Archive for the ‘Happiness Project’ Category

Today’s assignment is to make a list of things you like to do that don’t involve technology.


This is going to be fun!

Steve 1 eye

Photography is one thing I greatly enjoy (and I don’t count that as technology!). It’s just fun for me to play with my camera. I have no particular skill with it or even know what I’m doing half the time, but I do have a lot of fun with it.


tulip with rain 3

I love flowers of all types, especially those that are fragrant, and enjoy puttering around in my flower beds. I can hardly wait for spring to arrive to see my tulips, daffodils and hyacinths once again. Among the tulip bulbs we have planted are some that came from plantings originally made by Captain Cavedweller’s great-grandmother. The photo above is of one of them. They are the most gorgeous shade of pink.

a perfect rose

I also adore roses. And although I don’t devote as much time to their care as I probably should, I do greatly enjoy our roses.

Cake 1

Baking is another thing I really enjoy. I’ve been baking cookies since I was six and got an Easy Bake Oven for Christmas. When I was in high school, I started experimenting with recipes and coming up with my own versions to classic standards. To date, my biggest baking projects have both been for weddings: I baked what seemed like a gazillion cupcakes for a friend’s wedding and I baked the cake pictured above for my niece’s wedding. (And no, cake decorating is not my forte, but my niece loved the cake!)

fort vancouver wall

Fort Vancouver

Exploring and traveling are also on my “enjoy” list. Captain Cavedweller and I both like museums and history and just seeing new-to-us things.


Attending rodeos is high on my love to do list. Both CC and I have such fun at them and look forward to each one we get to attend.

So there you have a list of some of my favorite things to do when I’m “unplugged.”

How about you? What do you enjoy doing when you aren’t on a computer, tablet, or your phone?


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think happy

The assignment for this week’s happiness list is to list the greatest compliments and encouragement you’ve ever received.

I should probably preface this by saying my “love language” is words. When someone says something kind or encouraging, it truly means the world to me.

Here are a few compliments that have stayed with me over the years:

  • One day in my high school English class, the teacher told us our assignment for the day was to study one person in the room and share something positive about them. Some of the compliments were silly or funny, others heartfelt and sincere. I have no recollection of who I chose or what I said (probably something very brief because I hated speaking up in class). But I will always remember the compliment I received. It was from one of the “popular” boys… he looked at me and said “her eyes are always so bright and interested, like a sponge just soaking up the world.”  Yeah, pretty profound for a 17-year-old, right?
  • I was two weeks into my sophomore year of college and realized continuing as a business major was going to be a colossal mistake. So I went to the office to see if I could drop the business classes and switch to communications. The adviser assured me I’d be so far behind, I’d never catch up and I’d have to wait until the beginning of the next term to change. I assured him I could not only catch up for that quarter, but also catch up on the rest of the classes I’d need to graduate on time. The dean of the college happened to walk by. I wasn’t arguing with the adviser and hadn’t yet resorted to tears or begging, but he must have sensed my desperation because he stopped and asked what was going on. The adviser told him what I wanted to do and that it was impossible. The dean pulled up my grades from my freshman year, looked at the classes I wanted to take, and then turned to adviser and said, “this girl can do anything she sets her mind to. Let her switch.” I worked so hard and took so many credits, I only had to attend one quarter my senior year before I left for an internship and graduated early. Knowing someone believed in me, made such a difference.
  • Someone I thought was a friend had really disappointed me (as in devastated by something cruel they’d done). I’d mentioned it to my mom but hadn’t said anything to my dad about it. You have to keep in mind my dad was not one to offer words of wisdom, he’s always been more of a show than tell kind of guy. So when he wrote me a note and said one of the traits he admired most about me was that I was always a good, loyal friend, even when others didn’t deserve it, it really touched my heart.
  •  Captain Cavedweller and I had gotten dressed up for a special occasion to go out to dinner. I had a new black dress I’d been saving to wear and had even gone to the hairdresser to have her put my hair up. When I walked into the living room, he sat on the couch, impatiently jiggling his foot since we’d have to hurry to make our reservation. The jiggling stopped and he got to his feet, all the while holding my gaze in his. And he said three little words I’ll always remember – “You are beautiful.” Not you look beautiful, but you are beautiful. That meant so, so much to a girl who’s always thought she looked more like a goofball than anything else.
  • Every time (I’m not kidding – EVERY TIME) someone tells me they loved a book I’ve written or they enjoy my writing or how something in one of my stories touched their heart or made them laugh, it makes my heart light and full of happiness for days. So my heartfelt thank you to you all for lifting me up and continuing to do so! ❤

I hope you’ll take a moment or two this week to list the best compliments or encouragement you’ve received. It really will make you smile and give you a reason to count your blessings.

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happiness by choice

Today’s homework from the happiness list challenge is to list the things (past and present) that feel like blockades in the way of happiness.

Here’s where I’m going to struggle with this one: the only thing that blockades our happiness is our own thoughts. Happiness is a choice we can make anytime, any place – regardless of everything around us.

Honestly, I don’t feel like I have blockades. Maybe bumps in the road, detours, but not blockades. I think that’s because deep in my heart I know it’s up to me to find my happiness and I can do that anytime I intentionally choose to do so.

I can say in the past, I struggled with many things that felt like blockades (brick walls) to finding happiness. Self doubt, that nasty little voice that gets into our heads, anxiety, fear, and a whole slew of what ifs make it hard to focus on happiness. But one thing I’ve learned is when your hands, head, and heart are full of those negative things, you don’t have any room to embrace the positive, good things – the happy things.

So I like to picture those negative things as balloons on a string. With purpose, let each string go and watch it float away. See – now you have oodles of room for happiness and all those good, positive, wonderful things!

If you feel like you are facing blockades ahead, take a look at what is causing them then go over, go under, go around, go through, but keep on going – and let the negatives go.

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list 1

Today’s list challenge:

List the best choices you have made in your life so far

  • Captain Cavedweller – Choosing to take a chance on a blind date led to marrying the man who still makes my heart pitter patter.
  • Faith – Choosing salvation and following my faith has seen me through the worst and best times of my life. Without it… I don’t even want to imagine what my life would look like without it.
  • Writing – Choosing to finally try writing a book then choosing to pursue it as a career has been one of the most fulfilling, amazing choices I’ve made. I am so blessed to do something I love so much!
  • Believing – Choosing to believe in myself when others did not led me on some pretty great adventures in my younger days. I’m glad I didn’t let anyone talk me out of following my heart.
  • Kindness – Years ago, I stood at a crossroads and had to make a choice. I could go down a road of bitterness and sadness, or I could do down a road of kindness and forgiveness. Being witness to someone who had already gone down the bitter road, I chose kindness. And I try to keep choosing kindness, every day. A word spoke in kindness isn’t one we’ll likely ever regret.

Is there a choice or two you made in your life that has brought you joy, or given you peace?

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be yourself 7

In the past few weeks, I’ve received any number of comments in person, through email, and book reviews that have made it abundantly clear I can’t make everyone happy with my writing.

be yourself 9

Over in the far left corner, we have those who feel like I’m “squandering the opportunities to spread the gospel”  and preach to people through the stories I create.

Over in the far right corner, there are those who term my books boring because, “it would have been a great story if she’d included sex scenes.”

In the middle, are those who enjoy a book full of love and romance that is sweet and clean. (I dearly love those people in the middle!)

be yourself 8

After so many comments coming from so many different directions, I thought I’d take just a moment to clarify why I write what I do.

The people who think romance and sex are the same thing have bigger problems than finding my books boring.

Romance is such a beautiful, lovely thing that is too often ignored while something more base and elemental claims that title.

In my humble opinion, romance is the journey that may lead to something more. And rest assured, that something more will not be described in great detail in any of my books. Not going to happen.  I do not possess the ability or desire to write sex scenes. To me, it would be like whipping out the binoculars and trying to spy into a neighbor’s bedroom. Some things are sacred and private.

be yourself 3

As for those who are disappointed my books don’t carry a strong gospel message or “preach from the keyboard,” I’m sorry you feel like I’m wasting opportunities.

Yes, my characters pray, they attend church, and they exhibit good morals, but that doesn’t mean I’m wasting chances to reach people. I’m not a minister, I don’t shout my beliefs from the rooftops, and I don’t expect my characters to do that either. I’m more interested in my characters providing good moral examples. Sometimes the best approach is a soft one.

And to answer the next question – yes, I am a Christian. However, I do not plan to turn my books into a platform for blasting out my own beliefs.

be yourself 1

So here’s what I’ve concluded: I can’t make everyone happy.

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In fact, I’ve probably offended a dozen people already this morning, just because they are easily offended.

If I try to write to please everyone, pretty soon I’ll please no one (especially me) because I will have lost my voice and my way.

be yourself 2

For those who want sex scenes – you’ve got imaginations, feel free to use them.

For those who want more gospel messages – please know that I’m aware of your opinions and appreciate them even if I have my own.

Do you ever find yourself being pressured to do something that isn’t you?  That would make you feel uncomfortable or off course?

Just remember – you’re in charge of your happiness and sometimes making you happy means others won’t be.

be yourself 5

And to those lovely, lovely people who enjoy my books just as they are – big hugs to you!

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Thank you for understanding that I just want to write clean stories that touch your hearts, make you sigh from the sweet romance, and hopefully make you feel like you’ve made a new friend by meeting the characters.

Each Monday I share my thoughts on happiness in my own personal Happiness Project for 2014. Feel free to post your thoughts or comments on happiness.

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bronc 2d

Captain Cavedweller and I spent the weekend in Pendleton, Oregon, where I had two book signings, we watched the Westward Ho! Parade (the longest non-motorized parade in the country), and attended the Pendleton Round-Up.

I think I’m still smiling from all the fun we experienced.

fredThe weekend got off to a great start Thursday when I arrived at Hamley & Co. Western Store to do a book signing and discovered I’d be sharing the table with eight-time tie-down roping world champion Fred Whitfield.

gold buckles don't lieHe was at the store to sign copies of his book Gold Buckles Don’t Lie. If I’d had my head on straight, I’d have taken a photo of him signing the books.

What I observed about Fred while I sat next to him for a few hours is this: he’s a courteous, professional, witty guy who made every person who came up to the table feel special. Oh, and he has some secret youth elixir because he seriously does not look his age – at all.

Check out Fred’s fascinating story and get an autographed copy of the book through his website.

Friday found us lining up with hundreds (or was it thousands?) of others along Pendleton’s two main streets to take in the Westward Ho! Parade. We may be weird, but both of us have such a good time watching this parade. I took so many photos, CC had to run to a store down the street and get another card for my camera.

indian pony 2 The colors and detail of this horse and rider’s regalia were amazing.

Indian ponyDon’t ask me why, but I was in love with this horse. I also liked the colors the rider wore along with the saddle blanket.

I have many, many other photos of the parade, but will save them to post another time.

After one of us found  a new pair of boots they couldn’t live without and CC ran them all the way back to the rig, we indulged in a beefy lunch of barbecued steak that was undeniably delicious.

Making our way into the stands, we settled into our seats and watched the countdown on the clock as it neared time for the Pendleton Round-Up to begin.

bronc 6

There are many things that make the experience at this rodeo different from others.

bronc rider 4For one thing, the rodeo arena’s grass floor is one-of-a-kind in the world of rodeo, adding a unique challenge for competitors. The Native American encampment is the largest in North America with more than 300 teepees annually joining in the event. It was also the first rodeo to have rodeo royalty, starting with the very first Round-Up in 1910.

bareback 1People come from all over the world to see the rodeo and take in the entire Pendleton Round-Up experience. I know that for a fact because I shook hands with a man from Norway, directed a woman from England to a restroom and listened to Japanese tourists gush over the bling-y offerings at one of the vendor booths.

bareback3 bobby moteYou’ll also find the top names in rodeo talent competing at the Pendleton Round-Up, like Bobby Mote (above).

CORTSCHEER_Cort Scheer is the name of a saddle bronc rider you should know if you don’t. Some of you might recall that I met his super-sweet mom and sister when I was in Las Vegas during the finals in December.

Cort 2It was exciting for us to watch Cort ride to victory Friday with an 84-point score.

Cort 1He went on to claim the Saddle Bronc championship title Saturday with a 91-point ride! Way to go, Cort! Big congrats to you! There’s a great article about his win on ProRodeo.com

steer wrestlerOf course, I took some photos of the bulldoggers, especially since Wrestlin’ Christmas just came out this month.

indian dancersThe Native American dancers provided a colorful presentation in the arena.

indian girl 1Aren’t the outfits gorgeous? (And the horse, too!). The outfits and trappings are often passed down through many, many generations.

indian girl 2 rosesI was in love with the roses on this one. Just beautiful!

chaps 2I even got inspired to take a few creative / artsy kind of photos – like this one.

bullrider 1The bulls tend to hug the chutes which makes it hard to get a good photo from our seats. This guy cooperated though. I like the dust billowing up from his hooves as the rider tries to make it the full eight seconds.

STEVE WOOLSEYSpeaking of bull riders, I got to meet Steve Woolsey – who just happened to win the Bull Riding event at the Round-Up.

IMG_9259Last year, when I was writing The Christmas Cowboy, I got in touch with the incredibly nice and helpful Rick Foster, program director of the Justin Sports Medicine Team. They take trailers to PRCA rodeos and provide medical assistance to injured rodeo athletes. Anyhoo, I met with Rick after the rodeo just to say hello and he kindly showed me the inside of the trailer. That’s where I met Steve, who seemed like a genuinely nice guy.  So congrats to you, too, Steve!

hamley storeSaturday found me back at Hamley & Co. signing books. It’s hard work when this is the view from your “office” for the day. (It was mostly hard keeping my wallet tucked away and not buying all the cute things that caught my eye!).

Since this is supposed to be my “Happiness Monday Blog Post” here are my words of wisdom – every once in a while, leave behind all the worries and stress and to-do lists and go enjoy yourself. Immerse yourself in something that makes you ridiculously happy.

I’m sure glad we did!

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happy gardenersIn our neck of the woods, it is definitely harvest time – wheat fields, third-cutting of hay, and the abundant produce in our valley.

We’ve had some of the best, incredibly tasty peaches and nectarines the past few weeks. So full of delicious nectar, a bite into them results in juice running down your chin and arm in a decadent trail of blissful sweetness.

Last night, I cut open a nectarine to share with Captain Cavedweller. Although it looked good on the outside, the inside was nasty and rotten.

It made me think about the relationships in our lives. Like the ones that might appear fine on the outside, but upon closer inspection we realize they are rotten to the core.

Those relationships, if left unattended and unguarded, can spoil so much good fruit (happiness).

I liked this quote because those people who make us laugh and smile, who melt our hearts and give us moments of joyfulness – they are treasures! Instead of plucking off our blossoms and pouring poison on the tender plants of our happiness, they do all they can to help us reap a bountiful, rich harvest.

Be grateful for them, tell them how much you appreciate them. While you’re at it, be a charming gardener who helps others blossom and enjoy the abundant harvest.

Each Monday I share my thoughts on happiness in my own personal Happiness Project for 2014. Feel free to post your thoughts or comments on happiness.

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