The Bliss Blog

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“If you see someone without a smile, give them one of yours.”-Dolly Parton  and Zig Ziglar

(I have seen it attributed to both of them)

Smiles are portable, all occasion, free and contagious. If you are in a room filled with smiling people, I dare you to keep a straight face.  Lots of reasons to ‘put on a happy face’.

  • Endorphins (feel good chemicals) are released.
  • Cortisol (a stress hormone) is reduced.
  • Smiling makes you more approachable.
  • The more you smile, the more you will feel like smiling.
  • Your body doesn’t know the difference between smiling for a reason and for no reason.

Back in 1963, a now familiar piece of iconic artwork was created by an advertising professional named Harvey Ball. It became known as ‘Smiley’. A simple yellow circle with a drawing … two dots and an upswept swoop and two lines at each end. Throughout the 60’s and 70’s, it appeared on buttons and t-shirts. It showed up in parody form in the film Forrest Gump. Because he never tradmarked the image, it became part of a campaign known as “Have a nice day.”

World Smile Day was launched in 1999 by Harvey Ball and honored on the first Friday in October. The motto is  “Do an act of kindness. Help one person smile.”

How can you help someone smile and bring yourself to grin in the process?

  • Volunteer in your community
  • Hold a door open for someone as you are walking into a store
  • Allow someone in front of you in a check out line or out of a parking lot
  • Compliment someone on their smile or what they are wearing
  • Acknowlege something another person does to make life better
  • Tell someone you love them
  • Hug those close to you
  • Encourage a child
  • Hug strangers via FREE Hugs Events
  • Prepare and bring meals to someone shut in or ill
  • Give someone a gift of your time and energy
  • Listen for the purpose of understanding, not to calculate a response
  • Mentor another
  • Pick up litter
  • Remind someone of their value
  • Leave a love note
  • Bring flowers to people
  • Pay for a beverage for the person behind you
  • Encourage people’s dreams and visions for their lives
  • If someone asks for it or is willing, pray with them
  • Visit folks in hospitals and nursing homes
  • Pay for a meal for someone who is on the street
  • Write a poem and give it to someone
  • If someone does something kind for you, pay it forward
  • Be a hope broker
  • Pay the toll for the person behind you
  • Look in the mirror and smile

And if this doesn’t get you smiling, I’m not sure what will. From an alltime favorite series Ally McBeal

Learn about the history of Smiley

There is an ancient story that I have heard and shared many times over the years. I pull it out whenever someone mentions that something that has happened to them or someone they know as ‘bad luck’ or ‘bad news’.

The horse comes back and brings another horse with him. Good news, you might say.

The farmer gives the second horse to his son, who rides it, then is thrown and badly breaks his leg.

“So sorry for your bad news,” says the concerned neighbor. “Good news, bad news, who can say?” the farmer replies.

In a week or so, the emperor’s men come and take every able-bodied young man to fight in a war. The farmer’s son is spared.

Good news, of course.

It causes me to look back at an event that occurred in 1992, since something similar seems to be happening in the same state in which I lived back then. As Hurricane Matthew is (anthropomorphically) ‘setting its sights’ on Florida, I recall the direct hit experience of Hurricane Andrew. We had moved to South Florida in 1990 and purchased our first house in Homestead, adjacent to the Naval Air Base. Our son used to love watching the planes take off and we enjoyed the tropical environment and the palm tree on our front lawn. I liked the idea that my parents lived less than an hour away after they retired (from NJ) to their own idea of paradise in Ft. Lauderdale.  Juxtaposed with those benefits and even though we made new friends, there was a part of me that was feeling a sense of loss. I missed our old friends and the change of seasons in our Pennsylvania environs. Our business felt like a struggle. We were magazine publishers and had createad a second regional edition that covered Florida.

I struck up a conversation, as I do often with ‘The God of My Understanding’ and said I would really like to move back home. I should have said, ‘a clean, easy, safe, convenient way,’ since on August 24, 1992, the hurricane made landfall and swept our lives and some of our home into the sky. Bad news? Who knows? As I look back on it 24 years later (as I have periodically since then), I see more positive than negative that resulted for us. Although there was severe damage to the structure of the house, we and our animals were safe. With our insurance settlement, we paid off the mortgage, deeded the property back to the developer and moved back up North to Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where I live to this day. We learned valuable lessons about having good insurance. We were grateful for the love and support of family and friends who helped us out in the aftermath.

Earlier that year, Michael was diagnosed with Hepatitis C. Bad news?  Yes. Good news?  In some ways, since it took us both on a journey that we never would have consciously chosen. Love and loss, once again. Deep soul searching. As a result of selling our magazine and Michael enrolling in The New Seminary to become an interfaith minister, he may have been unknowinging preparing himself for his own transition that took place in 1998. He was in the ICU of Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia for 5 1/2 weeks while awaiting a liver transplant that never occurred. I lived there with him on the unit and didn’t return home to sleep until the day he died on December 21st, 1998. When the doc turned off life support, the Voice as I called it, said, “Call the seminary and ask to finish what Michael started.” I did and was welcomed into the school, completing two years worth of work in six months, since I had casually studied along with him and helped with his course work. In June of 1999, I walked down the aisle of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in NYC and was ordained with his class. Since then, I have married well over 300 couples and officiated at numerous baby blessings and funerals.

Good news?  Without a doubt that arose from a bad news situation. In addition, I became an organ donor educator and bereavement counselor. As a result of his diagnosis, Michael was able to make peace with members of his family with whom there had been conflict and he was able to recognize the impact of anger and resentment on his relationships. My own experience as a widow, single parent and solo-entrepreneur  has provided a model for resilience.

My parents both passed in the last few years. My dad took his last breath on April 3, 2008 and my mom joined him on November 26, 2010. Good news?  Bad news?  Although I miss them deeply, I know that they are at peace and are together as they were in life. No more pain or suffering. They are with me as daily guides and support. Being an ‘adult orphan’ means that I am now the family matriarch and that I am not waiting for the phone to ring, ushering me down to Florida in a hurry.

Fast forward and at the end of 2013, a series of health crises showed up in my life. Initially, shingles crept onto the left side of my face, with Klingon-like ferocity … lesions and a swollen eye as part of the lovely appearance. Eight months later, I experienced a ‘heart opening experience’ when a fully occluded artery ensued and I needed to have a stent inserted. A month after that, kidney stones appeared and passed. A pain I would not wish on even the most vile person. A few months later, I was diagnosed with adrenal fatigue and warned by the doc to dramatically slow my pace if I wanted to avoid further illness. I took heed. Good news?  You would think not. As a result, I have used my lessons to help others avoid the same fate. I took time to re-group and re-evaluate where my life was going, what path I was taking and who I choose as companions along the way. More than two years AHA (After Heart Attack), I am healthier than I was BHA (Before Heart Attack). A shake-up caused a wake-up and now I am taking steps each day to remain so.

What are the good news-bad news dichotomies in your life?


A few years ago, I was sitting at an industrial table at the art studio of a friend. I had decided that I wanted to experience a new (for me) art form. I had never made a mosaic and thought it would be fun and test my ability to patiently create over time, rather than have immediate gratification. It did both. I gathered together pieces of multi-colored glass and grout to secure them and glaze them. I was guided by a young art therapist who used her expertise to get me started. I decided that I wanted it to be both random and patterned; like my life.

The first round had me placing the fragments and then covering them with the thick mud-like substance. It didn’t look pretty at first, but I knew that eventually it would sink between the cracks and once it dried,  I could wipe it off the top of the glass and the color would shine through. It took something like three weeks for me to complete the project and take it home where it now graces a half dome window in my living room. When the sun shines through it, I feel a sense of pride in how it is a prism and a profound reminder of the spiritual concept: ‘No mud, no lotus’ or in this case, ‘No mud, no mosaic.’

Recently, a friend posted a meme on his Facebook page that spoke of  being broken by life experiences. It occurred to me that all of us have fragmented parts of ourselves that may never be put back together in the way they were. Coming from loss, death, relationships shifting and changing form, illness, injury, financial limitations, natural disasters, wars, violence … we are faced with on a daily basis, a mixture of these life events. We are always at choice about how we piece together the shards. I responded that I am creating a mosaic out of my broken pieces. I choose to see them as the rainbow array of components that combine into a new form. May the sun always shine brilliantly through them.

In a hospital bed, surrounded by machines that beep and hiss, pump and pull, add fluids and flush them away, a warrior woman lies as she sets moment to moment intention to remain on this side of the veil. Diagnosed with cancer, her world which once included travel, military service, creative endeavors, a business, education and parenting has been reduced (for the moment) to a small room into which people come to visit, sit a’spell, talk, offer prayers, energy healing, candy (and possibly some healthier alternatives), hugs and love. Her sense of humor remains intact and she sometimes warns staff when a meltdown might take place, given the cocktail of meds that are floating through her system.

Today was such a time. as she expressed to her friends on Facebook:

“Some days are harder than others.
Today I wanted to cry. Not because I am weak and not because I’m quitting. But because they brought the wrong jam with my toast.

“I can handle Chemo… Radiation which burnt the heck out of my nose today… I can handle interferon.
But the wrong jam???? How hard is this…bring me the right jam!!!! My life hangs in the balance here and I have the wrong jam. If I die … It’s their fault. I will die of jam failure.” Excerpt from G’s morning meltdown.”

Sometimes it’s the big things that knock us on our butts….stuff like serious or chronic illness, death of those we hold dear and cherished visions that don’t come true according to our plans, relationships that shift, accidents, injuries, financial challenges and other disappointments that threaten to sink our ship of dreams.

When those events show up, the little things like the bolt falling off the lawn mower in the middle of mowing the lawn and you have to hold the handle on, since you can’t find it, realizing that you have run out of drain cleaner when the bath tub backs up, or when car maintenance costs a bit more than anticipated, or like not having the grape jam you wanted to glaze your toast while you find pleasure in the midst of pain, can feel like big things.

What turns it around for me (the first three things happened in my life recently…first world problems all) is realizing that in the midst of them, I have a whole bunch of Just Amazing Moments.

  • A new editing job working on a romance novel
  • Speaking to a group of women last night about the concept of Yoga Off the Mat in which we recognize that life is like a yoga practice
  • Listening to music (Adele at the moment) while I am writing this
  • Being able to work from home
  • Laundry needing folding (yes, that too, since it means I have clean clothing, a washing machine and dryer and laundry detergent)
  • A baby blessing ceremony to do this weekend
  • Loving and wonderful family and friends
  • A deep and profound spiritual connection
  • More writing jobs pouring in
  • Attracting more counseling and coaching clients
  • Honing my intuitive abilities
  • Noting miracles of all shapes and sizes
  • Speaking with a dear friend on the phone in the ICU who is recovering after open heart surgery two weeks ago
  • Planning my son’s wedding next year
  • A successful workout at the gym, when I leave tired, but revitalized, realizing that a bit more than two years ago, I could only walk one step at a time without getting winded, post heart attack
  • Being able to take a nap later today if need be, following gym time shortly
  • Turning 58 in a few weeks with a life beyond what I imagined

I be jammin’

The next time I go to visit my friend, we can sing this song together. Oh, and I will remember the grape jam.

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