Monthly Archives: December 2017

Week #172 – Did you “Love Your Life” in 2017? (How’s the view?)

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

NYE’05 (photo credit: Gina Buongiorno)

[Editor’s Note: Re-post Alert — because celebrating is never a bad idea!]

Week #172 – Did you “Love Your Life” in 2017? (How’s the view?)

If you answered “no” or “not great”…I want to assure you, once again, that you aren’t alone.

For many people…2017 was another challenging year.  Health issues, death, divorce, job changes, financial problems, stressful news cycles…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 everyone to look forward into 2017 — and 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, once again, look ahead…WAY ahead.

To December 31st of 2017.

By the way…that’s this weekend!

And I asked — Where do you want to be next year at this time?

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.  Take some time this week to go back through your calendar, your emails, your phone — whatever it takes to come up with enough reminders of all that you accomplished and did right this year!

Because I promise you…you did!  And there is probably a lot to CELEBRATE!

Your Happyness Challenge for the week ahead: CELEBRATE the completion of another year — and 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 this weekend — look back, and find things to LOVE about 2017! 

Bonus Challenge: Don’t count on yourself to remember everything about the new year going forward!  Make a plan to curate the wins just as much as the losses so that you have a complete inventory come December 31st of 2018.  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:

  • 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!).
  • Photo-journal — 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.
  • The Joy Jar or Happyness Jar!  The idea is simple: you start on January 1st 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!  (CELEBRATE and ENCOURAGE others to do the same!)

12/29/17 by Grace Church
© Grace Church

Week #171 – Two Weeks to Happyness: “Love those to the left and right of you.” (Happyness Re-Revisited – with Sarah Harmeyer and Neighbor’s Table)

Week #171 – Two Weeks to Happyness: “Love those to the left and right of you.”
(Happyness Re-Revisited – with Sarah Harmeyer and Neighbor’s Table)

Greetings Happyness Tribe — and Happy Holidays to all!

We are closing in on the last two Fridays of 2017…and this week, I am reminded once again of the loneliness of the holiday season.

While Jim and I are looking forward to going “home” next week to visit friends and family on the East Coast — at every turn I’m reminded of people who aren’t, who can’t, who just won’t, or who will never be able to do so again.  Whether it’s through death, divorce, dysfunction, deployment, work demands, or just economic or logistical difficulties with traveling — there are millions of people who don’t get to “go home” for the holidays.

Which reminded me of my post last year and the year before about Sarah Harmeyer of Dallas, Texas — for her creation of Neighbor’s Table .  I thought I’d repost 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 for Week #66, 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 in 2015, there were Neighbor’s Tables in 10 states with a goal of having a table in every state by 2020!  By the looks of her Facebook page, they have been busy building and delivering ever since!

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 me about it in the comments!

12/22/17 by Grace Church
© Grace Church

(Thanks once again to Sarah Harmeyer for welcoming me to her virtual table and sharing her story with me in 2015!  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 #170 – Three Weeks to Happyness: Thank You, First Responders!

Spread Happyness…Share Freely!

Week #170 – Three Weeks to Happyness: Thank You, First Responders!

Greetings Happyness Tribe!

You know who will be working on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and all throughout the holiday season?

First responders.

Your police department, firehouse, or ambulance squad doesn’t close because it’s a holiday.  They don’t get to lock the door and call it quits for the day.

They are ready and waiting — away from their families and friends — to serve you in case of an emergency.

The wildfires in California have all of us thanking our first responders.  Just this Sunday, my church used the hour in between morning services to write thank you notes to firehouses all across Los Angeles and Ventura Counties.

I thought that was a great idea!


Your Happyness Challenge for the week ahead: Thank your first responders!  Last week, we were challenged to thank our mail carriers, delivery drivers, and package handlers.  As you are running your holiday errands this week — be sure to stop by your local firehouse, police station, or ambulance squad and Spread Happyness their way with a goodie bag, some cookies, or a thank you note letting them know you appreciate their being at the ready while you celebrate with your family.  Also, feel free to share the photo above with anyone that you want to say thank you to this week!

(And if you are a first responder — I would love to hear your perspective!)

Spread Happyness — thank your first responders this week!

(And if you or someone you know has a fun way to Spread Happyness this holiday season — please let me know!  I’d love to feature their story of Happyness in Action on the blog!)

12/15/17 by Grace Church
© Grace Church

Week #169 – Four Weeks to Happyness: Make your house a Special Delivery! (Happyness in Action — with Jessica Suto)

Special Delivery! (used with permission: Jessica Suto)

Week #169 – Four Weeks to Happyness: Make your house a Special Delivery! (Happyness in Action — with Jessica Suto)

Greetings Happyness Tribe!

You might remember back in Week #95 a challenge to leave something cool to drink for our mail carriers and other workers who were sweating it out during a summer heat wave.

Well, the holiday shopping season is here — and we are headed into the two heaviest delivery weeks for our mail carriers, delivery drivers, and package handlers.

Which is why  I am so excited to share this story of Happyness in Action with you!

Rob’s classmate — Jessica Suto — posted an idea to her Facebook page that caught my attention this week.  It was a forward from another site with a basket of snacks/water on the doorstep as a thank-you to those who are handling the added volume.  

(You can see the original post here.)

Knowing Jessica and her heart of gold — I reached out to her to see if this was something she actually does.  Indeed it was!

“I saw a friend share it (the original post), then thought how great my delivery guys have been, especially my UPS driver, he actually brings heavy things to the back door and if I’m home, he will bring them in for me.”

Jessica is a Navy Veteran with some health complications.  Online shopping for food and supplies is easy enough…but a little help with the heavy lifting is a big plus!

“At that time, I wasn’t able to tip, and when my friend shared this it was just an instant thing.”

An instant way to Spread Happyness!  How about that?!  🙂

As I was chatting with Jessica over messenger, she told me that just today she came home to a porch full of deliveries…and an empty basket!

“That, as well, put a smile on my face!”

I checked around social media to see if others were implementing this idea.  One woman in Georgia replied instantly that she loved it and was going to see what she could scrounge up.  Within minutes, she posted a photo of her front porch with a basket of goodies and a thank you note to her delivery people!

It was interesting to hear from drivers/delivery people as well.  Jeffery Linden, a UPS team member from Windsor, Connecticut, chimed in:

“I remember being out on the road this time of year. People either smiled or grimaced at you. A grab and go snack will make them happy!”

I asked Jeffery, what other simple things people can do to acknowledge drivers/delivery people?

“Just understand their stops are measured by the seconds, and understand if they are polite but never stop moving.”

(That’s good to know!)

As for Jessica, I asked her what Happyness means to her this holiday season as she gets ready to pack up and move across the country.

“Norm (just like in Cheers) is my mailman.  He is always super happy-go-lucky with a big smile on his face. I want to pack him and my UPS driver and take them with me!!!”

Your Happyness Challenge for the week ahead: Make your house a SPECIAL DELIVERY!  Assemble a basket of goodies, water, gum, etc. and leave it on your porch with a note to your mail carrier, delivery people, or package handlers.  (A Giving Tree would be a lot of fun, too — with the goodies/snacks attached to branches!)  In Jessica’s words, “this time of year they are super busy, so make sure to thank them.  Also, the next time something is late, damaged or lost, don’t take it out on the carrier.  They didn’t necessarily do that.”  For Jessica, the fulfillment of knowing that these little gestures make their day — also makes hers!

Jessica’s note on her porch reads (in the photo above), “To the greatest deliverymen in town, thanks for all you do, and everything you have done for me.”

She’s going to miss them…and I think they’re going to miss her, too!

Spread Happyness — leave a Special Delivery for your delivery people this week!

(And if you or someone you know has a fun way to Spread Happyness this holiday season — please let me know!  I’d love to feature their story of Happyness in Action on the blog!)

12/8/17 by Grace Church
© Grace Church

(PS: A very special thanks to Jessica Suto for her service to this country — and for taking extra time out of her day to trade messages with me!  And thanks to Jeffery Linden for sharing his perspective, as well!)

Week #168 – Five Weeks to Happyness: MONSTER TRUCKS for TOYS! (Happyness Re-Revisited — with Amy Wood-Oblen)

Week #168 – Five Weeks to Happyness: MONSTER TRUCKS for TOYS!
(Happyness Re-Revisited — with Amy Wood-Oblen)

Greetings Happyness Tribe — and Happy December!

The holiday season is officially upon us — 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 (and one last time at the Chatterbox) headlining the Monster Trucks for Toys Event at the Chatterbox Drive-In in Augusta, NJ.  


This year’s event takes place on Saturday, December 2nd 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 in 2014 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 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 now, it’s a tradition!  

Each 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 once again starting early — with a rain/snow date of Sunday, December 3rd.

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.”

Last year, Amy shared a photo of her two youngest (Shane and Sammy) helping out at the 2016 event.  Anyone who knows Amy or her family knows that the kids are very involved with the Monster Truck events.  “I love that my kids enjoy helping other children. It makes them feel good.”

Amy’s children help with last year’s gifts. (Photo used with permission: Amy Wood-Oblen)

As many people know, The Chatterbox has been sold and will be closing in 2018 — making this the last year to attend the event at this unique location.  But that won’t stop Amy.  She told me she hopes to partner with another nearby business to keep this yearly tradition going in the future.

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.  Otherwise — find a church, local food bank (don’t forget the coffee!), Salvation Army, Toys for Tots, 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!)

12/1/17 by Grace Church
© Grace Church

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