Happiness is a Second Look

As I have whined to you all before, so far 2023 has kicked me in the teeth, or at least it felt that way. I’m handling it, my teeth are loose but not lost, and one of the ways I’ve been handling it is working my way through Rosalind James’s New Zealand rugby romances. Full disclosure: I know zip about New Zealand (yes, I was there once, for a couple of days of romance conference and book tour which means I saw most of it through a car window and met most people signing books; it was beautiful and the people were wonderful, but I still know zip) and even less about rugby (I grew up in Ohio and went to school just south of the Canadian border, I know football and hockey, that’s it). James’s books are gentle, based on family and even the rugby stuff is about teamwork, plus she’s a good writer, so that makes her good recovery reading. Also, I have some major rewrites coming up there and it’s good to read somebody new that you like to see how they do things. Think of it as a second look at romance writing. Times changed, what’s happened?

At the same time that I’m starting to think about taking a second look at my writing, I’m suddenly in a place where I’m taking a second look at my life. Nothing major happened, I’m not dying, everybody I love is fine, I’m just having to look again, see things differently, and since the second looks are coming all at once, in several important areas of my life, I was, uh, freaking out. Full disclosure: I’m still freaking out a little.

But Bob’s talking me down, so I’ve been taking a second look at that partnership and realizing we’ve both changed, that even though our relationship is a business one, we’re also partners this time in a way we weren’t before. Older, wiser, more open to each other’s ideas, more communicative.I’ve always looked at Bob as somebody who rescues me when I hit a plotting wall, but after the last couple of months, looking back at some of the conversations we’ve had, I’m not thinking of him as a rescuer anymore, not thinking of him as somebody I yell for in emergencies, but just as the other half of our collaboration.

And I’ve started e-mailing with another old friend, Pat Gaffney, who is giving me incredible support on another of my Huge Life Changes, making me take a second look, not just at our friendship (as in “Why the hell haven’t we been e-mailing weekly for the past ten years?” but also at her importance in my life forever, non-judgemental, eager to help, irreverant and funny as hell, and just a damn good person.

And of course, there’s Krissie, who is always there for me. She’s had a tough winter, too, but if I need help, she’s there. Always there. The kind of friend you bind to you with hoops of steel, not because she always bails you out but because you’re sisters and you fit and life is better because you’re in this world together.

And then there’s Mollie, who is always there, too, who grounds me and makes me remember that I need people in my life, and who is pretty much the most important person in my life. That mother/daughter thing isn’t easy, but we’ve got it down pretty well now.

I’m not a people person. I tend to bury myself alone in the country, shut my door and not go out for days. And yet, I’ve got this tribe, this family I made inadvertently, and the stress of this year has made me look at them all again and realize that they’re a constant. Always there. (This is not a comment on my real family, whom I love and respect and treasure: My brother and his wife and kids who are adults now but still kids to me, my cousin and his wife and kid, who’s the mother of two now, which is why Russ now lives in Ireland, too far away. My daughter and my son-in-law who is a gem and their three fascinating kids, who are still kids, thank god. These are good, good people.)

So in the middle of all of this, I’m reading James’s rugby romances, which are full of Maori sayings and lovely bits about the different cultures, and at one point, one of the characters talks about something her grandmother told her:

“We are only visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, and then we return home.”

I’ve spent the past thirty years digging myself in to stability, prioritizing safety above everything else, and the last ten years really digging in, not taking chances. But I kept coming back to that line as my world did a semi-implosion around me: Maybe I’m just passing through here. (Maybe? C’mon, Jenny.) Maybe trying to be safe is like trying to hold water in your hands, not just futile but missing the point. I’ve spent decades observing and learning, but the whole growth thing has eluded me because I was keeping myself safe. Maybe I needed to, but that’s missing the point. The point to take that second look, observe the reality or the closest facsimile thereof, let it pass through your fingers, and enjoy the moment. There is no one right answer. There is no one right path. Look at every with new eyes, and remember that the moment is not in the future, the moment is now, as it passes through my fingers.

Happiness, I have just discovered, is looking at everything again, breaking the emergency glass that keeps me safe and reaching for the moment, whatever the hell it is. All of a sudden, I see big changes ahead and I’m excited about them.

What moments that you reached for made you happy this week?

94 thoughts on “Happiness is a Second Look

  1. I’ve been looking through photos to find good ones of my dad. So far, I’ve only got the ones since I started taking digital pictures. I’ll need to dig out and scan the earlier ones. But he was a good man, and I think a good father. He was very busy when we were younger – I remember him being out of the house at 5:30 am heading to work each day. But the one I had an adult relationship with, who laughed when I called him Daddio, whose eyes twinkled as he wrapped me up in a bear hug – that’s the one I’m glad to have known. While this second look is giving me a few tears, it’s also making me happy to relive those moments.

  2. This was my first winter since I retired that I wasn’t a full time student. Since my PT job and volunteer commitments revolve around horticulture, I had no problem keeping busy spring and summer. November and December were challenging and I had to figure out what I was going to do 6 months of the year. Too much time on my hands results in me spending a lot of time in my own head. I have started volunteering with an organization that helps women with job preparation, including providing clothing. It will require a different skill set than my outdoor activities which is good. Last week I did the technical training so I can access and use the system they use for appointments. I have the black finger of death when it comes to technology and despite my anxiety about using an unfamiliar computer system, I’m focusing on the parts of the position that are in my comfort zone.

    My sourdough experiment had morphed into a regular part of my week. I invested in a Dutch Oven and this week’s loaf was delicious. While I’m getting more efficient, it’s a 24 hr process, so requires planning – not always my forte. I learn something new every time I bake. There’s a limit to the number of hobbies/activities I can undertake but continuous learning is essential to my ongoing well-being. I’m way too dependent on my phone to keep me entertained and I need to figure out how to dial back on random surfing.

  3. Jenny, this post made me happy. Thank you for the reminder to take a second look. I intend to face some of those second-look-things today with a different attitude.

  4. I think that there are seasons for everything. I yearned for emotional safety for a long time and prioritized it for most of my decisions. Then I wallowed in it for a while, and that was lovely. It takes some getting used to. Sort of a Marzlo’s hierarchy of needs thing. I think that most people need that support structure before they can grow. I am looking forward to seeing what your next growth is (hopefully involving more books :P)

    Yesterday I took my aunt and mother in law to a show by the local quilters guild and that made me happy. Something about being in a room full of color and craft, just because they love it, not for money, was so uplifting. I am still carrying the feeling today. Trying to hold on too it and find a way to channel it into my own work.

  5. This week I flew across the country to see a dear friend I hadn’t seen since the start of 2020 and her two wonderful daughters. Walking around a plant festival with a kid on each hand, having my entire bed covered in plush toys for a snuggle party, and playing deadly animal bingo have been highlights. Getting on the plane felt like a risk, but I’m so glad that I came.

  6. Oh Jenny I wish my mom had your ability to take a new look at her life and get excited about changes.

    This Thursday while I was spending 8 hours driving up the North East coast to visit my brother and his family and my som, I was bombarded by calls, texts and emails (that made me stop to address them, I drove safely). My mom had driven her car into her house making a probably 9 inch hole into it and then backed into a tree, damaging her car badly. And then sat in the car, apparently unharmed, for nearly 2 hours until AAA came and the men could help her get out of the car because she was afraid of slipping on the “ice”. (She wouldn’t let a s neighbor help her out.) Her version is she skidded on ice on the gravel driveway. Our belief ( it was 43 degrees and no ice in sight on the driveway but was snow on the lawn where she ended up) is that she hit the gas pedal instead of the break and then kept pressing. No skid would have given her the momentum to travel 20 feet and hit the house that hard since she had driven at most 30 feet before the alleged skid.

    All four kids have been worrying about her driving for a while and we told her think it’s time she stopped and she adamantly refused. So we had to ask the police to pull her license as an imminent danger. They say they will if we give them an email documenting all the reasons for our concerns. And even if they don’t the insurance may drop her coverage.

    It’s been a busy and difficult three days when I wanted to enjoy my time with my family and I’m not looking forward to spending three days with her when she will probably be mad at me especially if she gets the police notice. Or trying to convince me of her “really f…..g stupid” ( quote from all siblings) for why you shouldn’t stop her from driving because you don’t stop someone from walking because they fell down once when it wasn’t their fault.

    And I’m really worried that she may have turned down her chance to move to our local independent / assisted living facility where all her friends are that she’s been in the waitlist for over a year just to prove she is still independent and capable; last weekend she was talking about getting the house ready for a move when the time came and Monday we learned she was about to be offered the size apartment she wants. She insisted on renting a car for the day Friday to run errands when I told her I could take her to do them Monday—and a neighbor offered to drive her Friday—I’m sure just to show us we can’t stop her from driving if she wants.

    But there are happies too—my siblings and I are all working together on this when we haven’t agreed on anything for many years. And I will be greatly relieved if they do stop her driving.

    And I’m trying to take that new look at my life now that I left my job and turned to part time consulting. I’m planning to address my weight and physical activity, plan my daughter’s two commitment ceremonies, travel more with my husband, maybe start taking ballet again or piano. I’m really enjoying the reduced stress.

    And I’m deeply grateful for my son who sent my husband and me this text as this all went down:
    FYI dad
    I already told mom this but
    If y’all are still driving at 85 me and Sarah will totally snip your transmission belt in the dead if night or something.
    No matter how well y’all are driving.

    We said thank you of course .

    1. We don’t know whether she has received the housing offer and rejected it, received it and just not told us, or hasn’t gotten it yet. My sister is calling again to find out.

      I’m also so grateful I got my emotional maturity from my dad.

      1. Update: she hasn’t yet been offered the apartment so that’s still a real option .

        1. Next update: she got it, she turned it down, I have persuaded her to look at it but am not optimistic. And she really has gotten much frailer since I saw her two months ago. She struggles to get out of even her most used chairs and seems to struggle to balance while taking food in and out of the toaster oven.

    2. Around here (Idaho) a physician or PA can refer people or driver skills evaluation and they can make the determination whether someone is able to continue driving. This relieves the family of both division making and blame.

      1. Her eye doctor refused to. I could do it if I had observed her driving enough but I don’t live nearby and my sister who did observe her wasn’t ready to do it. Now she is ready and we will do it if the police don’t pull her license but if they do it it will be much faster and that is to be preferred.

        Either way she will know we instigated it I think but she absolutely refused to stop driving when we asked her to so we had no choice. She could kill someone.

        1. A good friend was killed by an elderly driver who hit the gas instead of the brake and t-boned her, so thank you for making that difficult decision for your mother.

    3. Having gone through this with my mother, I know how scary it is dealing with a parent who should not be driving but refuses to give up their keys. My mother had dementia and was convinced she was fine driving, despite the evidence to the contrary. She was beside herself when the dementia dr. said she couldn’t drive any more. Blamed my brother which wasn’t fair.

    4. I’m glad to read that you and your family are working together on helping your mom transition from being a driver and having her freedom, to being sheltered and helped to live without the danger to herself. I am an elder law attorney in Long Island, New York, and my clients and the elderly parents and relations of my own colleagues, friends, and family are all jealously guarding their independence in ways that we feel are dangerous to them and scary to us. And some of us are committed to letting them make their own mistakes, and some of us are committed to walking them through their past abilities to cope with reduced independence for their own good, and ours. It is hard to take a stance that suits everyone, but we all agree on wanting our aging relations to be safe. We cry a lot and laugh a lot over our attempts that don’t work and our similar situations that seem untenable, and keep promising we won’t end up like that. But who knows, really, how we will feel, or end up, even though we are coherent and surefooted now. I am 70, my husband is 80, and my mom is 93. I am the eldest of 5 siblings, and I get a pass on helping our mom because my husband has had 3 hospital stays in 5 months. But I do feel guilty about that because two of my sisters who live closest to mom bear the brunt of her care/supervision, while needing medical help themselves. It has been a hard year, healthwise, for everyone — injured or less able, and carers alike. And sometime the worst of it is that mom doesn’t appreciate the help she’s given, and isn’t nice or tactful to those who are caring. So a lot of venting goes on. Sigh. A good night’s rest with my CPAP machine makes sure I get lots of REM sleep and work out my feelings about some of these things. I am sending you a firm hug.

    5. I feel your pain on the driving thing. Prying my mom’s license and car keys away once she was a clear danger was a traumatic experience that she fought tooth and nail.

      Good luck with your mom.

    6. That sounds really stressful, for everyone involved.

      For what it’s worth, we got my grandparents to stop driving by convincing them to take a month off from driving and “just see what it’s like. You’ll still have your license at the end of the month. You’re not losing anything.” Then their kids spent the month giving them rides places, showing them how to use public transit, etc. By the end of the month, my grandparents had realized that a) they could still be capable adults without driving and b) driving had become really stressful and difficult for them.

      Of course every person and situation is different, but I think sometimes proposing big changes as “let’s just try it and see what you think” can be easier for change-resistant people to swallow.

      1. That’s a good strategy but we’ve been trying to get her to try Uber for months and she insisted tbey won’t come to her house (false) even though she has used it in other cities.

        And we needed to act now with the police because it would be hard to return in a month and say we had decided she was an imminent danger when we let her drive for a month after the accident .

        1. This whole scenario is super familiar-I had to take my mom in for the driving evaluation-the instructor came back looking shell-shocked. I just asked “Does she know?” and he said “ I don’t think so.”
          She grumbled for months after that she did nothing wrong on the test. But she had come home with new scratches on the car, had called police to report her car stolen when it was just a couple of rows over in the mall lot…, it had to be done. These things should be made easier somehow- they are so universal. My MD said the usual course with dementia is that no help is given until some crisis point is reached.

  7. I have taken the bull by the horns and booked a three night break in New York for next week. I’m in an odd frame of mind lately where if I’m with people, I’d rather be alone, yet when I’m by myself, I wish I was with people. Going to my favourite place on the planet to buy books (I’ve missed The Strand every day since my last visit) and do a bit of sightseeing on my week off from work seemed like a perfectly logical thing to do… I’m going by myself so will have no-one else to please. It’s my first solo trip and I’m very excited.

    1. New York is awesome for being alone, but not alone, wave at the Strand for me. I bought a Donna Andrews the last time I was there decades ago

      1. I will not only wave at the Strand, I’ll go in and buy books in your honour. I’m not exaggerating when I say that place is one of my top five places on Earth.

  8. Thank you, Jenny, for being open to telling us what has been transpiring in your life and mind. I struggle with feeling “safe”, too. It truly is the second of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Not being safe, physically or emotionally, is paralyzing. I’m glad you have such wonderful support and great friendships. I hope the changes you see coming will be reaffirming and freeing. Life is indeed fragile, and I plan to take your reminder to heart.

    Thank you, too, to all of you who share your struggles and joys with us on this site. It’s so uplifting to follow your lives. Each of you is brave and resourceful in your own way. It’s inspiring to me. Go, you!

  9. Thanks for writing that, Jenny. It resonates with me. I’ve spent my entire life making choices based on safety and still being terrified of all the things that could go wrong.

    I’m dealing with some serious health issues and have had three doctors tell me that I need to stop working. I’ve been working one way or another since I was eleven. It’s scary to think of stopping for a lot of reasons, financial high up there, even though I see how I need to quit. It feels like an unsafe choice, but continuing on as I’ve been going is both unsafe and miserable.

    Yesterday, I started a list of things I’d have time to do if I weren’t working and I think maybe the most important thing on the list was “Feel happy about one thing per day.”

    Because it’s been quite a while since that’s happened.

    I’m also not much of a people person and lockdown greatly increased my tendency to be a hermit. The second most important thing on the list was “Get out of the house at least once a day.”

    I did both things yesterday and they were actually the same thing. Went for a walk and felt happy to be in the fresh air.

    Most of my moments are filled with anxiety about future moments, but I’m hoping if I can reduce stress and take positive actions, maybe I’ll end up with more moments where I’m just experiencing the moment, instead of feeling panic. Maybe a few calm moments will extend to more of them as days go by.

    I wish you the best!

  10. I love Rosalind James’ rugby books!

    I’ve been feeling a bit like I’m spiraling a bit now and then for the past few weeks (have spiraled A LOT in the last few years). Everything is busy, and there are so many Everythings.

    My happiness this week included:
    Being okay with myself for having some down days where I didn’t get much done (outside of work and a PAC meeting) or go to the gym.
    Getting back to the gym on Friday, and enjoying the heck out of it.
    Cross-country skiing on Saturday. Maybe not the face-plant part of that, but the quiet solitude in the sun was nice.
    My husband cleaned up the kitchen last night while I finished reading a book.

  11. Dear gods, we’re twins. (I’m so sorry.) This last year has been very much filled with big changes. Really, since Covid started, so the last few years. It feels like someone put my life in a blender and turned everything upside down and sideways. Not necessarily in bad ways, but lots of change and I’ve never been comfortable with change.

    I’ve always had hermit tendencies too, and have spent most of my adult life living alone. When Covid hit, a friend moved in for a year and a half and I had to adjust to sharing my home with someone. Then she left, and I had to adjust to not having someone here, and the bizarre realization that I no longer wanted to live alone.

    Then the struggles with Covid–both at work and with my health–made me finally hit the wall and leave the job I’d loved for 23 years. That was a hell of a sea change too, and I’m still dealing with it.

    Reevaluating myself, my writing, my goals, my life…it’s all difficult. But like you, I have lots of great people in my life, and I’m figuring it out. Slowly. Because I’m not a fast changer.

    But I keep hearing your voice in my head, and telling myself, “Nothing but good times ahead.”

    Mostly the happiness this week was remembering a remarkable day I spent with a friend right before I left Florida, in which there was beach, manatees, and a Buddhist center with giant statues, plus a great obscure movie in the evening (The Losers, from 2010, with a gorgeous Jeffrey Dean Morgan and his dimples, an amusingly geeky Chris Evans, and a bunch of action and humor.) And finally getting over the con crud I came home with.

    1. White Sands Buddhist Center? We go every time we are in Florida. It’s a great place to meditate, or just sit and breath.

  12. Jenny, it sounds like you have fomented a crisis for yourself. Which is always a discombobulating, scary and exciting thing to do.

  13. I have another happy. I’m watching my son compete in NAIGC gymnastics regionals which has a range of competitors from near beginners to pretty advanced. What’s really cool is that both men and women can compete on all 10 events both the men’s traditional 6 ( floor vault parallel pommel rings and high bar ) and women’s traditional 4 ( floor vault beam and unevens). My son is doing floor vault rings unevens and beam. I’m totally in awe of the women with the upper body strength to do all 10.

  14. I’m so happy to hear that you and Pat G are back in touch – I have lovely memories of sitting with the two of you at Harpers Ferry and what a great relationship you had.

    Other things that made me happy this week: a weekend away in a gorgeous Portuguese hill town, video of a friend’s daughter taking her first snowboarding lesson (so cute!), and a big bunch of irises from the farmers’ market.

  15. Still feeling the love remembering our trip last week/end. Happiness in the memories and looking at my new comfy shoes for our cruise in October. Finally painted the last bits in the kitchen behind the fridge. Painted colour back into the dining room. Will wait for the paint to dry before painting colour on an accent wall.

    Measured the wall area under the microwave/cookbook shelf, making sure it was equal width from the base drawers and the width of the upper shelf cabinet in the kitchen. Looked off to me. It’s hidden by the fridge, tucked in a corner. It will make me smile everyday. Colour on a hidden wall in the white kitchen.

    Retired two years ago. Still do not like the word. But…life carries on. Reflecting on the past and the future. Our mothers lived well into their nineties. Making attitude adjustments. Brother’s memory issues have deteriorated. A neighbour has been “helping” which raised red flags when brother started talking about prepaid US Visa cards, travelling and buying property. All very concerned. They planned for all scenarios. So much to change and implement more safeguards. My nieces and nephew are on top of it. Thankfully a niece worked as paralegal for things like this.

    Jenny, this space is a lovely community. Thank you. Keep reaching.

    1. Two more happy – new pony Archie is love, the girls are back to riding confidently. Discovered more rogue crocus plants after the snow melted. Pretty.

          1. Carol – don’t tell me, tell the rogue crocus plants! They’re the ones coming back from being dead through snow. 😉

        1. Lenny, you made me laugh. Only one plant has bloomed. Maybe pirate gear is to come. Me thinks there be salty winds off the ocean blowing seeds and such.

  16. I went to Stitches (yarn con) for two days and had a great time at classes and buying fancy yarn and things. SEVENTEEN SKEINS, people (ok, some were minis). Someday I will actually turn them into something…I’ve got a collection now. I’m also going to a class on quilling (it’s a paper craft, not making a quilt) in a bit.

    Beyond that, I wanted to thank people for what they said about two weeks ago (Working Wednesday?) when I said I was trying to get over the crush. I have printed that out and will look at it any time I’m starting to get soft again. I meant to get back to that earlier, I just didn’t.

    The weird thing here is that if I regard him as a crush object, I’m absolutely right to cut him off and never speak to him again and that is absolutely what I should do. But if I regard him as a friend who isn’t interested, it’s more ambiguous and that’s where I feel bad about the whole thing. I have absolutely cut off guy friends who had a crush on me, which might have been asshole of me, but they weren’t quite taking no for an answer and it never got any better. Now I’M That Person who wouldn’t take no for an answer and thought every bit of contact was hope, and boy, do I hate me. I still desperately want some hope in my life on this topic, but nobody else is coming along, so I have kept on clinging here.

    But in the end, he’s never, ever going to notice (if I don’t say anything, anyway) if I’m gone, so it doesn’t matter what I do. He won’t miss me. He doesn’t deserve presents. Guys just…well, almost all of them suck. I thought I found a better one, I was wrong. It’s not hurting him if he “lost a friend” and it never occurs to him that anything wrong happened and he stopped seeing me around. He doesn’t care, they never do.

    Thanks for the clue bat, I needed it.

    1. Jen, it wasn’t that you didn’t take no for an answer, it’s that he kept sending mixed signals. He didn’t want you for a girlfriend (that’s fine) but he wanted you girl-friend-adjacent, he wanted you with him just not with him. It was all about him. Even now, it’s all about him, it’s because he lost a friend. Yeah, that’s because that’s not how you treat friends.

      I’ve let go of friends I truly loved because the pain of trying to cope with them was just too great. Friendship isn’t supposed to cause pain, and when it does, you don’t say, “Well, that’s on me,” it’s because the friendship is broken.

      1. This. I’ve always thought he was a little like a guy one of my college roommates had a crush on, who kept sending her just enough positive signals to keep her interested so he felt attractive and wanted without having any real interest in a relationship. I don’t even think it was conscious. We called it playing “stay away a little closer”.

    2. I wonder if this guy is high-functioning autistic? I had a friend who was undiagnosed Asbergers, and her outlook on our friendship was very different than mine.There was a kind of detached quality to it. After a while, I just had to let that go.

      1. He sounds too charismatic for that. Having been around theater people and various performers, I think that it is more likely that he loves the spotlight and has spent so much time projecting outward for an audience’s love that he has lost some of his perception for more personal interaction. It happens. It’s weird, I don’t know if there is a name for it, but there is definitely a “type”.

    3. I’m late to the party on this, but a few years ago I was miserable trying to get over this guy I had a huge crush on, and unsure how to handle it because we were in that nebulous “trying to be friends, but also you were never just me friend” territory. And something that was really, really helpful for me was when my therapist at the time said “well, you’re heartbroken.”

      I think we often have this idea that that kind heartbreak/ grief should be reserved for people who actually dated/were in a long term relationship, etc. But if you really cared about him, especially for a long time, and now you’re trying to move on from that, that’s heartbreak. So whether or not you want to try to be friends with him again when your heart is stronger and healed, I think it can help to name and validate whatever difficult things you’re feeling—regardless of what you think you “should” be feeling—and then be gentle with yourself as you mourn and heal, whatever that looks like for you. For me, that was long walks, my favorite books/movies/music, time with friends, and creative projects. I hope you find the things and people that help you comfort and heal your heart, and give yourself the time and permission to enjoy them.

  17. The dotter and I jointly own the Ford Explorer that replaced my totaled Fiest and her VW Taurus. I have not driven it. I have no plans to drive it. Everyone delivers. Food Lion, Walmart, Amazon, Lowes – everyone.

    I get to eat fresh salads with store tomatoes and garnishes. I grow the lettuce and spinach and get the tomatoes and onions delivered. I’m not going to philosophize about food, I’m just going to enjoy it. (They also delivered Atkins chocolate snacks. 🙂 )

    My ribs, while not fully healed, are mostly healed. They’re healed enough so that my FU knee now commands a lot of my attention. When I see my PCP, I’ll probably ask for a referral to an ortho spec. Or not. We’ll see. Could just be auld age.

    Be well. I insist.

    1. Gary, I need some gardening advice for my little Aero Garden – my mini jalapeños and heirloom cherry tomatoes are to the top of the garden – what should I do with them? Keep pruning or replant them into a real pot? if the latter, can I let them grow as high as they want? do I just stick them near the Aero Garden to soak all that lovely light? Help!

      1. To date, I have not successfully grown a mini-jalapeño plant. What AeroGarden says on their site is to prune to keep the height down or spend lots of money on one of their taller gardens.

        I did grow a couple of jalapeño plants in my Smart Gardens, but I only ever got maybe a dozen peppers all told from them.

        That said, I had a tomato plant that outgrew my iDOO wet/dry 6-pod unit. I used a halo grow light in a lampshade to keep it going. That unit died, but I still have the grow lights. There are pics on my site, A March Farm Report. The halo lamps extend up to 36″. I’m using them and mason jars to start more tomato plants. Earlier Farm Reports (November, December) show the unit with lampshade. Tomatoes get tall!

        I have more experience growing AeroGarden’s Red Fire Chili plants. I must have harvested over a hundred peppers from two plants, and I have three growing in my Harvests now, along with three Purple Super-Hots. I know I enjoy eating the insanely hot Red Fire Peppers (RFPs) in the proper dishes, but I don’t recall eating any PSHs. They might be chiefly ornamental.

        I haven’t tried any transplants. There are sites that say you can and tell you how, but after years of killing everything I grew in dirt, all my farming is hydroponic. If nothing else, not killing my plants is very therapeutic. And tasty. Even so, the dotter is building a raised garden near the carport, and I’ll offer the tomato plants to her.

        Coinkydinkly, today is fortnightly Feed Me Seymour Day, and I just dosed all my Harvests and iDOOs and mason jars with Liquid Plant Nutrients (from MiracleGro). The six Smart Gardens do not get fed. The “space age smart soil seed pod” supposedly has all the nutrients a plant will need. The lettuce plants, while smaller than those in the iDOO units, are well formed and ready for harvest.

        I love my Click&Grow Smart Gardens. I love my AeroGarden Harvests. I especially love my iDOO 12-pod units once I figured out how to use a reservoir with them. However comma I learned that you can buy grow lights separately and make your own tank. It may not look as pretty, but in general, it will be cheaper and more flexible.

        Best of luck!

          1. Very, very welcome. I’m preparing a post of resources. Lots of links to places I found helpful… or not. It will be part of my mid-March Farm Report, so another ten days or so.

    2. Gary, my mom could get deliveries and take Ubers. She doesn’t have to have a car. But she really has a hard time admitting she made a mistake. We are talking really juvenile behavior here.

      1. The dotter needs a reliamobile, and I let her choose the Explorer. I just need a ride from time to time. It’s worth it to me to pay monthly car payments and insurance.

        What scares me is eldest grandson (18yo) has a driving learner’s permit… Guess what they use to practice in.

      2. All ye who travel the highways and byways nearest me… BEWARE! I am seriously thinking of having eldest grandson chauffer me to a store for something trivial – not even sure what, yet – as practice for him and sunlight for me.


  18. Jenny, this is beautiful. I’m not a people person either, but every now and again something happens that makes bits of me crack open, which is always painful but also always good. I spent an hour face timing with my niece in Hong Kong last night, and that made me incredibly happy.

  19. My Monday just morphed from’ stay home most of the day, only one meeting’ to run a number of errands none of which can be put off’. I will be better off getting out of the house and seeing people. The benefit of having nothing much scheduled the last couple of weeks has gone away.

    And the days are getting longer!!! That is always my big happy this time every year. The better to take another look at things (I’ve got crocuses, too, purple ones).

  20. My mom asked for my help with preparing their taxes, so that is at once good and pretty frustrating, since she can’t tell me what she wants, but she want to watch me do them. But we’ll figure it out. I also have permission to set up power of attorney, which makes me happy in that I’ll have agency to look out for them if they need me.
    For myself, I’m happy because I fooled myself in to getting down on the floor and doing some stretches and twists, and gosh, my back doesn’t hurt. Who knew?
    I’m sad because three of the best musicians I work with are moving away soon (coincidentally, not as a group), and I’m wondering where I can find other connections.
    A quick visit next weekend from my dear nephew and his family. We’ve scheduled and cancelled several visits in the last two years, so hoping this time we actually get together!

  21. I keep taking side glances (rather than full looks) at retirement. Whenever a manuscript isn’t behaving, full retirement suddenly becomes very appealing, but I also know that I wouldn’t be happy without the character voices and plot puzzles in my head, so I realize it’s just fear of not being able to fix the manuscript that has me thinking wistfully of retirement.

    But there is one thing that I gave a full second look at and that will make me happy — starting to liquidate the stock I inherited and have been saving for retirement. Because even if I’m not planning to retire in the sense of giving up storytelling and patient advocacy, I am fully in the “retirement” phase of my life. My ultra-conservative (but not crazy) banker brother kinda’ slapped me upside the head and asked what I was hoarding it for, and I should start selling small annual increments (to minimize capital gains taxes — it’s done really well over the years I hoarded it) to make my life easier/better/whatever. So that’s what I’m going to do, and I’m feeling kinda’ virtuous about it because I’ll be able to use the first couple of years’ worth of proceeds to get rid of all the gas appliances in my house, and take advantage of the Inflation Reduction Act, so I’m stretching the money, which makes my penny-pinching soul happy.

  22. I always feel like I’ve been to the spa after I read a Rosalind James book. I’m glad you are reading them!

    It’s not raining here, which is making me feel very happy. I also am focusing on eating healthier and I feel better, which is also a happy thing!

  23. This is wonderful stuff, I’m so happy for you and so interested to see what you do next! I just finished reading Steven Pressfield’s Put Your Ass Where Your Heart Wants to Be because I need to make some changes, and it doesn’t have to be geographical, sometimes the change we need is perspective or where we’re putting our efforts. Very much in keeping with re-evaluating life and looking at what being our full authentic and creative selves needs to thrive. I wonder if a lot of us are doing a lot of re-evaluation right now. It’s almost inconceivable that most of us are where we were, or thought we were, pre-Covid. Anyway, happiness is exploring the possibilities.

  24. Happiness today is … yesterday’s 3+ hours of hard graft in the yard, which got me well down the road to a decent and manageable hell strip (tried to find someone to hire for this, nobody wanted the job, oh well); finishing my submission package for the Renaissance festival novella and sending it in; making a date to go to the Huntington Library & Gardens next weekend w BFF, her husband, and DH. We haven’t been there since 2017.

  25. Thanks for the share, Jenny. Beautifully said and so true about appreciating the moment. Appreciation and gratitude make great daily habits even when things are tough. Sometimes especially when things are tough. I learned that a long time ago from my mom who faced life with a grace I aspire to every day.

    And as an aside, I was listening to a writer podcast earlier in the week and your name was mentioned as an excellent example of a writer who knows her romance stuff, with Bet Me specifically used to support the comment. Was lovely perk to the show:)

  26. Wow–that’s a lot of insight, Jen, and good for you! I think a lot of writers struggle with wanting solitude to create and needing people.

    I had a massage this week, and that was very happy. I got all fizzy inside afterwards, when my massage therapist, who works primarily with cancer patients, readily agreed to read drafts of my cancer meditations. I trust her,
    not only because of her work, but because we’ve known one another for more than 2 decades–and she’s a reader.

  27. After a final furniture delivery and a robust *zhuzh* for photography, we waved goodbye to designer Kilian. We took a first look around at our house renewal, then made an unforeseen Big Decision. We rid the kitchen of the gas stovetop put in–gasp!–three years ago in favor of an induction stovetop. NOW the house feels complete–well, with hot water heater and HVAC awaiting conversion down the line. That induction stovetop just makes the house exude serenity. Operating the beast so far has been a matter of intuition. I think I will be happy here with this second version of our house.

    As I read you, Jennifer Crusie, re: your second look at life, do I understand rightly you intend at any moment to begin a yoga practice?

    1. Oh, god, no. Nothing against yoga, but . . . no. I would like to get back to running, which is a joke because it’s all I can do to stagger to the refrigerator, and possibly swimming, which I’ve always been lousy at, but yoga . . . I have a problem with “serene.”

      1. Have you ever tried Pilates? I just started a couple of months ago and I love it!

  28. Yeah, 2022/23 has been extremely unsettling. I left my husband of 22 years and that’s meant I’m looking at everything again – while trying to put enough energy into the good things in my life to keep them intact. Between that and covid I turned into a bit of a hermit, and now I’m pulling myself out of that, reconnecting with the people I care about. That’s been very good. And re-evaluating my life has been good, I’m definitely in a much better space than I was, but it’s draining.

    So this week’s happy has really been about remembering that things are much better now and will go on getting better still. And watching the birds scoff the weed seeds on my lawn. I’ll deal with the weeds eventually, but in the meanwhile, they’re making birds happy.

    1. Wow. Congratulations, I think. My divorce was one of the best things that ever happened to me, so good for you for freeing yourself.

  29. A friend from Brazil is talking about planning a visit & that is making me happy.

    New years I said: Today I am on my path toward vibrant health. I keep taking lots of sit on the side of the path and reevaluate moments but I haven’t given up.

    I found comfortable toeless knee high compression hose and they feel good. Expensive but I ordered more so that I can wear, rinse, air dry and not use the same ones everyday. And they don’t make me hot.

    Parts of the trilogy I’m writing are becoming more solid form & I am enjoying that.

    Watched the movie Paterson which is about poetry and an unorthodox lifestyle. Loved the movie and now I love Adam Driver.

    That’s mostly it for me.

    Bless you, Jenny and all the arghers and their ken!

    1. PS earlier in the week Robin Barratt of The Poet online mag sent me an email advising that he was using the poem that I contributed to Our Changing Earth anthology on their website that day! Sahweeet!

  30. Came back again with an FYI: Susan Elizabeth Phillips ebook The Great Escape is on sale on Amazon for 2.99.

    Of course it’s better if you read Call Me Irresistible which is not on sale at 6.99.

    And it’s even better if you first read Fancy Pants also not on sale at 5.99.

    They are all 3 comfort rereads for me.

    1. I do love Phillips too. Even with the football. Although it’s more about football players than football.

      1. I can take any old sport as the framework, but only if the book is more about the players! Do not want to feel like I’m going to be tested on sports trivia at the end.

  31. I’ve had maybe a month and a half of feeling… not deliriously happy, but my default emotion has returned, for the first time in years, to “low-key optimistic.” A part of me is like “why didn’t this happen sooner? Why am I only enjoying New York in the last quarter of my program, right before I leave again?”

    But I think some of it has to do with (finally, for a while at least) learning that I can’t rush things. It helps that I’m beginning to see a path that’s somewhere in between (the desirable but unlikely) “Become successful enough as an author to pay off all debt + meet the love of your life soon + buy a home” and the (terrifying but unlikely) “never sell another book again, drown in debt miserable and alone forever, while living somewhere I don’t want to live.”

    There’s a middle path in there, and unlike the “Perfect Dream” version, it doesn’t rely on someone perfect saying yes to me. It’s something I can build myself, at my own pace, without running myself ragged right now. And that feels good.

  32. My happiness this week is electricity. The windstorm on Friday (I loved that our governor preemptively declared a state of emergency before the damage actually happened) took out my electricity, along with tens of thousands of other people’s. Mine came back on Saturday night after 28 hours. Many of my friends in the city are still waiting. The joys of country life–more trees to fall on lines, but fewer households to lose power. Also, it just feels as though the coop works harder for its members than the for-profit electric company for its customers. I doubt that’s really true, but it feels that way.

    I had worse than usual cell service, too, during the outage. (It’s never good.) So I actually had to drive to town the next day and call from there before I could keep contact with the coop’s phone robot long enough to be sure my outage was reported, and get the outage map to load on my phone’s browser. I could see that my area was listed as “probable” with some “verified” red dots.

    28 hours without electricity. Can I catch up in 28 days?

    1. I would expect the coop to work harder for its customers; a conventional company has to prioritize making money for its shareholders.

      1. It certainly works harder for us in normal times, but during emergencies? I don’t know.

  33. 3 of my sisters live in Kentucky and 1 of them lost power from the storm. Hers went out Friday and was finally restored around 4:00 yesterday afternoon. She had to throw out everything in the fridge and freezer but said she made the best of it by cleaning the fridge while the power was off.
    I had a scratchy throat and finally used a flashlight and a mirror to see why. I had some small white patches in the back of my throat. My happy is that I went to my Dr yesterday and, after throat and nasal swabs were done, was told everything tested negative for Covid and Strep and to keep gargling with salt water (which is what I had been doing), it’s just a virus and it will work it’s way out. And, it does seem to be getting better, so yay for that!

  34. OK, first, of course, I am so freaking THRILLED that you have read and enjoyed my books. You are an icon and an influence to me. Welcome to Temptation was one of those sit-up-straight, damn-this-is-good books in my life, and I could name so many more.

    And second, I know exactly what you mean about life changes and–not just trying to get back on track again, but trying to decide what track you want to be on. It’s hard and scary to stop and reflect and maybe even change course. I keep coming back to the fact that I love to write books, so I’m keeping on doing it in the way that works for me, taking risks, trying new things, and trying not to worry about how I “should” be approaching this deal.

    Helen Keller said, “Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing at all.” For the first 50 years of my life, I didn’t dare to live my adventure. Now I am, and I want to be in it, as the Kiwis say, “boots and all.”

    Mental hugs (I’m very introverted myself!)


    1. I loved your rugbys series, read it straight through this week–it was a tough week and I needed good books so finding fourteen was a miracle–and had such a good time. Thank you so much for taking me away from all the tension in my life. (Oh, and thanks for the compliments, too!)

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