Chief Happiness Officer

Imagine a day when you declare how it’s going to go.  That’s right.  Imagine that you said, “Today is a day of exciting opportunities.” Or “Today is a day of amazing connections.”  Yesterday I declared the latter in the morning before leaving for work.  And here’s a glimpse of what happened (in no particular order):

  1. Mother: My son was in tears before leaving because he had to go to aftercare and I told him my childhood story of struggling with going to Sacred Heart Academy preschool (with the nicest Italian nuns ever) and how I cried every day and ended up having fun everyday.  That made me call my mom before leaving work and we had a loving brief conversation which was exceptional because we have wildly different schedules and find it hard to connect over the phone.
  2. Editor: I received a Facebook notification from a literary journal editor (whom I wildly respect) giving me months of advance notice that he would like for me to submit poems for his next journal.
  3. Kentucky Gentleman: I received, what amounts to a quarterly “check-in” call from a colleague based in Kentucky.  Professionally, he is my colleague, so we share what’s going on in his state, how we might help and so on.  But more than that, I hold him in such great esteem because of how he handles himself daily.  How he manages his association to the point where people want to be involved, want to recruit members, are motivated to be involved in community service.  And boy does he know how to quietly watch and learn and leverage when it comes to the complexities of the political landscape.
  4. Jennifer Lee, author of The Right-Brained Business Plan: From now until March 8, Jennifer is hosting a free video summit for right-brainers in business. Check out to register.  If you can’t make the live videos (there are just one or two per day, each lasting about 15-30 minutes), you can view the replay interviews for 48 hours after the live version.  I have been watching the replays at home or yesterday I listened to one while doing expense reports.  By the way, I don’t advise multi-tasking while listening because you definitely get more out if it by just listening. Yesterday’s replay favorite was an interview with Cass Mullane of, an artist and finance professional who worked in DC on budgets for 20 years. She has an online budget-building class, among others, and boy do I love her idea of a Cool Stuff jar.  Every time something cool happens she drops an index card with a note about it in the jar.  And throughout the year, especially when feeling down, she uses the jar to review all the cool stuff and bring her back to a place of gratitude.
  5. Ginni Chen, Chief Happiness Officer of – that’s right, her title is Chief Happiness Officer!  During the first video summit interview with Daniel Pink, author of Drive and To Sell is Human (visit to get the first chapter of his latest book free), Pink talked about just showing up and doing your work.  Every day he writes 500 words among his other tasks.  Some days it’s easy and some days it’s 2:00pm and he is still trying to get those 500 words down.  One tool he uses is which sends you an email every day and asks you to take 30 seconds to reply and write what you’ve done. I signed up for it (there’s a 30-day free trial and then it’s $5 per month) and because my version of Internet Explorer was old, I was having issues navigating the site.  I’m also mildly allergic, as right-brainer, to reading directions.  I emailed the help desk and Ginni Chen emailed me almost immediately and addressed my concern.  We ended up exchanging two more very human emails during which I noticed her title, Chief Happiness Officer.  I told her to “rock it” and she wrote, “I will absolutely do my best to rock it!” I am having fun with my 30 second emails (which are captured on a calendar now), so I get credit with myself, for all of my work tasks, but it’s also a place to track if I managed to write fiction or poetry before work, or cooked something delicious like the pizza muffins pictured below. (Here’s the recipe: preheat oven 400 degrees, spray muffin pan with canola oil, roll out dough and fill to your liking—these are filled with garlic, mushrooms, roasted red peppers, oregano, pizza sauce seasoning, salt, pepper, asiago and parmesan cheese.)                                                                                

What brought me to the point of declaring my day?  Recently, I thought I might get buried in the mound of tasks in front of me.  I thought, how am I going to find the time to do what I have to do at work, for my family, for my health, for our finances and boy did I turn that into an awesome emotional tornado of “overwhelmedness” (yes, I made up that word and I like it). So I called a member of my personal board of directors and she told me to write down three things at a time.  As in 1. Take a shower. 2. Take the bus to work. 3. Turn on computer.  Count those as accomplishments.  Then I started another list of three things.  And I progressed through my day in chunks of three. I was also advised by another person to ask for help. Imagine that. She told me that I can ask God to help me, I could ask a spiritual guide to help me, a joy guide or a professional guide.  Or just throw it up there.  So I did.  And today I declare that it’s stupendous task day.  Finishing those expense reports, scheduling that follow-up mammogram, you know those things. It’s going to be one of those days.  What’s your day going to be? Declare it.  Own it.  Live it.Image

A Girl Named Corn Syrup

Visit Sarah Selecky's site to sign up for daily prompts.

Visit Sarah Selecky’s site to sign up for daily prompts.

I just signed up at for daily writing prompts. Here is today’s prompt: On a train for two hours. Start with a bottle of corn syrup. Write by hand for 10 minutes.  If you are looking for a gentle push, check out Sarah’s site.

Here’s what I wrote this morning:

Karo. Kara looked at the bottle on the tray and thought “one letter and I’d be corn syrup.” The train rustled as it sped around the corner. She was on her way to her grandmother’s island in South Carolina. The funny thing was her grandmother did name her after corn syrup. When she filled out the birth certificate, her unsteady handwriting made the “o” look like an “a.”

It had been three years since she’d been back to Tola Island. The train would take her close to the ferry landing. She bet Mr. Fred would be waiting for her at her stop. He loved Kara’s grandmother and had been courting her for twenty-seven years since her grandfather died of complications from his diabetes. See, corn syrup, molasses, white sugar, brown sugar, they all had a special place in Grandmother’s kitchen. Kara grew up with red velvet pancakes for breakfast, cherry pie for lunch and brownie towers for dessert. For most kids, this would be a dream come true, but Kara longed for carrots, radishes, even pearl onions she used to pull from Mr. Fred’s garden.

Kara hadn’t visited since she left for Castleton College in Vermont. She loved the sunset leaves and the open sky that felt different from being surrounded by water. Her mother was supposed to have gone to Vermont for college but then she got pregnant the summer before her senior year in high school and died in childbirth.  That’s how Kara came to be raised on desserts and her grandmother’s wisdoms. “Don’t leave the sheets drying in the wind too long or you’ll have flying dreams and wake up tired.” “Before you eat breakfast, turn your chair clockwise three times so the spirits work in your favor ‘til sundown.”

Some of Grandmother’s wisdoms were so ingrained that Kara just gave up resisting. Her freshman year she used to discreetly turn her chair in the cafeteria at breakfast by hanging her jacket on the back of the chair and fooling with it. Finally she gave up. Her friends didn’t care about her habits since a lot of them were kids that had been treated for things like OCD. The train was nearing her stop. As she descended to the platform, there he was, his gray handlebar mustache perfectly trimmed, his thick full mane glowing in the afternoon sun.

“Kara, my belle from the North. I can see the evergreens in your eyes. Come here child and give me a hug.” Kara smiled at this gentle soul who loved her with his whole heart.

“Mr. Fred, you look just like the day you took me to the train.”

“Come now child, there’s some surprises for you in the car.”

When Kara leaned into the passenger window, she saw the most beautiful basket of vegetables all washed and waiting for her: snowpeas, carrots, pearl onions, tomatoes and red peppers. Kara smiled and lifted the basket onto her lap.  She couldn’t wait to bite into one of Mr. Fred’s pearl onions. They’d fortify her for the onslaught of desserts Grandmother Cully would have waiting. Mr. Fred even wove sprigs of fresh rosemary into the handle.  Kara pulled off several leaves and rubbed them between her fingers inhaling their oily perfume. She bit into an onion, imagining roasted red potatoes doused in olive oil.