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    Central America - Copyright Jose Braitwaite -

happiness,  is when you get a new puppy
happiness,  is when you get married
happiness,  is when you go on you first date

happiness,  is making your own decisions
happiness,  is graduating
happiness,  is getting you first job

happiness,  is falling in love
happiness is being proud of who you are

happiness is bliss

happiness, is glowing
happiness, is fun
happiness, is an amazing feeling
happiness, is when you smile all day
happiness, is giving someone a hug just because you can
happiness, is that light in your eyes
happiness, is what makes the world go around

happiness, is bliss

                                                                                                                                                 by Sam Byron
I have been
researching happiness for months now, collecting evidence, published
studies, and opinions of experts – on this subject that is of great
interest to me. However, I am putting all of my notes aside in order to
share a personal experience of real happiness ~ and how I recently spent
24 hours.
This was my son’s idea: with time short and much to do before his family’s departure for Morocco (where they will be living indefinitely), he suggested we plan an overnight in downtown Seattle and create a “family play weekend”. We chose a hotel with festive lights and decorations, the presence of Santa, a swimming pool, a hot tub and two adjoining rooms. There are seven of us altogether, including my son and his wife, their three children, ages 6, 4 and 2, my husband and me. We were a merry group from the outset! We left our ‘to do’ lists at home, our worries behind and caravanned to the Seattle Sheraton Hotel.
Soon hunger was upon us and we feasted on hamburgers and fries, root beer and milkshakes. We were entertained by holiday singers, elves, nutcrackers and even snow ~ indoors! With full tummies and tired children, we returned to our hotel and took a relaxing hot tub. With pride, I watched my grown son with his three children in the water: his playfulness, water-game creativity, vigilance for their safety and love for each child touched my heart more deeply than ever before. My beautiful daughter-in-law added a presence of softness,
acceptance, compassion and love, somehow knowing what was on my heart each moment. She is amazing that way.  We left the top floor swimming arena and somehow got to our rooms with the children in charge of the elevator buttons. After showers and pajamas, we all snuggled together and watched a movie, ate crackers and cheese in bed and simply soaked up being together. As I looked into the eyes of my son and his wife, felt little hands and feet under the warm blankets and giggled with them as a once-again child, I felt the presence of truth remind me: “…there are no walls, really ~ only a word we use for plaster, boards and paint ~ keep opening your heart…let it all in until there are no walls left…only love”.

We spent the late afternoon and evening outdoors with the hustle and bustle of holiday goings-on, crowds, colorful lights, curbside drummers and even a carousel ride in the cold of December. What fun! I drank it all in: the touch of their little hands in mine as we crossed the streets, the sound of their laughter, the little voices that
sang along with the carolers: my beloved grandchildren, my son and his wife, cherishing and teasing one another and simply loving our wintry escapade. It was as if someone tapped me on the shoulder and said: “This is joy, a blessing worth more than gold…this is the best of life and it
is yours. Don’t waste a single moment thinking life could be better anywhere else.”
The next day came too soon. With morning coffee in hand, we packed our things, enjoyed a goodbye swim and said goodbye to the kind people at the front desk. Looking back on the city lights, we headed toward the entrance to I-5 South, bound for home and the unfolding of the day ahead.      Looking back now, I have learned one thing for sure:   If you’re hoping for things to be other than they are ~ constantly trying to fix or change life in some way ~ happiness will abandon you. The opportunity for joy happens only if we inhabit our experience and hold nothing back. We must live precious moments with all of our senses: taste peppermint fingertips, smell fresh, clean hair, feel the soft skin of a child’s touch, hear their voices ~ and open our hearts fully, being brave enough to want this forever and humble enough to know nothing ever stays the same.
Have you slept with crumbs in your bed lately? Or awakened early to a child’s voice much more ready for the day than you are? Have you looked into the eyes of your own grown son or daughter and seen both the child of yesterday and the proud parent of today? Have you listened ~ really listened ~ to a child’s wisdom … and taken their advice? Have you fallen in love all over again with the magic of winter? If not, do it now – today! If there aren’t children, find them; if there isn’t a hotel room, make the room you are in the best it can be; love someone you don’t know ~ a senior who is lonely, an animal that is hungry, a part of yourself that you have been denying .. until now. And if none of this works, then prepare a plate of saltines and cheese, crumble them under the covers, get in bed and laugh out loud.  May your days be merry and bright ~ and may joy and peace bless you and those you love.  Written with inspiration, devotion and love for my son and beloved family who will be leaving the United States to live and serve in Morocco for the years to come. Jamie, Missy, Lauren, Mark and Lydia: I love you with all my heart ~ Mimi