Monthly Archives: December 2016

Week #120 – Did you “Love Your Life” in 2016?

New Year's Eve 2005 (photo credit: Gina Buongiorno)

NYE’05 (photo credit: Gina Buongiorno)

[Editor’s Note: this is a partial re-post from Week #68 — because celebrating is never a bad idea!]

Week #120 – Did you “Love Your Life” in 2016?

If you answered no…you aren’t alone.

For many people…2016 was the single most challenging year yet.  Health issues, death, divorce, job changes, financial problems, a stressful election cycle…the list goes on and on.

Believe me…I know how it feels to want to kick an entire year to the curb.

The end of the calendar year seems to be a natural time to look back and reflect on the highs, the lows, what happened, what went wrong, and how we can fix it in the new year ahead.

This is exactly why on January 1st of this past year, I challenged you to start keeping track of the good stuff.

Because it’s hard to love your life when it’s so easy to look back and come up with all the bad things that happened.  We have to, as Rob’s friend Rob Nicholson said in a Facebook post at the end of 2014:

“Keep moving forward and celebrate and revel in what we have!”

So I challenged you at the beginning of this year to look ahead…WAY ahead.  To December 31st of 2016.

By the way…that’s tomorrow!

And I asked you — What will it take to say on that day, “I love my life?”

Do you remember your answer?  If not, don’t feel bad.  Because I said at that time that I knew one thing for sure — It would take REMINDERS.

If you were one of the ones that kept track of your achievements, high points, and happy moments — please remember to SHARE and CELEBRATE them with the ones you love!

If you didn’t keep track, don’t worry.  Go back through your calendar, your emails, your phone — whatever it takes to come up with enough reminders of all you accomplished and did right this year!  Because I promise you…you did!

Your Happyness Challenge for the week ahead: CELEBRATE the completion of another year, another trip around the sun!  SHARE your successes with others — and ENCOURAGE others to do the same!  There will be plenty of time to look ahead and set new goals, focus on new targets, and dream new dreams for the year ahead.  For today and tomorrow — look back, and find things to LOVE about 2016! 

Bonus Challenge: Don’t count on yourself to remember everything about the new year ahead!  Make a plan to curate the wins just as much as the losses so that you have a complete inventory come December 31st of 2017.  Come up with a system for recording your achievements, successes, highlights, and otherwise happy times THROUGHOUT the year!  The most obvious way is to keep a dated list — in a journal, on your computer, via email, or on your phone — where you take time each day to review your activities and take note of anything special or significant.  I keep a running list by date and habitually recount the day’s activities.  To be honest, most days it’s pretty mundane — but the habit assures that when something notable happens I’m going to capture and remember it.  Here are some other ideas from last year’s post:

  • I’ve seen a Gratitude Tree — write what you’re grateful for on little shapes and fill an inside tree or wall mural up throughout the year (works in classrooms, too!).
  • I heard of photo-journaling — use cell-phone photos in a specific file or on Instagram to keep track of accomplishments.  Or print them out to create a physical album you can flip through.
  • But my favorite has been the Joy Jar or Happiness Jar!  The idea is simple: you start on January 1st (okay, 2nd) with an empty jar in a prominent location in your home — and you start dropping notes in it throughout the year about things that went well, things that make you happy, things you’re grateful for, achieved, or accomplished.  At the end of the year you have a personal collection of happy memories to review — or immediate access throughout the year when you need a lift to face a challenge!  One woman even collaged them on a monthly basis as a type of word-cloud to record as a journal.

The possibilities are endless — but the idea is always the same: make it a point to collect the good stuff!  Because we need more of that.  More focus on the wins.  More focus on what’s right.  More focus on loving our lives — so that we can live our lives more fully.

Spread Happyness — love your life, THIS year AND next!  Start today!

12/29/16 by Grace Church
© Grace Church

Week #119 – Have a “Happy Heart-mas!”

OG (photo credit: Grace Church)

Week #119 – Have a “Happy Heart-mas!”

Greetings Happyness Tribe — Blessed Solstice, Happy Hanukkah, and Merry Christmas to all!

With everything coming at once — and on a weekend no less — I’ll keep this short and sweet.

Many of you know I have been keeping up with my own “Gratitude Challenge” in the 30 days leading up to Hanukkah/Christmas Eve.  My goal was to give myself the gift of Gratitude this season.  I wrote back in November that I had been caught up in some negativity — and that I knew I needed to shift my focus if I wanted to end the year strong.

There have been some serious frustrations and challenges in that time, but keeping focused on finding one thing a day to be grateful for actually primed me for keeping an eye out ALL DAY for the things that I appreciate, the things that are going well, and the things that make my heart happy.

Whatever holidays you are celebrating, we’re about to enter one of the most stressful weeks of the year.  Many of you will focus on making others happy — others will expect someone else to magically return the favor.

But it really starts with each of us: Do you know what makes YOUR own heart happy?

Your Happyness Challenge for the week ahead: Have a “Happy Heart-mas!”  Rather than focus on the things that might go wrong this holiday season, pay attention to what makes YOU happy!  It may be as simple as your silly cat or dog, words to an old song, an irreverent or inappropriate joke you can share only with dear friend, or a quiet star-lit night…or maybe it’s a bigger challenge like spending time only with people you enjoy, getting that extra sleep your body is craving, or saying no to something you honestly don’t want to do.  Take note of the moments when you feel your heart lift and your body relax.  Keep a list of what makes you happy…and check it.  Twice!

It may be the difference between naughty and nice this holiday week!

Spread Happyness — and tell me, what makes YOUR heart happy?

I wish each and every one of you a “Happy Heart-mas!”

12/23/16 by Grace Church
© Grace Church

Week #118 – Three Weeks to Happyness: SPREAD THE LOVE! (Happyness Revisited – with Neighbor’s Table)

Week #118 – Three Weeks to Happyness: SPREAD THE LOVE!
(Happyness Revisited – with Neighbor’s Table)

Greetings Happyness Tribe — and Happy Holidays to all!

This week, I was reminded of the power of an invitation.  As a newcomer in a big city, unable to get home for Christmas — the holidays pose a lonely threat.  I am hard at work making sure I stay busy — so I don’t spend too much time thinking about what I’m missing.

It reminded me of a my Week #66 post last year about Sarah Harmeyer of Dallas, Texas — the fifth nomination for my Happyness in Action series — for her creation of Neighbor’s Table.  I thought I’d revisit it this week, with a simple challenge in Sarah’s own words:

“Make time for someone in your community. Look for ways to love those to the left and right of you.” (Sarah Harmeyer)

If you’ve been following for a while, you may remember that Sarah is the “Chief People Gatherer” at Neighbor’s Table — a movement that encourages people to step outside their homes and get to know their neighbors, one table at a time!  Sarah took a simple concept and a sweet memory — and turned it into “A Love Mission” that has kept her (and her family) busy for over five years now (including landing her table on HGTV’s “Nashville Flipped!”).

And it all started in her own backyard!

In my interview last year, Sarah shared her story with me.  In 2012, she asked her father to build her a table big enough to seat 20 people.  The concept was simple: she wanted to get to know her neighbors.  That year, she set a goal to serve 500 people in a series of dinner parties.  When I interviewed her last year, that original table had been host to almost 2,000 people!

[Read the full story here: Week #66 – Two Weeks to Happyness: SPREAD THE LOVE! (Happyness in Action – with Sarah Harmeyer).]

Sarah and her father went on to build tables for other people so they could start their own “love mission” in their communities.   At the time of my post last year, there were Neighbor’s Tables in 10 states with a goal of having a table in every state by 2020!  And by the looks of her Facebook page lately, they have been busy building and delivering ever since!

In my interview last year, I asked Sarah what Happyness meant to her.  She said, “Happiness is gathering friends and strangers alike around the table and figuring out ways the entire time on how to love them.  Happiness is cheering others to love.  Happiness is doing the thing that God has made you to do.”

What about you, Happyness Tribe?  Are you ready to Spread the Love again this year?

Your Happyness Challenge for the week ahead: SPREAD THE LOVE!  Do you have an extra seat or two at your table this holiday season?  If so, “love someone to the left or right of you!”  Bring a NEIGHBOR into the mix (or student, or senior, or new kid on the block)!  Ask if they have plans.  It could be just for dessert or a drink or a quick cookie exchange.  But it might be especially meaningful during the holidays — when one or more of your neighbors are alone or distanced from family (or perhaps it’s you that feels alone this holiday season).  Open your doors!  Spread the Love!

“Make time for someone in your community. Look for ways to love those to the left and right of you.” (Sarah Harmeyer)

Spread Happyness — Spread the Love!  Get to know your neighbors this week — and tell us about it in the comments!

12/16/16 by Grace Church
© Grace Church

(Thanks again to Sarah Harmeyer for welcoming me to her virtual table and sharing her story with me last year!  To learn more about Sarah and Neighbor’s Table, read inspiring stories, or find out how to get a custom handcrafted table for your own backyard — follow Neighbor’s Table on Instagram and Facebook, or sign up for emails or purchase at

Week #117 – Four Weeks to Happyness: Send Happy Mail! (with Renee Eisman)

Hand-made card donated to BSTFS (used with permission)

Week #117 – Four Weeks to Happyness: Send Happy Mail! (with Renee Eisman)

Greetings Happyness Tribe — and Happy Friday!

We are counting down our Ten Weeks to Happyness — and nothing makes ME happier than to spot Happyness in Action!

This week, I’m pleased to shine that spotlight on Hopatcong native, Renee Eisman — who is the Mail Program Manager for Bring Smiles to Forgotten Seniors.  “Bring Smiles” is a non-profit in Odessa, Florida that works with schools and organizations to decorate cards for seniors that are in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and homebound.

Their motto is “One card, one smile at a time.”

I’d seen Renee’s Facebook posts with photos of all the mail she sends — but a recent post caught my eye.  It was an email and photo from an 81-year-old man in East Brunswick, NJ — writing to thank HER for the cards!  He wrote:

“As you know, I am 81-years-old and don’t have much to look forward to until these letters started to come in.  Who are these people that would send a card to someone they don’t know? Just to cheer them up.”

Well, Renee is one of those people!

I contacted her to learn more about the program, how she got involved, and — most important — how she went from sending zero to 150/200 cards PER MONTH in less than a year!

150/200 cards PER MONTH!  That’s a lot of smiles!

Renee’s story began about two years ago — when she first moved to Florida.  “I fell and hit my head two months after relocating.”  Renee suffered a subdural hematoma (bleeding of the brain).  Surgery and recovery followed.  “I never really had the chance to look for work.”

So Renee started mailing cards and letters to friends and family — to pass the time.

“I always sent a lot of mail to friends and family when I moved to Florida.”  And as things go — once you start doing something, you start seeing it in other places.  She saw individual Facebook posts from friends, acquaintances, and other programs requesting cards for seniors, shut-ins, and children with special needs.  So she added them to her list!

“I enjoyed writing and decorating cards…I call it my arts and craft time.”

And then, in the spring of this year, “I saw a post in my newsfeed from the local TV station in Florida about (Bring Smiles) and ways to help.  I immediately put a package together to send to them.”

Renee started donating supplies (cards and stickers) to Bring Smiles for a few months — and after a while, started chatting with the program’s founder Ron Tyson (a former Jefferson, NJ local).  “I was hoping to go visit nursing homes with them but the timing never seemed to work.”

Renee continued to donate cards and supplies to the program though — all while continuing to grow her own private mailing list.  And then, in June — Ron decided to begin a home mailing program.  And Renee immediately volunteered to be in charge.

Since then, Renee has worked up to sending 150/200 cards per month!

“I was used to working 40-50 hours a week.  It’s good for my mental health to keep busy and have a purpose.”

Bring Smiles operates 100% on donations for all expenses and supplies…and happily, one of Renee’s biggest challenges is keeping her supplies organized!  “It’s a lot to take out all the cards, stickers, stampers, postage, etc.”  But it’s worth it.

And the joy just doesn’t come from SENDING cards.  “The surprises have been receiving cards in return from a few people I send to.”  Of course, there are those moments when cards are returned, or she finds out through posts that one of the seniors — or children — have passed.

“I know that I’m sending a smile and making the difference in someone’s day…that’s what keeps me going.”

Ultimately, Renee would like to start a branch of the program in New Jersey — including local home deliveries and visits.  In the meantime, she’s going to keep sending cards.  To date, Bring Smiles has sent or delivered over 6,000 cards — and received over 10,000 “Likes” on Facebook.

What about you Happyness Tribe?  Care to send a little “Happy Mail” this week?

Your Happyness Challenge for the week ahead: SEND HAPPY MAIL!  Visit “Bring Smiles” or one of the other organizations below to find out how you can send “Happy Mail” to seniors, shut-ins, or children in need.  Better yet, Renee challenges everyone this week to send even one card to someone who needs a smile, even it it’s someone you personally know.  “Sending just one card, one time, and making one person smile is a great feeling.”

Renee says, “Happyness to me is contentment with my life and feeling good about the things I do and the choices I make.  I enjoy making others smile.”

Spread Happyness — SEND HAPPY MAIL!  (And check out the links below for more info on Renee’s favorite organizations or to sign up for notifications.)

Bring Smiles to Forgotten Seniors
From the Heart
Comfort and Joy
Sunshine Snail Mail

(And if you or someone you know is hosting their own local charity event or fundraiser that Spreads Happyness directly to those who need it — please let me know!  I’d love to feature them on the blog!)

12/9/16 by Grace Church
© Grace Church

(PS: Special thanks to Renee Eisman for taking the time to share the details of her story with me this week!  To learn more about Bring Smiles to Forgotten Seniors, visit them on Facebook at — or contact Renee directly at

Week #116- Five Weeks to Happyness: MONSTER TRUCKS for TOYS! (Happyness Revisited — with Amy Wood-Oblen)


(Sat. 12/3 at Chatterbox – Augusta, NJ)

Week #116- Five Weeks to Happyness: MONSTER TRUCKS for TOYS!
(Happyness Revisited — with Amy Wood-Oblen)

Greetings Happyness Tribe — and Happy December!

Hope everyone had a fun and fulfilling Thanksgiving Weekend!  The holiday season is officially underway — and nothing pleases me more than to revisit the story of a young mother paying it forward as part of our Year-End Countdown to Happyness!

Rob’s classmate — Amy Wood-Oblen and her family — are ONCE AGAIN headlining the Monster Trucks for Toys Event at the Chatterbox Drive-In in Augusta, NJ.  


This year’s event takes place on Saturday, December 3rd from 11-3p  — and will continue to benefit children in Sussex County this holiday season.  Each new, unwrapped toy gets you a ride on the Monster Truck for free!  (See poster for details.)

Amy told me last year that she and her family are happy to give back to Project Self-Sufficiency’s Season of Hope Program.  “It means a lot to us because years before I met my husband I lived in Sussex County with my son and for a few years they helped me to put presents under my tree, so I owe them a lot.”

This all started a few years ago while Amy’s husband Shawn (owner of NJ Monster Trucks) was eating at the Chatterbox Drive-In — and talking with owner.  During that conversation, they came up with the idea of doing rides for toys.

Five or six years later, it’s a tradition!  

Last year they collected a dining room full of toys!  (See photo below.)  Toys that will go to children right in Amy and Sean’s — and The Chatterbox’s — own backyard.  Amy added, “it’s a plus to know it will be local children receiving the gifts.”


2015 Monster Truck Toy Drive (photo credit: Amy Wood-Oblen)

And while the suggested donation value is $5 per ride, Amy says:  “The great thing about this event is how much people give…they give much much more!”

Weather has been an issue in the past because if it rains or snows they have to cancel.  This year they are starting early — with a rain/snow date of Sunday, December 4th.

It’s been years now since Amy has needed to apply for help at Christmas.  “I still can feel the anxious feeling waiting to see if I would qualify to receive gifts. It’s been 11 years and it’s still so fresh to me.”  Doing the toy drive allows her to take that feeling away from other parents.

“Seeing and living the magic through my children and knowing we can give other children that same magic is what Happyness means to us.”

Your Happyness Challenge for the week ahead: GIVE GENEROUSLY!!! As I wrote in Week #11 when this blog first started, one of my brother’s greatest joys was donating to Toys for Tots each year.  Spread the Wealth again this year!  If you’re a Sussex County local, Amy’s event on Saturday is a great place to start.  I’ve also written about the Kindness for Christopher Pajama Drive.  Otherwise — find a church, local food bank (don’t forget the coffee!), Salvation Army, or other organization that will benefit people in need right in your own backyard!

Spread Happyness — GIVE GENEROUSLY!  Spread the Wealth and donate a game or toy (or food, coffee, pajamas, etc.) to those in need this year!

(And if you or someone you know is hosting their own local charity event or fundraiser that Spreads Happyness directly to those who need it — please let me know!  I’d love to feature them on the blog!)

12/2/16 by Grace Church
© Grace Church

(PS: Special thanks to Amy Wood-Oblen for taking the time to share her story with me — again!  To learn more about NJ Monster Trucks, visit them on Facebook at