A Small Treatise on Happiness


(Gratuitous cat photo.)

A friend said to me recently, “I love reading your blog because you sound so happy.” I do? I do! I even sound happy to me. I didn’t know anyone else noticed. I was quick to remind her that my life isn’t perfect. But I do love my life, and that is because a couple of years ago I started living my life for myself rather than for other people. This isn’t as self-centered as it sounds. Pursuing happiness is a factor of self-interest, not of selfishness. Selfishness is not caring about how other people feel. Self-interest is caring about how other people feel then balancing that against caring about how you feel, too, and accepting that you’re not responsible for anyone else’s happiness, only your own. Women, in particular, have a hard time with this concept.

A couple of years ago when I first came to live in this slanted little house, I was thinking about my own happiness. But I care about how my actions affect other people, especially my children, and one of the reasons I am happy now is because my children are happy, too. So many good things have happened for me and for the people I care about, things that I could never have predicted when I was just putting one foot in front of the other, pushing the boulder of outside negativity off my chest every day to get up and keep going. This road home was not an easy one.

But today, I am surrounded by the people, places, and things that feel good, down deep, that feel peaceful and positive and right, for me and for my children. I made a radical, and I mean radical, change in the direction of my life–and it all started with actually opening my heart one day to the question–are you happy? This is a massively frightening question to face because if the answer is no, then what are you doing to do about it? (Most likely, the answer to that question is going to be a lot of trouble.) I didn’t even really know what I wanted, what I needed to be happy. I just knew that I wasn’t and that it was time to go in search of it. I ended up in the least expected place, down a country road to a farm you have to drive through three creeks to reach. I didn’t know exactly where I was headed when I started. I put myself on a road with no map and let my heart find the way on its own.

This is my life, not anyone else’s idea of what my life should be. I delight in happening upon sheep, driving my cousin’s mother to the little store, fording rivers in a 4WD I never would have imagined I’d need, watching snow fall over the hills, and I love, absolutely love, finding chickens in the road. I get excited about things like buying farm boots. Give me a thornless blackberry bush and I might swoon. I love everything about my life, and there was never any point in the past where I could have honestly made that statement. And that, I believe, is what life should be like and why I wouldn’t take back one painful step it took to get here (though I wouldn’t want to relive it for a million bucks). It is true that nothing worth having comes easy, and possibly more true of happiness than anything else.

But it’s also true that it’s worth having.

And for me, happiness is chickens in the road, and everything that means. What about you? What does happiness mean to you?


  1. Marilyn says:

    What a profound post. I enjoyed it! Happiness for me is living for the Lord and being with family. We live on a farm, but it isn’t a pretty area like yours! I still enjoy the quiet peace of the place. :snoopy:

  2. Renna says:

    I guess I’m happiest when I know I’m walking in God’s will, at least I’m most at peace then.

    That was a beautiful post. Hooray for you for finding the road to your farm and family and happiness! :thumbsup:

  3. Mental Pause Mama says:

    Good on you Suzanne! And, I can’t wait for my thornless blackberries either!

  4. Becky says:

    What an awesome post, and a great reminder that we all have the power to build the life we really want — we don’t have to accept a life that isn’t happy.

    Like you, I think I’ve found my happy life. Happiness for me is finding the beauty in the ordinary — orange sunlight casting purple shadows, or a monochromatic snowy mountainside. It’s about baking cookies with my children and laughing with my friends. It’s about hearing the neighbors mowing the lawn on a warm Saturday morning, or curling up with my sweetie and watching a movie.

    Writing this made me think about my photography, and how it’s really just an attempt to capture and draw attention to simple, beautiful, everyday life.

  5. Jenn says:

    What a wonderful post..I can completely relate.

    Happiness to me are horses grazing in the pasture, kids in the creek and a dog sleeping at my feet.

  6. Bayou Woman says:

    This post touches my soul in a very deep way. Now I want to read about your whole journey to this point. Is it here? If so, I will read it. My story parallels yours, and I wonder how many women around our age are faced with this same question? How many of us go around it? How many of us turn and walk the other way? And how many of us slam right into it and are forced to answer honestly, are you happy? If not, what will you do about it?

    Thank you, S, for this post.
    Bayou Woman

  7. MARY says:

    :butterfly: Happiness for me, at this time, is having a happy, healthy little girl and the best friends in the world!!! :treehugger:

  8. Suzanne McMinn says:

    I love hearing the things that make you all happy!

    Bayou Woman, there isn’t anything in the blog about it as it was going on. I was depressed, LOL. I didn’t really blog about it at the time. The Slanted Little House post (button in the menu bar) is the main post I wrote about my journey to here.

  9. rdennis says:

    Saddling up a good horse I raised to go and work cattle on a ranch that I am the 4th generation on, even tho’ to do so we live 60 miles from any town.

    Being 60 miles from any town! 😉

    Working alongside my children knowing that I will get to work alongside my grandchildren as long as I like long enough.

    And a thousand other little things also.

    When I like the guy who watches me shave in the mirror, life is a lot easier. And if I can keep him pretty happy, then everyone around me has a better life.

  10. kacey says:

    Great post! I think that too many people settle for mediocre lives, when a great life is within their reach…if they just go for it.

  11. Kim A. says:

    I remember knowing for quite some time before my ex and I split back in 2000-01 that I would never live the life I wanted while with him. And though I don’t live my fantasy life of land in the country and an animal rescue centre, I find happiness and Joy in my connection with Mother Earth, and with animals. I am grateful for all my blessings on a daily basis and pay attention to the small things that make up life — the birds and squirrels, flower and tree buds (okay, not at this time of year!), my beloved cats. Things that too many people don’t see or appreciate in their busy daily lives. Life *is* about the small things, not the huge events. Those are usually far apart; it’s in our daily routines that we need to find peace and Joy.


  12. Tori Lennox says:

    What a wonderful post today, Suzanne!!!

  13. Dena says:

    I love reading your posts too,they always bring a smile to my face. I think its so funny about your dog and cats mix-up. Did you guys look real good? I also think the sheep loved you,I’m surprised it didn’t follow you home! or you sheepnap it,lol.

  14. Alice Audrey says:

    Yeah, what they said. :snoopy:

    May I add I love the gratuitous cat picture? :purr:

  15. Kathleen says:

    I think we have different phases of happiness in our lives. Childhood, young motherhood, after children leave. I believe we can all be happy in each phase as long as we have a sense of self. My joy in life has always come from being an individualist. I decided when I was young that following my own road was a way to happiness and have pretty much kept to that. I don’t stream ahead as fearlessly as I used to in my youth but I can still give a good accounting for myself in the realm of “I go my own way”.

  16. Sarah says:

    Happines for me is cows in the pasture and a cat in my arms. You are totally right, Suzanne. You will never be truly happy if you live your life for others. By the way, love the gratuitous cat photo. I can tell by the huge pupils that there was major frisky business going on when this picture was snapped!

  17. Amelia says:

    Your message today really hit the spot. Only ourselves can make us happy. Findng happiness in small things seems to be the greatest (at least for me).

    As a cat lover (we have 3) the photo was great of the little furry friend. :cattail:

  18. Kim W says:

    Amen and AMEN!!! THAT was one of the BEST posts I’ve read in ages!! I am right there w/you in coming to terms w/simply doing what is right for YOU and YOUR family. I was raised in a loving home, but in w/a mom who worked in the fashion industry…which put me into modeling from the time I was 9 until I married at 25 (and got pregnant soon there-after…end of modeling!) and I double-dipped as a make-up artist from age 19 to around 34 when I started homeschooling. Once I got out of all the hype and the pressure to BELIEVE all the hype ~ part of that being after we lost our 1st daughter to SIDS, had 2 miscarriages and then had 2 more wonderful daughters ~ my sweet former-farmboy hubby and I took our kids and moved to a little rural town (similar to where you live), I traded my 4″ high heels for Burkenstocks (no…I’m NOT a tree hugger…I just LIKE them! :treehugger: ) and jeans and the excitement mingled w/the relaxation of homeschooling and being with my favorite people all the time! We are also Christians and I have got to tell you that I never felt closer to the Lord until we “became rural.” :cowsleep: My sweet hubby always wanted to get back to the country life and so for the last 10 years, we all have known why. We don’t live on a farm, but we love our little rural town and our 170+ year old house. We love seeing deer, coyotes, bobcats, kestrils, red-tailed hawks ~ and even an elk farm ~ everyday!

    Keep up your great blog.

    Blessings from Ohio…

  19. Susan says:

    Happiness to me is being around family. That includes the furry ones!

    Your post truly touches the heart. :heart:

  20. catslady says:

    I applaud your courage

  21. Estella says:

    Great post, Suzanne!
    Happiness is living close to my family again.

  22. jaq says:

    I’m working on happiness. Happiness is laughing over something silly with friends, and chit-chatting with family. Happiness is goofing around in the kitchen and putting too much butter in the new cookie receip, then having to double all the other ingredience, then having enough cookies to last a month. But damn do they taste good. lol. Is going to bed light of spirit and having a wonderful sleep. Happiness is the word ‘Mom’. Happiness is leaving the negative alone, and focusing on the positive.

    Glad you’ve found your happiness, Suzanne. 🙂

  23. jaq says:

    Happiness is *not* : cringing at all the typos in the comments just posted. lol

  24. Vonda says:

    Oh happiness. I have generally always been happy but I will say that I find the most joy and happiness in the simple. By the simple I mean a child’s smile, a beautiful sunrise/sunset, the smells of the day (flowers, grass, bread baking, etc.), reading, my family and so many more I can’t put them all down. I do try each day to wake up and remember to live in the day, not the future or past because I find I lose that day if I don’t. :chicken:

  25. Lexi Connor says:

    Wow! What a wonderful post and it’s come at the right time. I’m struggling right now to figure out what I need to do to make myself happy. I’m not totally unhappy, but I know in my gut that some things need to change. Thanks for reminding me that I’m not the only one who’s ever gone through this!

  26. Jenawriting says:

    What a beautiful post, Suzanne. And I have to say- I get it. I do. Happiness is eventually finding your joy- even if you have to backhoe through the mud to find it and end up where you least expect to be. Happiness to me is my girl and waking up to her sweet voice and her smile that always lights my world. That and knowing you are loved by someone- isn’t that what we all want? Oh and being able to do what you love to do, writing for me- that has helped me find my joy and makes me happy. Thank you for reminding me, my friend.

  27. Brandy says:

    I try hard to make sure that my decisions are to make me happy and not to give in to pressure to please others first. I’m not sure that I succeed as much as I’d like. *g* But, what makes me happiest? Looking into the eyes of my children, a purring cat on my lap, snuggling with the hubs.

  28. Angie-la says:

    Suzanne, I have reading your blog a long time. I have always enjoyed your posts. I feel like I travelled the road to the slanted little house with you, seen your children mature, and watched your menagerie grow!
    Thank you for sharing your journey with us!

  29. TeresaH says:

    What makes me happy? Many things, but the first one that comes to mind is the smile that lights up my granddaughters face when she first see’s me.

  30. Fannie M Wiggins says:

    Life isn’t about how to survive the storm, but how to dance in the rain

    Everyone has the capacity to be happy. Not eveyone takes advantage though. Have you ever met someone who finds their happiness in being unhappy? Now that may not make sense to some.Think about it, that person is happiest when telling you all the things that make her unhappy. I have a friend like that. :wall: I too have had a lot of sad events in my life but I choose not to be unhappy over them. Like Kim W., I lost my 1st little boy to SIDS and my 2nd son 9 months later. After 2 miscarriages, I have a precious son and daughter. I have 5 grandchildren who are the joy of my life. I feel that we either give up or get stronger and I’m not a quitter. I am so proud of you Suz beause you are not a quitter either. You are one of the strongest women I know. You take responsibility for your happiness.You are a winner in my eyes..

  31. Heather says:

    I just found your site and I love it. My husband and I moved almost 1 year ago to a small hobby farm in Ohio. I still have to work full time but when I am at home with my 7 sheep and 3 chickens it is wonderful. Just going out to feed them in the morning and hearing them “calling” to me makes me feel terrific. Going out when the ground is covered with snow and everything is illuminated by the moon is like magic. I continue to feel like I am living in a dream or a fairy tale that has come true. This spring I’m going to get more chickens and I can’t wait to plant all my seeds. Part of the fun is sharing with my family and friends, both here and back in Miami, Fl. This is a wonderful site and I will be back to keep reading your posts. Thanks! :sheep:

  32. Donna says:

    I have to agree with a reader’s comment posted above. I find my joy in Jesus Christ. Most of my immediate family is gone now and the ones remaining, even though they live close by, are not very tight knit. So, the one thing I am so very grateful for, is that my parents and grandparents were Christians, leaving me that important legacy and gift. They left some material things for me to have and I am very sentimental…but NOTHING can give me the same joy and fulfillment of having a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. I get down and discouraged, but he always sends encouragement and the help I need at the perfect time AND he will NEVER leave or forsake you!!!! What a friend we have in Jesus – a true friend.

  33. Donna says:

    P.S. – I think you would LOVE reading Ruth Graham’s biography by Patricia Cornwell – she lived as you do, in Montreat North Carolina..and I liked her quote that went something like “my home is in Jesus, where ever he leads me”…type comment. She was a very cool woman.

  34. Jerry says:

    I’ve told people for many years that only ONE PERSON can make them happy, and that’s themselves. I meet people every week that are very unhappy and dissatisfied with their life, and I always ask them why continue down that road when THEY have the power to change it… easy as that. Sure, sometimes it’s a struggle to get to where you want to be, but you’ll be happier along the way and ecstatic when you arrive. Changing your life around isn’t nearly as hard as it sounds. The worst part is simply the fear of the unknown. But if you’re afraid to even start, you might as well throw-in the towel. And if you insist on living a miserable life, that’s your business. But stop making others miserable having to live with your tales of woe. Seriously, making YOURSELF happy is the first step in making others happy. You cant do one without the other.

  35. Madeline says:

    city life, country life.. what makes us happy?? Well, I am sometimes afraid of the answer to that question because yes, the answer brings up hard choices and decisions..

    seems we spend our time “in town” working our butts off so we can leave on thursday evening and spend the next 4 days in the small mountain cabin.

    the big house here in town takes the other four days to work for, pay for, clean, etc.. and then we go “relax” in the small cabin–

    the deer, the elk, the racoon, are MUCH friendlier than my neighbors here in the city..

    up in Pine, the air is cleaner, the days seem longer, and we are so peaceful..we
    sloooooow down..
    what makes us happy–sometimes it’s right in front of us….

    I love animals but we haven’t got time or a yard here for a dog.

    I love to cook and bake–do lots of that..whevever I am..

    Much FOOD for thought in your blog–thanks!

    (Gonna ry that burnt sugar cake next week.. yumm..) hugs to CLOVER.

  36. Judith says:

    I stumbled across your website while looking for unusual candy recipes — and found yours for cracker candy. https://chickensintheroad.com/wp-includes/images/smilies/snoopy.gif

    I very much enjoyed your writing & gorgeous pictures. Thank you for a literate blog that presents such a positive view of rural life!

    Love the “gratuitous cat” pic — one can always use another gratuitous cat. (Or is it that no cat is ever gratuitous?) And the comment of your 12-year-old upon coming to the slanted house is something that could easily have come out of any of my children’s mouths at certain pseudo-sophisticated points of their lives.

    Thanks again for sharing your life.

  37. amy says:

    You sound so very happy with your life and decisions. 🙂 42 and with family just starting to understand what makes me and mine happy. Love your blog. Thank you.

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