Posts Tagged ‘Happiness Project’

Speechless and humbled and filled with joy, I am. Stumbling upon this on this great and bountiful holiday, time stopped.


by my daughter, Ana-Maria


I am thankful for this sturdy table,
worked by hand, and cloaked in handworked linen
to mask the stains and gouges left
by the feasts and frolics of many generations.
Lost legacies, stowed away in cupboards,
in antique pots on piano-tops,
deathless witnesses of time, recalling
memories of those who made us.

I am thankful for the feast that fills us,
the enduring gifts of Eden — God’s plentitude
thinly veiled by the toil of mankind;
for my father’s tirelessness,
my mother’s generosity,
for these two, who have taught me, by the fierceness of their love,
Love’s gentleness.

For my brothers and sisters, my best friends,
who have kept me, all my life,
or all of theirs,
from ever being lonely,
I am thankful.

For this home that we have built together,
this cradle of idealism, nest of dreams;
For the things it has taught us, and taught us to be:
Defenders of Truth, Men of Integrity,
Ladies Chivalrous and Bountiful,
All who know the value of kindness,
and the validity of faith;

For the Church that has held me,
sustained me from birth,
saved me from my stumbling feet and blindness;
For the hope of heaven that has given me
a wellspring of joy, a lamp and unerring compass,
I am thankful.

I am thankful for this string of peaceful days and restful nights.
I am thankful for solitude unbroken
but by the contented companionate rumble of my kitty’s purr.
I am thankful for friends who, with patient hands and steady,
have held for me a mirror to my life,
shown me my heart as I couldn’t see it alone.
My friends who have tamed me, understood my thorns.

I am thankful for undying dreams
distant worlds and lifetimes,
intimately loved,
cherished and known, though yet unseen.
For the breath that fills my lungs
the melody that fills my ears,
I am grateful to God,
who has given me voice and a song to sing.


For the honest work that fills my table,
for the hearty food that fills my hunger,
for the holy love that fills my heart,
and the kindred souls who fill my hearth
I am thankful every day.

But every day is filled of little things
that fill my life with wonder —
moments, fleeting, subtle,
that register in my soul with the reverence of glory
but often I neglect to register with conscious thanks.

Today, therefore, on this feast of Thanksgiving
with these greater gifts encompassing me,
enshrined in gratefulness, but set aside:
Today, in a pool of firelight,
A pool of warm remembrances:

For whispered whiskered caresses,
For watercolor vistas on an evening wall;
For swaths of melted gold that caulk the crevices of a maple trunk;
For the intoxicating antique tendrils
that waft up from between marbled bookcovers;

For the glistening dewdrop that rests
within the delicate funnel of a lily-leaf,
enshrouded by an emerald thicket,
sparkling through the darkness, though no wandering eyes may ever behold it
in the immortal flower’s lifetime;

For the delicate choreography of the butterfly,
for the touch of a ladybug on a fingertip,
for the patchwork in a glinting spiderweb;
For the modest stars that shine behind the constellations,
silver specks behind the brilliant lanterns;

For the gentle gilt that floats around the aeries
of cloverpatches,
catching the farewell light of summer dusk;
For the prismatic feathers that gleam against the silver sky–
rainbow pockets, brilliant, subtle, cool;

For the diamond shards that melt against my windowpane with every rainfall;
For the dappled screens that dance over my eyelids
when I rest beneath the sun;
For the whisper of the rosegold shadows
that welcome me to wakefulness at dawn;

For the sound of a hummingbird’s flight,
for the harmony it creates with the woodpecker,
for the cicadas’ August lullaby;
For the plumed plumpness of little sparrows,
who trust enough in their tiny hearts to take from me my crumbs;

For the salty air that tumbles over ocean waves,
which, entangled in my hair, follows me for hours;
For the sweetness that coats my tongue,
redolent, fragrant, fruitlike,
extracted by the sun over strawberry fields;

For snowflakes that hold their shape in a bank that overwhelms a city,
tinkling out their joy when recognized amongst the multitude;
For the beautiful tenacity of the withered leaf
which, exposed and thrashed about by the bold, ungoverned wind,
clings to its branch,

And for its graceful descent, after its graceful, trusting surrender
to the immutable currents of life;
For the little things that reveal to me how little I control,
and how much I have been given, in the depth of this richness;
For the moments that reveal the depth of your care,

I thank you.

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cohassetcouchBefore we left for California I had started a huge endeavor of organizing family photos. This is an enormous undertaking, because we’ve moved five times since 1984, and there are categories that get abandoned. The pictures of youthful fun are secondary to baby pictures. Baby pictures shoot up in importance as the babies grow up.

I am not an organized person.

You can imagine the job.

Then my cousin/brother-in-law George lent me a gizmo. It is an HP PhotoSmart S20 Photo-Negative-Slide scanner. He gave it to me as we were getting ready to depart, with instructions to download and install and mail it back whenever.

It works perfectly. Because I had sort of organized the photos before we left, I had a huge stash of negatives.

This is what is happening. The bulk of the negatives seem to be of great photos that we don’t have! Of course, we would have given those great shots to grandparents and relatives who asked for pictures.

What a treat to be reunited with the pictures! My daughter says, “It’s like old fashioned Flickr!”.

Look for instance at this one. Three of us, my dear friend, Anne-Adele, my late sister Lizzie, and me on the red velvet Victorian couch in Bud’s Cohasset of long ago. There is the pink Oriental rug at our feet. The camera is a bit off, someone walked through the room and snapped it. We were about to leave for the wedding rehearsal, about one block away. Anne-Adele had come from Philadelphia with our Newman Center priest, Father Bill. Bud’s Episcopal pastor, Rev. Muir would officiate.

I had gone through extraordinary bureaucratic tape to line up my permissions to marry in the Episcopal church. In my purse was a piece of paper signed by then Archbishop Bernard Law of the Archdiocese of Boston. I was ready.

There was mayhem brewing in the garden. Villains and pretenders were gathering their meager courage, but would be thwarted. Dear blog readers, that comedy of errors will be shared in another episode. For now, let me remember this moment of sisterhood.

Somewhere off camera, my mother and aunt, my older sister and little niece (who was married last weekend) are on their way to Boston. They will arrive in time for the rehearsal dinner. The air is charged with expectancy. I had just spoken with my Daddy, the character. He said, “Oh honey, you don’t want me there. I won’t know what to say to all those Yankees. They’ll ask me what I do, and it’ll tighten my jaw.” I was happy. Daddy had been my counselor during my whole adventure with Mr. Bell. “You don’t need another male friend! You have enough of those! What you need is a husband! He shouldn’t be taking up your time unless he intends to marry you!” Exactly, Daddy. Hence this moment to the altar. I proceeded with his full blessing.

The news of our engagement had caused the greater family to exhale with a huge sigh of relief. Kathleen was going to be alright. Bud was so handsome. Their relief made me realize how frightened they had been for me. The past began to recede like a wave on the shore. Out, out to sea it went, never to wash over my life again. At Bud’s family farm, Auntie Lynne called me from Manila, with congratulations and good wishes. Auntie Lou sent me beautiful capiz shell placemats. Auntie Terry gave me a needlepoint table cloth from China. Like good fairies at a christening, they surrounded me with love and light. Letters from my Daddy’s people in Georgia arrived, bearing regrets, the elderly ladies were past the age to jump on planes. The letters were full of joyful congratulations, and invitations to go to Georgia as soon as possible. That is another happy story for another day.

I can tell you about the moment, because the picture made me remember. The air was thick with Massachusetts humidity, much like today in 2009. It was August 10th, the day that would later be claimed as my third child’s birthday. In all the years after her birth, this day has been hers.

I remember the heat of the day, the lushness of the green, the strangeness of the new culture, and Bud’s face. I remember the dress – silk with tiny buttons and pleats down the front. Bergdorf Goodman on sale one bright Manhattan winter day.

My two confidantes, Anne-Adele, who is still my ear in all things, and Lizzie, whose fierce love, leaves an earthly vacuum still. I feel her sometimes, usually when least expected, but when it makes the most sense.

In that moment, the years stretched before us. There would still be so much living before any separation.

I remember how the Cohasset Common looked that afternoon, with the staid homes standing sentinel, asking for photographs to be taken, photographs that would appear in coffee table books and postcards. I remember the cool red plushness of St. Stephen’s Church, how footsteps disappeared into the carpet, how the stained glass windows glistened like jewels.

Outside this picture, on this summer day, there is a picket fence world in the dearest of villages. There is a bridge and water that surges into a harbor. There are rocky cliffs and old fashioned summer homes.

On that couch, I sat between two dear ones, the two pushing my boat away from shore, with all good will and good humor. The years would bear a thousand gifts.

The love I invested with my sister, gave me enough to live the rest of my life. How it welled up when I saw her sons, tall and handsome last week. It felt palpable, like Lizzie’s infectious personality. I will write about that too, because there are some things that I realized.

And so we go into this fine summer day.

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The world is big, the world is small. I’m taking a class at H called, Positive Psychology. For a reasonable sum, I get to convene with people from around the world and hash out the concept of Happiness. Why the heck, you might wonder, would I want to do this?

Because of my childhood, because of my past life, because I want to have the best life I can right now. It’s amazing what you run into when you’re looking. Because of my class, I ran into Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project. She’s studying it full time, she’s living it full time. Her link is on the bottom of this page.

I figure if I combine this with living an authentic Catholic life, then I’ll truly have the best of all worlds.

I love poking around the Internet to see what I can see. Every day is a treasure hunt. The world is large and full of people of good will.

This is the thing. The world is so big. It would cost us $10,000 to take my family back to the Philippines. That would be the airfare. It’s far away and I don’t want to go without my kids. One day. Till then….there’s email and texting and Skype and visits. And the Internet, which is a constant window where once only imagination stood.

Late at night my smart phone twitters at me. It’s a message from my daughter 3.5 hours away in New York. Back in forth in the dark we go, punching out one liners. I feel the umbilical chord, now keeping me sustained as I launch my life’s work, my legacy, my history moving forward in time with a totally new person with a totally different history.Who knows what the world will be like when she is my age? What technology will be invented?

I download the song that she wrote and listen to it. There’s her voice, the voice that used to reverberate through our house, now enchanting new ears across the Internet and next week when she has her opening at a Brooklyn coffeehouse.

I tell Bud, given the families and pasts we came from, it’s quite a feat to have raised such a positive, forward moving person. And there are 5 more behind her.

In the middle of the night, I get a text from Bohol. It’s one of my oldest friends who has just given a workshop on making home shrines “urnas” they are called. Back and forth we go, me asking questions about his island. Sunset or sunrise side? Sunset, he texts back.

In the morning a Facebook message comes in from a friend in Scotland. “Can’t believe you saw a whole family of redheds!” He came to dinner every week for a school year.

I send email to a friend whose company is hit by the Wall St. crash, “we will survive”, he says.

And on and on…the world is big and we are all wide eyed wanderers.

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