A Happy Card

Jan
12

It’s snowing. It’s January, and in West Virginia, that means it’s supposed to snow or it wouldn’t be January in West Virginia. It would be July in the Bahamas! (Or January in the Bahamas, for that matter.) For some reason, I’m finding this winter more difficult than previous winters.

Or I have just forgotten how I felt in previous winters, thus magnifying in my mind the hardship of this winter.

It’s cold, and cold is so tiresome. The skies are drab and clouded. The woods stand barren, branches draped in white. Snow smothers the ground. I have trouble driving in snow. I hardly go anywhere. Buckets of feed feel heavier when they have to be carried through the snow in gloved hands. Ice has to be broken for the animals’ water. (We do have a de-icer for BP’s new bath tub water now, and the chickens have a heated water bowl now, too! Just need to get some heated buckets for the goats and donkeys…..) I could go on and on. Winter and hardship shiver hand in hand.

I have to remind myself, almost daily, that winter’s hardships are no reason to be down. There’s no reason to be bleak just because the weather is bleak. There are hardships in any season, and there are even hardships in the Bahamas. To be happy only when everything is perfect is a circumstantial sort of happiness.

And not very well-earned.

There’s always something, and in fact, life is never perfect. There are always annoying people and annoying situations. There are jobs we don’t like, or no job at all. There’s not enough money. There’s illness, or even death.

Sometimes there’s poop everywhere you look.

One of the happiest people I know is a woman who has the most miserable husband on the planet. He puts her down, tells her what to do, picks on her ceaselessly. Until recently, she had a job she didn’t entirely enjoy, yet when she left, people cried. She was the happiest person in the store. In her life, she’s experienced divorce in a previous marriage, death, miscarriage, childhood abuse, and an assortment of other everyday difficult experiences. She doesn’t wait for life to be perfect in order to be happy. She chooses to be happy every day.

One of the surest paths to unhappiness is waiting for life to be perfect. Another sure path is to think other people should make you happy. If my friend waited for her husband to make her happy, she’d never be happy. Other people can’t make you happy, make you comfortable, or make you much of anything.

My mother was one of the happiest persons I’ve ever known, and she also had many difficulties in her life, including the loss of a child, which is surely one of the deepest pains known to humankind. She had a happy attitude every day.

Maintaining a happy attitude is a challenge. There are all those difficult everyday circumstances to overcome, and even sometimes those difficult people who are unhappy themselves and want to bring you down. Don’t try to make them happy–it won’t work. Trying to make other people happy is about as doable as waving a magic wand and transforming winter into spring. Most often, the trouble with unhappy people is that they want you to make them happy in some way. The only way this works is if you are in customer service and can give them a refund. Some people will never figure out that they are responsible for their own happiness. They choose to spend their lives blaming other people for not “making” them happy, comfortable, satisfied, etc. The only thing you can do about that is choose differently for yourself.

Several years ago, for a period of time, I went to see a counselor. She was a cognitive therapist. While this is in no way an exhaustive description, in short, cognitive therapy is a method of developing skills in identifying and changing negative thinking patterns. In other words, training your mind to think positively so you can have that happy attitude. People who are constantly miserable are people who are focused non-stop on everything they don’t like about their lives. Training your mind to focus on the positive is all about giving you the strength to deal with those downsides in your life without dwelling on them till they eat you alive.

Just to repeat–focusing on the positive won’t make hardships or problems go away, but the happiness gained from a positive attitude will make you a stronger person so you can deal with hardships and problems constructively without sinking into misery.

And while this little tip I’m about to give is incredibly simplistic, it’s also one of the most helpful things I came away with from the therapy experience, and is helpful no matter the circumstances surrounding a (non-clinical) depression–whether it’s winter’s hardships or a negative person in your life, a job you hate or trouble with money, or just about anything else. (If you think you are seriously, or possibly clinically, depressed, you should see a doctor or therapist.)

Make a happy card.

Take a 3 x 5 card and write down at least 10 things that make you feel joyful. If you have a hard time coming up with 10 things, then make yourself write 20 because you need extra homework. Whenever you find yourself focusing too much on life’s troubles, whip out your happy card and reread every word. Keep it in your pocket, wallet, or purse so that it’s always available.

I still have the first happy card I ever made, creased from folding and well-worn from being carried around in my pocket. It has things on it like baking bread, canning with Georgia, watching the kids play ball in the meadow bottom, and so on. Whatever you put on the card should be things that bring warm, happy feelings and images for you. The point of the card is to train your thoughts away from dysfunctional over-dwelling on negatives that fix your mind in misery. It’s like a reset button to remind yourself that life is beautiful. (Many happy people do this automatically, subconsciously, but sometimes we need a happy card to jump start the mind in the right direction. Unhappiness is a habit–break it.)

A happy card for me today includes things like this brand new baby:

These crazy kids:

This bad calf:

Cookies at the gate:

Making cheese:

Costumes on Clover:

Ducks in the rain:
img_0871img_0871
Sheep who think they’re dogs:
img_4725img_4725
Chickens, just chickens:
img_4013
And writing this website.

Don’t wait for spring, money, a job, or other people to bring you happiness. Take responsibility for your own happiness. Trust me, nobody else will. (Nor should they.)

What’s on your happy card today?

Comments

  1. lizzie says:

    Clover the Christams Queen, brings a smile to my face everytime I see it!!!! Amen!!! to the above post!!! there truly is joy in the simple things in life! one does not have to look to far to find them! so I will make my happy card!!! and dream of spring! :fairy:

  2. lizzie says:

    Oh no, I really should proof read “Christmas” :bugeyed:

  3. Blessings says:

    Every Sunday I post on my blog “Attitude of Gratitude”,an idea a dear friend told me about from her church. It makes you think about the many things to be thankful for that happened during the week…Keeps me centered..Keeps me Happy…Makes me realize how Blessed I am…
    All I ask for those who would like to participate is to link to my blog…

    ~~Hugs~
    from
    Michigan Winter Wonderland

  4. MJ says:

    Chickens in the Road is on my card for sure. Thanks for the joy you bring by sharing your world with your readers each day, Suzanne. Happy New Year.

  5. marybeth says:

    Thank you Suzanne. This is the hardest time of the year for me, weather-wize. It helps to keep a perspective, and remember the gloomiest time of year is really very short, and to look for the happy!

  6. Nona says:

    Well seeing new baby goats was near the top of my week!
    I am happy that my college grad got some well deserved work in her field! It sure is hard to be a teacher these days.
    I have decided to start making my wieght problem tops on my list.
    I am going to try Zumba!

  7. Lindsay says:

    Let’s see, on my happy card so far are: CITR, my furbabies, the love of a good man, classical music, gardening, seed catalogs, early-blooming jasmine, scented candles, cooking, seeing a few more visits to my tiny blog, seeing genuine smiles on a friend’s newly adopted troubled children, getting mail (I think that’s more than ten). Thanks for being on my Happy Card!

  8. Urbanite says:

    At work we were asked to keep a daily gratitude journal for six months. The goal is the same – to focus your attention on the positive things in your life, which improves your attitude so you can operate from a positive mindset when dealing with life’s negatives. This really works! Within a couple of weeks I noticed myself actively watching throughout the day for positive things to record. They could be major items, or something as simple as snuggling into bed on fresh clean sheets. When you actively look for things to be grateful for/happy about, it is amazing how many there are, even in the midst of other problems. I love the idea of a happy card – it is even more direct!

  9. Nancy in Iowa says:

    Bravo! Something I dearly need to do. I can’t think about it now, but I would put at the top of my list: Henry! My beautiful, always smiling 14-month old grandson!!!

  10. bonita says:

    Amen! and thanks Suzanne–sometimes we each need a reminder of just WHO is in charge of OUR lives. Pity parties are sooo much a waste of time.

  11. Rose H says:

    Yes, this blog is certainly on my happy card, :D without reading the lovely words the photos make me feel VERY happy! :sun: Thank you Suzanne :happyflower:

  12. Plano Mom says:

    My mom sent me this link. I’d say that “cookies at the gate” is on my Happy Card today.

  13. Johanna says:

    What a lovely reminder, Suzanne! Thanks for the focus on the positive!

  14. Tracey In Paradise Pa. says:

    :woof:
    Great idea.I love it!

  15. Miss Judy says:

    Sometimes we have to work at happiness, it doesn’t always come easy.On my happy card would be Sunday dinner with family, 2nd grade jokes,snow, seed catalogs, CitR and Suzanne’s animal pics, cookbooks, hot tea,old friends,and sleeping under a handmade quilt.Strange as it may sound I love a rainy day.Thanks for reminding me …life is good.

  16. Barbara at AtLast says:

    There is a 5-7 min walk from the parking garage into work and most days I spend it listing my blessings: eyes that can see, all of creation, so forth. Then, when I have a physian I find difficult to work with, I weigh their 2 or 4 week rotation against eternity. I have to say this one is the most helpful for me when dealing with a person or situation I find unpleasant. Of course I have also found myself muttering, “Even now, come Lord Jesus.” Some folks just bring out longing for the rapture, right?

  17. glenda says:

    This is a wonderful subject. Count your blessings! We all need to do that on a regular basis.

    Here is just one of the blessings of my simple farm life:

    Up early before the world has started. Sitting at my new computer, enjoying CITR with my first fresh cup of coffee.

    All the things on my happy card are just very simple.

  18. MMHONEY says:

    Start each day “Let me be a blessing to someone today”
    We are pilgrims on a journey.
    We are travelers on the road.
    We are here to help each other
    walk the mile and bear the load.

  19. glenda says:

    One thing I meant to add is regarding winter or very bad weather and farm life. It complicates life ten fold! People who haven’t experienced taking care of animals, or crappy heating systems, or having to drive a distance to shop, buy feed, etc. can’t really appreciate this.

    I sympathize with you Suzanne! We are having zero weather here. That means water dripping in the house, breaking ice on the pond where the heifers live, watching for early calving (they love to pick the worst weather of the year for this!) Checking everything twice a day. Keeping hay put out for the cows. Then there is the constant gray, overcast days, 30 mph winds….We live with an ear tuned to the weather station. Weather is the driving force on a farm.

    Sloughing through snow or on treacherous ice (thank God for those Trax things!) carrying 5-gallon buckets of water or feed is very tiring.

    Just wanted you to know….I feel your pain.

  20. Mim says:

    my happy card varies from day to day but always includes my husband, kids and grandkids…had to retrain my husband to think positive…if something doesn’t come about then there was a good reason…. :sun: :happyflower: :pawprint:

  21. kellyb says:

    I sent the link for this post to my youngest who is having a tough time right now. Couldn’t have been better timing. Thank you Suzanne. When I was at home and whined or complained about not having something my mom would respond by saying “Count you blessings”. Many times, I didn’t think there was anything to count. With age comes wisdom, sometimes. I try to see all the wonderful things I’ve been blessed with. Family, hot water, soap to keep me clean, it’s amazing what you can be grateful for.

  22. Peggy says:

    I love this post and live it daily. One of the current things on my card…..which I keep in my head is the Chickens in the Road blog. I always find something to make me happy when I read your blog. Great work Suzanne

  23. Maria says:

    Suzanne, this is great. Thanks for such a post. I needed this king of reminder I think (am currently without a job and was feeling sorry for myself). I have written 12 things on my card!

    Also, in the midst of your wisdom you cracked me up with the line about making other people happy – “the only way this works is if you work in customer service and can give them a refund”. LOL

  24. Mary Kellogg says:

    What a great, relevant post, Suzanne!

    I had a terrific man-friend who was 95 at the time of his passing. He always said “you have to make up your mind to be happy” and that is great advice I use to this day!

    Happy breeds happy, I’m convinced!

    :)
    Mary K

  25. Yankee In NC says:

    Visiting this website daily is on my Happy List.
    Thanks Suzanne.

  26. Kelly says:

    You and your crew are on my list as well as many others, I’m sure. I have kept a gratitude journal for years that has helped keeped me focused on the great things in my life and not the disappointments. Also, I try to live by rule # 1 – “Never wrestle with a pig; you both get dirty and the pig likes it!”

  27. Carol Langille says:

    What a neat idea! Not only will it make us happy to read what makes us happy but it will remind us of what does make us happy.
    Quite often, when I go to bed, I do a mental list of five things that I am grateful for during my day. Things like not getting into bad traffic on my Dallas commute, making a great pan of cornbread for supper….or deeper things like hearing that my sister is feeling better after surgery or having a husband who is such a blessing in all ways.
    Professionals call it “Cognitive Therapy”….I call it having a Grateful Heart. Thank God, I do have one.

  28. Diane says:

    I am glad to be living in PA toay!!! It snowed school is closed but yet its ok. The plows are out and doing their job and we are prepared to stay in for the day. I know if I had to I can get out. I can drive on these bad roads!!! That makes me happy. While I dont like to do it unless I have to knowing that I can helps.
    I have friends down south that have been in for days and not doing so well. They are not used to this bad weather like we are. I am just glad I get prepared and can weather out the weather.

    Thanks for all the photos. Love seeing your animals everyday and all their stories. Its what starts my day and keeps me going as well. If I had all those cute faces to look at daily I would also bundle up and put all the work into taking care of them. How can you not. :)

  29. Amy says:

    Reading this site with my breakfast each morning! :-) I love your philosophy; too many people in the world think they have no option but to be unhappy. Thank you for writing this blog even when you’re struggling – I really enjoy living vicariously though you, even down to the chicken poop on the snow. ;-)

  30. lavenderblue says:

    Oh, I needed this lecture. I’m one of the 20 item people, I’m afraid.Of course,this blog is right up there.

    My biggest “I’ll be happy when…” is, of course, when I get some land to farm. I need to be reminded of poop and dead chickens, but like I tell my husband “I’ve always been in charge of everything that poops; cat litter, dog yards,bunny pellets and baby diapers. But not a one of them has ever given me an egg.”

    This year it seems like everyone is having a hard time with the snow. I live in the Buffalo, N.Y. area, you know, The Blizzard of ’77. During that time people who got stuck on our “thru way” turned it into almost a party. It was hard and awful but people shared with each other or took care of themselves and survived. My sister and I stayed in her house with no heat or electric for 3 days until we could be transported to a neighboring farm where the electric had been restored. Those people took in two or three families and kept us all warm and fed.

    This time it wasn’t even as bad and people just seemed whiney-er. I can’t explain it, it was just different. Most people were just helpless, waiting for someone to save them. I think we are all just weary from something, I don’t know what.

  31. brookdale says:

    Suzanne, Thanks for a great post! And thanks for reminding us in a gentle way to “smarten up” and enjoy and appreciate what is around us. CITR will surely be on my list. Going to make one right now.
    Love the animal pics, especially the new baby!

  32. Melinda says:

    I needed to hear (read) this today. Thank you!

  33. Mary Hall says:

    :sun: , :sun: , :sun: , :sun: , :sun: , :sun: ,
    Here’s a little sunshine for your day!
    Mary :shocked:
    PS…think chocolate something…LOL

  34. Robyn says:

    What’s on my happy card today? Reading your blog…..thanks!

  35. MaryLou/TX says:

    CITR with my first cup of morning coffee will top my list. It’s the way I start my day. The “title” will be, “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” I think my index card will have to be a large recipe card with plenty of room to write on the back…maybe two cards. Thank you Susanne.

    Piggy backing on the index card idea…I would buy sets if printed recipe cards from CITH. Just an idea I’m pitching out there.

  36. Annette says:

    My best friend, turned adopted sister, always says “Make your own sunshine!” The thought rings true to me & I’m in the process of teaching that to my 9 year old son. His dad is not the easiest person to deal with, he is a “you need to make me happy” type person & when my son does something wrong & apologizes for it Dad always responds with “those are only words, they don’t mean anything”. I always ask my son “Did you mean it when you said you were sorry, or were you only saying it to get out of trouble?”, if his reply is “I really meant it” (as a mom you can tell if he’s being truthful) then I simply say “Then your responsibility is done, now it’s up to Dad to choose to accept the apology or not. You can not be responsible for how Dad chooses to react.” Hopefully my son can avoid the personal guilt & obsession with needing to make everyone happy that I think so many of us have entertained in our lives. It took me until college to figure out the only happiness I am responsible for its my own. You can’t make other people “be” happy.

  37. 4jsMOM says:

    I start every day with CITR and love everything you post, but this is one of the best. Thanks for giving us an easy way to change our attitude toward the positive. I feel like I will be getting a bill in the mail for a counseling session.

  38. Lisabeth Olson says:

    Suzanne, I am on the list of BLESSED because of your blog. I don’t actually have a list, but two of my blessings are asleep in my bed. Bo and Ellie (the dog). She sleeps in our bedroom because she barks when something happens in the chicken house in the middle of the night. She saved the chickens again 2 nights ago. I’m with you and every other farmer here. I deal with great mounds of poop, water, then freeze, more frozen water and a couple of weeks ago I wouldn’t let me dairy cows go to the upper field for a few days because it was to icy for them to climb the hill (they have no traction devices and it isn’t a big hill, but one slipped once and that was enough). Then I had to clean the milking parlor in the cold, but BO always brings me more fresh hog fuel (ground wood bark). Now every time I go into the parlor I see another blessing and I know even then I have more blessings than lots of people. CitR is definatley one of my get up and gos as I get up at 5 and milk at 6:30. I don’t like to step into clothes and go to the barn still sleepy, so CitR and I have a cup of coffee, and read the word and pray before I go. My animals get a more calm momma then also.
    My list if I had one would also be on my sewing room wall in the photos of everyone I get photos of. I pin them up and have them to look at when I want to. They are constant reminders of BLESSINGS.

  39. Amy I. says:

    We all need to remind ourselves that every day is a gift. Find joy in the simpliest of things and live each day to the fullest. Sounds easy, but usually is not. When you have lost people in your life that you love, you realize that you are living each day for them as well as yourself. Wake up every day and smile …..ok…after you have hit the snooze button a few times :)

  40. joycee says:

    Possibly the best post you have ever done! Sharing the “Happy Card” was selfless on your part, sharing another piece of Suzanne…a private one, so that you could help others. Right now the counrty is hurting and people are feeling their deepest down. I wish this could be on the front page of every paper in America. I’m making my Happy Card today and it’s gonna make a difference in my life, Thanks Suzanne!

  41. Jane says:

    Can I just say, I LOVE YOU! I know it sounds ridiculous, but I do :heart: You touch my soul with your words. They’re so beautiful and moving – THANK YOU!

  42. KentuckyFarmGirl says:

    What an awesome post! Thank you!

  43. windspiritwhimsies says:

    Always refreshing…thanks so much for the reminder! :hug:

  44. Stacy says:

    Your blog is on my happy list!!!! I love you and I needed that today.

  45. Alanna says:

    Suzanne- This is one of the best articles that you have ever written- Happy Cards! I was at the Hillman Cancer Center in Pittsburgh yesterday with my hubby and we saw so many people who were fighting to live. And yet,alot of us take things for granted. I tell my hubby if you have your health you have everything! Love your article and all of your precious animals! Congradulations on the newest little furbaby! Alanna

  46. CindyP says:

    What a great way to look at the beautiful things in life–everyday simple things are beautiful and taken for granted.

    Love your pictures on your happy card…brings a smile to my face this morning, putting me in a “smiley” mood for the day. Thank you!

  47. Deni says:

    I agree with what so many others here have said, your words today were just what I needed. On my card of course are my children, grandchildren and maybe even my fiance not to mention CITR. A couple others are that things around here just might be looking up and as of today there is only 67 days till Spring!

  48. Kelly in TX says:

    What a perfect post for this time of year. I think most of the people who know me would describe me as that “happy” person and I think I usually am, but winter can get me down, too. (And I live in Texas! I can’t imagine living somewhere where I would have to endure a REAL winter!) I believe happiness is a choice, too, and thank you for these encouraging words.

  49. Tammy says:

    Reading CITR is on my happy list!

  50. sophanne says:

    CITR is always on my happy card. Really.

  51. Linda Segerson says:

    Thanks for sharing this, very well written. This is a great idea for everyone, especially this time of the year. I am ready for … :sun:

    You can find me at: http://www.nothinbutcountryliving.blogspot.com
    or http://www.lindasphotofarm.blogspot.com

    Have a Great Day!

  52. Linda Distlehorst says:

    This is a great reminder to me that I need to consciously do this every day. Just so you know, checking this website everyday would count as one of my ten. Every time I see the newly born goat, I smile. Thanks.
    LD

  53. Naomi says:

    What a great idea! My happy list would include:
    1. my hubby, shoveling snow right.
    2. my kids, one sleeping in and the other shoveling at his house.
    3. our furry kids hanging out and watching the snow.
    4. reading your posts and realizing that my farm dream can come true if I work hard enough.
    5. a job that allows me to work from home.
    ….and lots more.

    Thanks for the idea and letting all of us know that we’re not alone in “winter blues”. Now I’m going to work a bit then go read some seed catalogs and dream of spring!

  54. pattyb says:

    What a wonderful post, Suzanne! I’ve been needing something like this for a long time. I do have a lot of things to be happy for but I seem to dwell on all the negative things. Even though I don’t get to see my grandsons very often, I still think back to their visits and there sweet little voices. They make me very happy. You are a very wise woman Suzanne and Thank you for letting me part of CITR.
    Pattyb

  55. rileighsmom1 says:

    CITR pulls me through my mornings sometimes and I thank you so much for it. I have been having somewhat of a difficult time with things lately and I needed to read this post. Thank you so much.

  56. marymac says:

    Thanks Suzanne!!!!!!

  57. ML says:

    This is one of my most favorite posts ever! (And I’ve been reading your blog since you were in the old farmhouse.)I even stole your words (One of the surest paths to unhappiness is waiting for life to be perfect. Another sure path is to think other people should make you happy….Suzanne McMinn)and reposted it on my FB. You make a difference in so many people’s lives and this is just one example of how you do it.

  58. Susan says:

    Awesome post Suzanne! Thank you for sharing your story, the “Happy Card” is a terri