Many things can contribute to happiness.  Happiness in itself is a state of contentment, it is more long-lived than joy or pleasure.  On the other hand happiness can increase joy or pleasure.

We all strive for happiness, we find it elusive because we don’t really know for sure what it is.  We think winning the lottery would make us happy, but it truly doesn’t. It’s fun, don’t get me wrong, but it doesn’t satisfy that deep feeling you have when you truly know that you are happy. 

Gratitude, friends, easing up on yourself, doing what you love, laughing, challenges, and kindness seemed to always come out in front when we want to cultivate happiness.

On our regular staff calls, Network staff have been sharing what makes us happy. We decided to create this happiness blog to share the love with all of you too. Each week we will post videos or links in this blog to what makes us happy.  Maybe a little kindness and a little laugh will help give you a little boost to your happiness.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Michelle: The coolest art/science crossover in quite awhile came across my Twitter feed this week. It a video of Japanese artist Kenichi Kanazawa who studies cymatics—the art of visualizing sound vibration—by experimenting with sand on a steel tabletop. It’s described as “a visual demonstration of the power of sound to create order out of chaos.” Definitely worth checking it out below – and for more in-depth information, you can look here.

Barbara: This week I’ve really enjoyed nature and wildlife. All throughout my work days I was kept company by a cardinal and other bird, squirrels, chipmunks, and even a groundhog! With the blanket of leaves on the ground, it seems that the little critters are more agile and cute than ever!

On Sunday I enjoyed the beautiful weather by getting outside to finally clean up the mess that the Sequoia tree had left me. Beautiful days like that won’t be around too much longer!

Deconstructed Omelet

Rose: With everything that has been going on I’ve found myself reaching for yummy, high sugary foods…they don’t make me feel good in the long run. Last Friday I decided I had to change. Those kind of changes are hard. It’s taken some time but I have been eating right and now actually crave those lovely veggies. This morning happy thoughts went to my brother who lives in Canada and can’t cross the border (unless he takes a plane ????). He created a recipe he calls the “deconstructed omelet”. It’s tasty, low calorie and visually nice. You basically saute all your favorite omelet veggies, cover in spinach, drop 1 or 2 eggs on it and let it simmer covered. Delicious!

Friday, November 6, 2020

Barbara: Both my sons were born this week (2 years and a week apart!), so I was very happy to end the week with visiting each of them–they make me very proud and happy!  It’s hard to believe they’re grown men! We did nothing fancy, but in today’s climate, visiting and connecting with loved ones is always welcome!

Marla: I tell ya’ it’s the little things that count. I’m super happy with my newest water bottle. I’m one to carry my own reusable bottle everywhere I go, I just hate using plastic bottles. Unfortunately, in the past few months I broke two and I really needed a good replacement to avoid more breakages. The result this beauty from Simple Modern! Its 22 oz., has a flip lid, keeps liquids cold or hot and the design suits me to the tee….LOVE LOVE LOVE!

Friday, October 29

Michelle: This week we hosted three does at the bird bath, but I was unable to get a good photo of the big buck because he wouldn’t stop moving around. Just as close though!

Friday, October 23

Rose: This has been a happy week, felt kind of unhappy for a bit. I just keep looking for moments and trying to be thankful for what I do have. Wednesday I went for walk and it was fun walking in the fog, everything looks different with a spooky haze around it 🙂 Then I had another little fall walk at the Reservoir in West Hartford the following day. Here is what I saw.

Shawna: I won the jackpot at Bingo!!!

Ken: Slow and Steady Wins the Race: Turning an old corner of the basement into a functioning home office has been an ongoing project and challenge since March. Last month, I talked about the therapeutic benefits of home improvement projects (at least for me). After putting in the ceiling and installing the floor last night I had a sense of accomplishment. I had been able to bring the vision to reality (after returning 3-4 different shades of peel and stick vinyl planks). The project will be wrapped up this weekend or early next week. While I will miss the planning and endless trips to Lowe’s, I will be able to enjoy a workspace that I saw from start to finish. 

Friday, October 16

Shawna: Getting into the spooky spirit with pumpkin carving this week. Love the way my ghost came out!! Also living for apple cider flavor this fall.

Marla: I went to CHERRY SPRINGS STATE PARK in Pennsylvania!!!! So why does this make me happy, let’s say SUPER happy? Because Cherry Springs sits at atop a hill at 2,300 feet above sea level and with no nearby towns to throw light into the sky it makes it one of the darkest places in America. It is the place for stargazers to explore and admire the night sky. I mean seeing the Milky Way, clusters of stars and other galaxies, three planets, meteor showers and so much more… I was in celestial bliss. I cannot share any pictures of the night sky but here are some of the facility. Besides the foliage was amazing to see during the day!

Aridyan: I saw this cute bird at the park and it made me so happy!

Monica: My happy thing is a bit of dark humor this week, but it made me laugh and it is one of my favorite books of all time.

Barbara: This easy recipe made me happy this week! I added mini chocolate chips as the third ingredient to my muffins. I’m on my second batch, with ingredients for a third ready to go in the cupboard! They are a big hit with the family!

Michelle: My grandfather was an immigrant from Poland, and I grew up eating plenty of Polish food. My favorite is a potato dumpling boiled then sauteed with onions. This week what made me happy was a big bowl of kluski.

Friday, October 2

Barbara: This week I was exceptionally happy to see my beautiful work friends, some for the first time in 7 months!! We had a fun time at Lyman Orchards picking apples and shopping at their market. It hit me just how much things have changed in all our lives, and how grateful I was to finally connect with them in person.

Marla: Waited all week for Friday, but not because it was the end of the work week, but because I got to finally met up with some of my co-workers whom I haven’t been able to chat in person since quarantine. We all met up at Lyman Orchards for apple picking and to their market for some Fall goodies. What a great morning we had even under the cloudy sky and rain.

Friday, September 25

Ken: Since March 15th I have been working from home due to the pandemic from my basement. This was the place where I did my doctoral work from 2011 – 2015, it is the place where my cats like to hang out and walk through Zoom meetings occasionally, it is the place that people across the country have been able to see my built-in bookshelves the previous owner made years ago. As we move into the fall and having meetings outside on the deck becomes less frequent, I decided to go to Lowe’s and turn my corner of the basement into a real office (with lights and outlets). 

There is something therapeutic about building an office, being the ultimate decider on where the door is, what kind of ceiling do I want to install, and vinyl or Pergo flooring. Working sometimes until 10:30 – 11 at night, or starting at 6:30 am to finish that one last thing before work has become a regular occurrence. As I have learned to navigate the “new normal” be it Zoom, groceries, yard projects, and overall keeping our family healthy and safe, the office project has been a nice getaway and will hopefully make the winter months a little less drab while we continue working from home. 

Marla: I fell in the iOS14 trap…LOL. Doing the new Home Screen was super fun and now whenever I get bored of looking at the same thing, I can play with it and customize it all over again. It takes time and patience, but the end result will be worth it. I went with my astronomy/space theme for this one. Here are screenshots of the before & after. If you have an iPhone and want to customize yours, make sure to download the Widgetsmith app, and you should already have the Shortcuts app (if not download as well.)

Barbara: This week one of my projects was reorganizing my closets! (I know, excited stuff.) But, it was the final touch of converting my son’s old room into my office/guest room. What made me happiest though, was the fact that I now have an official stationary drawer, and gift wrapping drawer. Seriously, I’ve opened and closed them just to look inside several times now. It’s the small stuff folks!!

Rose: I had a great day on Wednesday. Generally I wake up well slept but you know that feeling where you wake up and your brain works on all cylinders (without caffeine). That was Wednesday for me. It’s almost a gift from above. You remember names, you can talk without fail, you have energy to do projects that needed to be done but couldn’t find the energy to do them before. Those kind of days don’t happen often but when they do it’s like a mini vacation. It was a HAPPY day!

Michelle: My favorite Twitter account of all time belongs to the fictitious Duchess Goldblatt @duchessgoldblat and who makes every day brighter with her sassy kindness. Her book, Becoming Duchess Goldblatt, just out this summer, is a quick and funny but moving read that I will enjoy again and again. Even my husband liked it! Here she is seated on a chair worthy of Her Grace:

Friday, September 18

Marla: I haven’t used my Nespresso coffee machine for a few weeks now. This week while scrolling through my Facebook feed I stumbled upon an ad for Nespresso and made an unexpected find. I learned that they added #cafecitodepuertorico to their Reviving Origins line. After Hurricane Maria wiped out about 80% of the island’s coffee in 2017, Nespresso is working with the Hispanic Federation to help independent farmers replant. So far over 160,000 trees were donated to Puerto Ricans farmers, and with every purchase I’m contributing to the recovery. So I get to use my machine again, sip on some great espresso coffee and support my island!

Barbara: This week I got bit by the baking bug!! It’s apple season, and so of course I made apple turnover, and well, who doesn’t like a cookie?! Baking has always made me happy!

Rose: What made me happiest this week was finding out that my oldest brother made it through a bad patch with his heart health. We laugh because we call him the man of nine lives. I’m pretty sure he has surpassed that.

Monica: With hybrid school, we have many mornings free and board games have become very popular.   They get loud and silly but it is a wonderful sound.

Friday, September 11

Barbara: This Labor Day weekend I got to see my brother and nephew who live in PA for the first time in a long time!! For two days I hosted family gatherings–I love the food preparation– it reminded me of my “deli days,” and of course the visiting. There is something about retelling and laughing about family stories and events that have been retold so many times over the soul felt nourished. 

Marla: A few weeks ago, I posted about getting ready for my daughter’s 21st birthday celebration. Saturday we were able to come together with family and friends to do just that. It was such a good time. Here are a few pictures from the decorations.

Rose : We were painting nails last nights with a group of kids. One wanted to paint a rainbow on my thumb Happiness is…..a rainbow of colors painted on by a 6 year old 🙂

Michelle: I stumbled across this picture on twitter that seems to capture the feeling so many have this week as school re-opens. Context: “This is what I get after I took his chair away because he was spinning in it . . . that’ll show me!!” and “It’s ok, mom. I turned my camera off.”

Friday, September 5

Marla: I was super happy when my fiancée asked me to go golfing this week. He loves golfing and plays every weekend. We spoken plenty about getting me into it and Tuesday was #NationalWomensGolfDay so he took advantage of it. We played a 9 hole game at Grassy Hills Country Club. The afternoon was sunny, with just the right amount of warmth for a comfortable playing day. It was just so great to be doing something new and having fun doing it!

Monica: This summer, due to many difficult circumstances, we were not able to have our traditional family vacation on Cape Cod and we were missing it so much.  We decided that we needed a one day Cape Cod trip and we would do all the most important things.  So this Tuesday we left the house at 6:30am and we were on the beach in Wellfleet by 10am, the beach, the ocean, and the sky were amazing.  We also visited Chatham for fish and chips, shopping, candy, and ice cream.  Stopped in Harwichport to jump off the lifeguard stands and check out all the mottled horseshoe crab shells.  We were home by 10pm, it was a perfect day.  Of course, we are already planning another one.

Barbara: I was able to take some time off, and it was very much a “staycation.” I worked outside in the yard, and organized some things in the house. I visited with family and friends on sunny days, and read for hours on the rainy ones. Nothing spectacular, but it was healing. It reminded me of a quote from one of my favorite authors, and so I looked it up to share:    “As the years pass, I am coming more and more to understand that it is the common, everyday blessings of our common everyday lives for which we should be particularly grateful. They are the things that fill our lives with comfort and our hearts with gladness — just the pure air to breathe and the strength to breath it; just warmth and shelter and home folks; just plain food that gives us strength; the bright sunshine on a cold day; and a cool breeze when the day is warm.” ― Laura Ingalls Wilder, Writings to Young Women from Laura Ingalls Wilder: On Wisdom and Virtues

Khadija: My birthday was a few weeks ago and my hubby mentioned there was one more gift on the way still… Well, this afternoon two heavy, dusty, collapsing, flat rate boxes arrived.  I knew that could only be one thing.  If you can’t go rock hunting yourself, you can bring some mine dirt to you. My inner environmentalist cringes a little, but I’m SO very excited to spend this weekend sifting dirt in our back yard/ living room!! And THIS makes me happy.  Here are a couple finds from past trips.

Shawna: This is the second time I’ve gone for a walk with Balta and seen a rainbow. This one is a double rainbow if you look really close. Probably the 4th one I’ve caught this summer! Love a sunny warm rain, always brings the rainbows.

Ken: Bittersweet Road Trip – This week what made me happy was getting to leave CT (even for a few hours). I had to go to New Jersey last weekend to retrieve the rest of my daughter’s stuff from the spring semester. This was my first time out of the state (and out my immediate area) in 6 months! Driving down the open road of 84 to 684 to 87 was fantastic with windows down and tunes cranking. Once we got to NJ, I was able to see some of my family (who I had only seen on Zoom since December). On the way back we took the Palisades Parkway to Bear Mountain (to get a scenic drive in – which is the picture). It was nice to be back home after a full day of driving, packing, and visiting, but I do miss the highway and road trips.

Aridyan: I’m really appreciative and grateful that I live near a park. My daily jogs, being in nature and being able to get some fresh air make me happy!

Michelle: I’m moving my home office out of the dining room and in to the guest bedroom. Last week I stopped at ReStore in Plainfield and found a great used chair! Maisy likes it too.

Friday, August 28

Monica: I finally hung up my bee house.  This bee house attracts mason bees, a native bee that will pollinate but does not sting.  Mason bees are solitary bees so they do not live in a hive and are not aggressive.   They lay their eggs in reeds and in the spring the new bee emerges and takes care of your garden.  Great for you garden and the bee population.  Can’t wait to see who emerges in the spring.

Marla: Planning birthdays in time of Covid can’t be fun for anyone. But my daughter’s 21st is one for the books. So planning and making decorations has kept me busy and looking forward to something good. I can’t wait to celebrate! Theme: Blackjack (21) 😉

Michelle: I love to travel, and although all my adventures will be of the more local variety this year, I have friends in far away places who have shared their local adventures with me, and it’s like a mini-vacation. The Dolomites are mountains in NE Italy, and these photos from my Italian friend made me happy this week.

Rose: It’s been a rough few weeks for me. I’ve been trying to find the things that make me happy but mostly it’s just been survival. I walk each morning in a beautiful location, I catch my pokemons, I sit down to work, babysit in the afternoon, and work in my garden to keep busy. I find that keeping this routine gives me that lovely illusion of control and security. Sometimes that is what you need to keep going. You build in activities to occupy your mind for a time.

Friday, August 21

Marla: This past week was very quiet and I could almost feel a sense of “back to normalcy”. But my happy moment came from my mom arriving from her trip to Puerto Rico. She has been gone for over a month, and believe me I don’t go more than a few days without seeing her. Having her back home is my happy this week! 😀

Michelle: A quiet week this week with lots of folks taking a little time off before the summer is over. One small thing that makes me happy all the time are the occasional fun photos I see on Twitter. A favorite is @possumeveryhour, not to be outdone by @raccoonevery which also posts fun photos every hour:

Friday, August 14

Mary: My cactus blossomed!

Ken: Making Lemonade out of Lemons – Last week Tropical Storm Isasias blew through our neighborhood knocking out power for 4 days. After the initial scramble to save ice cream and ensure the other essentials were saved we began to settle into nightly campfires, camping in the backyard, and taking a dip in the pool. Having no power allowed us to disconnect from the news and chaos of the everyday world and have some quality time with family.

Barbara: When I was in college way back in the 80’s, I was very involved in the theater department. I formed friendships that have lasted through the years. One of our favorite activities, back in the day, was to play Dungeons and Dragons. It was fun acting out all the characters’ parts and using our imaginations to create adventurous campaigns– more times than naught we would encounter helpful and wise dragons on our quests to find fortune, fame, and glory. 

My Welsh ancestory had already paved the way for me to have affection and love for the mythical dragon, and through the years, like my friendships, my love for dragons has remained intact. And so, when my sister recently made me a dragon (with her own hands!), well, I was smitten– exceedingly happy.

Allen the Book Dragon now resides in my den where all of my treasured books, pictures, and nick-nacks are kept, and where I go to think, read, and reflect. I guess you could say it is my “Happy Place.”

Pictured are Allen the Book Dragon, the Welsh Flag, and me.

Marla: I did this painting this past weekend. I had seen something similar and wanted to make my own version of it. With so much happening around the world still, I felt I needed to retreat and just be in my own zone. Hope you enjoy!

Rose: Well, we’ve had so many adventures these past few weeks. My neighbor went on a walk and texted me that there were some baby ducks without a mother following her and the kids and sent a picture. When I saw it I knew that they were not wild ducks…it was sad but someone dumped 3 yellow baby domestic ducks down by our community center. Oh my gosh they are so cute. I’ve undertaken a few wild animal saves over the years and I know how much work they take but I do it anyway because every living thing deserves a chance at life however short it might be – that is what makes me happy – that they have a chance. I’ll work to find them someplace else to live. We believe that these are a type of duck called Pekin, and they get pretty large. So if anyone knows of a place please email me at

Aridyan: While I was jogging, I saw this adorable mother deer and her baby. Without getting too close to them, I managed to get these pictures. Definitely made my week! 

Michelle: I have an abiding love of Sesame Street and the Muppets, and I get a regular dose on Twitter from @HistoryMuppet where I saw this version of Grover in the Old Spice commercial, redone as “Smell Like a Monster” which made me laugh this week:

Friday, July 31

Marla: This past week was a tough one due to the heat. I fell a little flustered more so than any other time (AND I LOVE THE SUMMER!!!). However, the skies above and the cooler nights helped my state of mind. Seeing shooting stars this week made me smile. FYI, we just passed the Delta Aquarids but if you see your self looking up this month, don’t miss out on the Perseids Meteor Shower. Visible through late August. Here is a link to show you which day of the month and time is best to look. Peak days Aug. 11-12)

Ken: A few weeks ago at the start of summer I was thinking about the pool we used to have. It was one of those quick set pools with a filter that was great for cooling off on a late July day. I went online to order one and found that (1) they were really overpriced, and (2) they were all out of stock. After a week of searching, I finally settled on one that was big enough and fit my budget. Fifteen days later there was a delivery…it was the new pool! After an hour of setup, we got into the cold water (fresh from the hose)…it was 95 degrees out. The pool met and exceeded my expectations with enough room for the whole family.

Barbara: The last couple of weeks have been too hot to take walks or work outside, but it was perfect weather for swimming!! I have visited my sister three times in the last week where I enjoyed swimming in her pool until I was worn out!! It felt good and made me very happy!! I didn’t think to take a picture at the time, so no pic or video this week, just happy memories.

Rose: It was a weird week. Every day this week something glitched. I kept saying these types of things come in 3’s, only this time it was continuous. Some weeks I might be stressed and frustrated but this week I was able to roll with the punches. Why does that happen? I can’t say I was happy but it was just ok. Sometimes we just have to deal with ok until happy reappears.

Aridyan: I picked up some new art supplies which I’m very excited about! I will be working on some painting projects that I have been wanting to do. Art has been extremely therapeutic for me during these times.

Shawna: I finished another book last night! White Oleander by Janet Fitch. It was a very good read, MUCH better than the movie. Now I’m moving onto Toni Morrison’s, Paradise, recommended and borrowed from my good friend Grace.   

Monica: Sweet and short. Loved this!!!  The dad is sooo funny. Hope you find it too!

Michelle: While inspiration is different than happiness, what really moved me this week was President Obama’s eulogy for Congressman John Lewis. He called for us all to continue Rep. Lewis’s work improving our democracy, expanding voting rights. I’d almost forgotten how much I love listening to him speak. If you didn’t see it live, take some time for yourself today to watch the whole 40 minutes. Here’s CNN’s Youtube video.

Friday, July 24

Ken: New Kicks for the AM — I have never been one for jogging…it seems like a lot of work, gives me a cramp, and those uphill roads, forget it. However, over the course of the pandemic I somehow managed to lose a bunch of weight (all I can think of is more walking at night, less office pastries and candy, and eating three balanced meals a day). So a few weeks ago, I decided to trade in my 20 year old sneakers for a new pair. After getting over the sticker shock of sneakers these days (gone are the cheap days of Sketchers), I decided to dive in and see what I could do. I had a master plan that I would jog everyday at 7:30 and go for a 1.5 – 2 mile run around my neighborhood. I finally hatched the plan last Monday and have been jogging consistently for the past 9 days. I have my 14 year old son to thank as he comes with me and keeps me motivated, understanding that I may need to walk up that hill or give my calves a break on a straight-away. I am hopeful I can knock out the 12 pounds that stand between me and my 2001 weight…with my new sneakers anything is possible. 

Monica: As a huge Princess Bride fan, I was worried to see a remake but this is perfect!  And supports the World Central Kitchen.  Now my family is considering our own remake.  So many favorite lines.

Mary: I am happy this week because we celebrated Flash’s 12th birthday. He is the best boy ever and helped me out so much with cuddles and long nights alone while I worked on my Masters. Happy Belated Birthday Flash!

Michelle: I spent some time this weekend cleaning my chaotic art studio and I discovered a new song that made me laugh out loud: “Mask, Gloves, Soap, Scrubs” by Todrick Hall off his timely album Quarantine Queen. What other song will include lyrics like “Febreeze for me,” drag queens, and dancing with mops? Here’s the link for the song and the video (which only made me smile more!) FYI the lyrics do have an explicit warning on them. Happy cleaning!

Marla: During this quarantine, I gave in and joined Tik Tok. Had to see what the fuss was all about. My For You feed this week contained a pretty awesome Bill Nye the Science Guy video. It was pretty clever, funny and yes made me happy. Hope you enjoy!

The science of skin color.

Barbara: Back in April I heard about Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir 6 from a friend who, like me has been a member of the West Hartford Women’s Chorale for quite some time. We were both sad that we had to cancel our spring semester. Singing, particularly in a choir, has been a great joy of mine since I was in middle school. It is my favorite self-care practice. And so, during May I signed up for Eric Whitacre’s Choir, downloaded the music, practiced, and then recorded (about 20,000 takes!), and finally uploaded my single soprano voice to the over 17,000 voiced choir. And then I waited. Singing alone just isn’t the same as singing with others. It just isn’t. And so when the final version of the song I had sung a single part for, was released this past Sunday, and I was finally able to hear us all together, it brought tears of happiness to my eyes. I finally felt that connection with others that only happens when you are creating a piece of music together. The song is just over three minutes but it represents 17,572 singers from 129 countries (and so the credits are long!). I hope you take the time to listen to “Sing Gently” and that it also brings you joy.