. I already can’t remember half of the things I wrote down, but I DO have one of the same things you did- I read The Goldfinch and LOVED IT SO MUCH! Now if I could just round up a group of fellow writers, I think that would be a 2018 highlight!! This was really nice.

  3. **I said to Dave, “I made you laugh,” and he said, “Every day.”** I love that.
    Love your entire list of amazing things.
    U2…OMG, BONO thrills me!
    Isn’t it cool how the little things are not so little at all?!
    xxx cold kiss from MN.

  4. Love this, Charlene and am taking up the challenge. Really big wonderful thing of 2017 is that my son proposed to his long time girl (whom I adore) and she said yes! Tiny good thing? Hmmm…I’ve already lost 20 pounds in prep for the mother-of-the-groom dress. No wait…maybe that should be reversed!

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