Wednesday, January 06, 2010

my effort to make the world a happier place

Every year for as long as Charlie and I have been married, I've written an annual Christmas letter which recaps the year's events. The letter always starts out the same way...

"Tis again the month of December and the time to remember ...
Our family and friends as this year (insert year here) ends."


I don't know why this rhyming tradition was started, but it's been something that we've kept up for the past 15 years. This year, there was one particular paragraph in that annual card that has sparked a lot of inquiry with our family and friends. The section read,

"In 2010 the triplets will be starting school and we anticipate a move in the spring ...

We are so excited about what's in store and what the New Year will bring."


People from everywhere have been calling and writing to ask where are we going? We talk about moving enough, now that it's been announced in PRINT it must be happening!

The truth is, we have no clue.

I wrote that particular verse after two glasses of wine. And when I wrote it, I was feeling much like a plant trapped in a pot 10 times too small. It seems I've achieved great success convincing myself that I've got root rot and if I don't get transplanted soon, the plant that is my life is going to wilt and die.

Let me repeat: we have absolutely no idea what we are doing.


We've been caught in a sea of uncertainty and yet we're trying to make things happen that just aren't happening. Do I work or do I quit? Does Charlie go for it with his business, or land a job with a big company? Do we want to live in the northeast, southeast or midwest? Do we want to homeschool the children or hand them a lunch box and kiss them goodbye? Do we want to sell, buy or rent? Do we want to stay or do we want to go?

We've got approximately three months to make our decision.

(Or enroll the kids in school.)


Up until very recently, I've felt like everyone around me really had their act together. Everyone, except for me, seemed positively content. But I'm looking a little more closely and it seems that even those that might seem perfect on the surface and spin a lovely tale of their lives, they too have got their private struggles.

Do you want to know what surprises the heck out of me?

Just how many people are on medication.

Depression. Anxiety. Hyperactivity. Insomnia.


People are suffering because they have too little time, too little money, too little energy, too little support, too little discipline, too little motivation, too little faith. Too little whatever it is that it takes to make them genuinely happy and content. Or perhaps they've got too much?

Responsibility. Expectation. Demands.


Please, make no mistake. I'm definitely not immune to the roller coaster that is life. More often than not, I've wondered if I should be medicated. Or rather, WHY I'M NOT.

But I can't help but wonder why is it that people are having such trouble? Why is there such stress and worry and often - despair? For so many of us, we live in such an amazing time and space, why is it that we aren't IMMUNE from feeling unsatisfied and restless? I have seen, firsthand these past 12 months, people that have been impacted by incurable diseases. I've seen people that are living in dire poverty and people that are living on the streets with absolutely no idea when or where their next meal will come from.

Why is it that most of those people who we would consider so unfortunate - are actually more content than people who are healthy and have a safe place to live?

Why do so many who have "it" take "it" for granted?


Although these things are always at the front of my mind, I can't stop dwelling on my own circumstances - as trite as they might be.

I worry endlessly that I'm not giving my children a good enough childhood. I worry that I'm a nagging wife. I worry that I don't take better care of myself and I'm not living as well as I should be. I worry about everyone growing older. I worry that we won't ever live closer to family. I worry that I might not ever live in a space with more elbow room so I can raise sheep and ponies and spin my own wool. I worry that I will never finish my series of knitting posts from last year. I worry that my dreams, whatever they are, won't be realized in this lifetime.

Add to that, I compare myself to what others have that I don't or what I perceive others to have. And gosh, don't I know that "comparison is the seed of all discontentment"?

As a general population, I believe we have put so many pressures on ourselves that it is exceedingly difficult to be content where we are. People buy big houses thinking that it will make them happier, only to discover that they are saddled with a larger mortgage payment and more space to clean. People might shop to fill a void and then suffer because they are deep in debt and/or clutter. People are dissatisfied with their careers or spouses and believe that if they change professions or relationships - then life will be better.

Sometimes, we search desperately for something that can't be found on the outside.

So more and more, I believe that we need SIMPLER times (and a lot more faith). We need times of walking around with a donkey and pots clanging on the sides. Because everything is amazing and yet nobody is happy.

Please watch this video clip (which I unfortunately, could not embed). Copy and paste it into your browser...

(You will seriously laugh your socks off.)

Tonight my husband said something profound. His words were, "Jen you are trying to give our children the childhood that you never had but always wanted. What you seem to forget is that our children don't know any better. They are perfectly happy - with you and me - so long as we are happy. So, let's just decide to be happy. It's OUR choice."


Well. Dammit.


That's my ONLY goal for this year.

We have absolutely no idea what we are doing.

But we are going to Be Happy.

Because that is the CHOICE we have made.

In the meantime, commenters 6, 17 and 37 who are:



and The Lloyd Family

I hope that a simple box of chocolate cookies will enhance your happy state.

Please send your mailing address to TheAmazingTrips(at) and I will drop your Candy Cane Joe-Joe's in the mail as soon as I possibly can. Just remember to share them with the people around you.


Because in doing so, you will undoubtedly increase the happiness level of those in your life.

And isn't that what it's all about?


  1. Wow, what a great way to start off my morning. You have no idea how much I needed to read this, RIGHT NOW. It is a choice to be happy. And it's one I need to remember to make more often.

    We're contemplating a huge change for our lives, namely moving to a bigger house because the "baby" is 27 months old and I'd like very much for there to be another baby. And I'd like even more for V1.0 to sleep in her own room - which is not possible in our current location, despite having 2 bedrooms. I feel like this move MUST happen for the sanity of everyone involved, but it's scary.

    And I learned last night that I am missing a major adult skill, namely the ability to create and follow a budget. So hoping to figure that out and master it on the fly. Numbers are just overwhelming to me.

    Thank you Jen, for changing my outook today. I needed that.

    :-) And I figured out how to use the "choose an identity" feature, which apparently also escaped me - so I can just be Sarah, instead of Smldada9801, my journal title.

    It's going to be a good day.

  2. That video was HILARIOUS. And so true. Thanks for sharing that. I especially liked the flying part. Thanks for the laugh!

  3. Charlie is brilliant. Seriously, his words are so true. The best thing you can do for your kids is to be content. I don't like the word "happy" as much as content. At peace. Accepting life as it is, not as you want it to be.

    I also agree that the people we see as "unlucky" and "underprivileged" might heartily disagree with that label. Affluence can buy you lots of things, including dissatisfaction, envy, greed, and anxiety. Sometimes, less is more.

    Happy New Year!

  4. What a great post, ans sentiment. So true. Our happiness as parents is what our children feed of of and all they need.

    We are moving this year-- though we know where we are going, it is no less hard to not know when and what home.

    2010 will be great-- it is up to the individual to have the right mind set--

  5. Okay. Have I already said how smart I think Charlie is? Or how lucky you are to have someone in your life who is so supportive and speaks with so much rationality....and who really, really understands you? But you already know this, right? Jen, in your never-ending quest for always "doing the right thing", don't forget to relax sometime and just enjoy the ride. You're both great parents and any choices you make for your family will be the right ones.


  6. Are you channeling Jon Cusack? I may have the words a bit wrong, but in the movie SAY ANYTHING, Jon (as Lloyd Dobler) tells his stressed out, cranky single mom sister, "Why are you so cranky all the time? Just wake up and decide to be happy."

    There you go. Lloyd Dobler, the sage of the 80's.

  7. I loved that post and yes I truly believe that if you are happy, they will be infinitely happy... It's kind of like "If you build it, They will come"... Or something like that... Right?
    Totally off topic, the tree in those photos is truly and absolutely STUNNING. Magnificent. You should hang out where that tree is, b/c it CLEARLY doesn't have root rot.

  8. charlie's a pretty good thinker. Don't compare him to any one else because there is no comparison. He's a pretty good guy. Keep in mind also that you have accomplished a few very good things in your life and one of those is snagging a really good man, a gentle man.

  9. Your husband is a wise and happy (handsome too!) sage...heed his advice. All is well.

  10. Beautiful, beautiful post.

    So many of 'us' tend to be searching for something and we don't realize it's right in front of our eyes.

  11. Bloom where you are planted.

    I try to remember this whenever I feel like I'm not doing or have enough. Be content with your life and make family be your first priority.

    I am trying to juggle work, family, home, etc. It's hard but if you keep family first and strive to be happy - it works.

    And if you don't move and stay where you are, the kids transferring schools in elementary will not damage them for life. But being discontent and unhappy may.

    Happy New Year. I do hope you get all that you have been praying for.

  12. My DH preaches a sermon (one of his faithful stand by's in a pinch that says this" "Most people are either in a crisis, coming out of a crisis, or headed for a crisis. Which category do you fall into?"

    The main idea is stuff happens and happiness is a choice and how we choose to deal with things is more the issue than the event itself. Makes a lot of sense. Just tough to remember and act on.

    And your husband is right. The children DON'T know any different. I think I had a wonderful childhood and I try to hard to recreate it for my kids, but it is not THEIR childhood. It is MY memories. Now that they are a bit older and we talk more about past things, I have found the things that are meaningful to them have nothing to do with my perception of making good memories. Does that make sense? And I belive my trio are for most part, happy, well adjusted and wonderful children who will grow into useful, satisfied, caring members of society.

    Now my older 2 are a totally different story - and belive me, that is a LONG story but it does involve some poor choices they have made even though they were raised better.

  13. Might Charlie have been separated from Yoda at birth? He is always so calm and wise. Please tell him to start his blog!

  14. Charlie is so right about Happiness and deciding to be Happy! Here's to Happiness all around in 2010!

  15. Why is happiness so elusive? If your family is healthy, you have a solid roof over your head and food to eat every day, you're better off than many. I read a book called "Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle" about a tribe in Brazil who live very primitively, but happily, no suicide, no depression, no meds for sure. How can this be?
    This blog is also useful if you're interested in happiness. My New Year's resolution for greater happiness "make your bed every day" is from there and it works!

  16. Dam it Jen, you are happy! If you are not, you make it look so good.
    What the devil is a PERFECT CHILDHOOD? You just hit a nerve. If the parents are in love and reasonable content with thier life, the kids will just follow along. Your kids have followed along and are wonderful and happy. So, stay off the drugs, no happy pills, because you are one pill yourself. We did a good job with you.

  17. I just love this post! Great sentiments and darling photos! Once again, thanks Jen you have made all of us happy!

  18. I definitely think you need to have another that was any of the options in your blog : )

  19. Jenna! I'm blogging! (trying to!)

    This is so sweet. I hope you can figure out where you want to be with as little stress as possible. I can't imagine having to make that decision but you and Guy always seem to manage everything with such calmness. Good luck!

    I've been visiting your blog every day now.

  20. To the sea of uncertainty… I commiserate with you.

    Well, thanks to you… my new addiction, The Amazing Trips Blog, it’s now 2:50 AM and I’m just finishing up a part of your life, some “Chuck”, Cheap Chocolate and a antibiotic suckee. (I’ll have to tell you about this miracle suckee antibiotic, it’s the best, except it’s not sold in this country) Darn, how I wish I had one of those Candy Cane Joe-Joe’s (even though I’ve never had one in my life.) Case in point, why can’t I be happy with my cheap chocolate?

    Happy, yes, let’s all be Happy! Such a simple word all by itself but add life to it and the formula just makes Happy not so easy. Why? We’re too rich, too poor, too fat, too thin, too pretty, too ugly, too tall, too short, our homes aren’t big enough, our homes are too big, I have a 2 story home, sure wish I had a one story house! Wait… would that then make it a house or a home if I had a one story???? Why can’t we be just be HAPPY with what we have??? Especially given all the poverty in this world!

    Well, we need to remember that old cliché; the grass always looks greener on the other side. When in reality the grass is greener where ever you water it! It’s time we start watering our grass!

    Here’s to a Healthy and Happy 2010! and...
    Don’t worry … Be Happy!
    Debra ((*.*))
    By the way, these pics are great!

  21. PBS had a special on last night called "Happiness" or something like that. It was wonderful.
    I asked Jim what made him happy and he said "YOU". I burst out crying.
    Live in the NOW--and enjoy every day and leave the rest to what will happen.
    The kids look very happy sliding thru life.