happy reports

The other morning, I snapped the leash onto Tess’s collar and headed out for a walk. We followed our old route, down the hill from our house, onto the bike path toward town, and home again. Nothing too ambitious, yet this was the first time in two years I’ve taken this particular four-mile walk without feeling pain. It was also the first time since having both of my hips replaced last winter that I felt confident enough in my new hardware, and in my healing, to risk having Tess lunge unexpectedly or pull me off balance. I’m strong enough now to hold onto her, strong enough to hike back up the hill without pausing to catch my breath, strong enough to do the whole loop in under an hour. And so it is that a daily ritual I once took for granted has been transformed into an experience that feels special, one I’m grateful for.

IMG_8921So much of what I’ve struggled with, and written about, over the last couple of years has had to do with loss and grief, what Jack Kornfield so evocatively calls “the storm clouds of the heart.” Sitting alone in a quiet room, finding words that both pay homage to the richness of human experience while also acknowledging how vulnerable I often feel in the face of that experience, has given me a way to come to terms with some of the inevitable challenges of growing older — the illnesses and deaths of dear friends, concern for the struggles of a young adult son, life chapters ending, intimate relationships transforming, elderly parents facing their mortality, a body that’s showing the wear and tear of nearly six decades of hard use.

I’ve sometimes wondered whether “ordinary days” would ever return. Or if in fact the best days were behind me now and my own “ordinary” would forever more be tinged with sadness, a kind of constant, chronic, low-grade grief, like the slight limp I’m learning to live with as result of having one leg that ended up being an eighth of an inch longer than the other.

The answer, it turns out, is no. The hitch in my gait is ever present. But sadness, most definitely, is not. The slow, demanding work of mourning what’s over gives way, in time, to the quiet peace of accepting what is. And just as the sky clears after a heavy rain, the storm clouds of the heart disperse. The sun shines again. It’s shining now.

A couple of weeks ago our family pulled off the rare accomplishment of gathering in the same town at the same time. Jack, who finished school in April, moved to Asheville, North Carolina, in May and resumed his job working in a wilderness therapy program for troubled adolescents. His schedule is such that he’s on duty out in the woods for a week and then off for a week. Fortuitously, one of Jack’s off-shifts coincided with a week-long break from touring for Henry, who flew in to Asheville to meet us. We rented a cabin and a car. Our surrogate daughter Lauren drove up from Atlanta to join us. And suddenly there we were – along with Jack’s new dog, Carol — walking along a trail through the botanical gardens on a beautiful spring morning.

IMG_0285.JPGTime was (not so very long ago) when an outing with the kids was utterly routine. As the mother of two boys I was always in search of some simple diversion to fill the day. But boys grow up. Life separates parents from their adult children. Jobs and friends and distant places take priority and even brief moments of togetherness can be nearly impossible to achieve. So this leisurely family walk felt somewhat miraculous – worthy of gratitude if not outright celebration.

And lately, gratitude, especially for the little things, has been my daily theme. Our family has always made a dinnertime practice when we’re together of going around the table and sharing something we feel grateful for. As we recently discovered, Lauren and her roommate Lindsay do the same thing at their house, but they have a special name for it, a hold-over from Lindsay’s childhood: Happy Reports.

I love this practice and I particularly love the way these two young women share the news of their day and the doings of their lives by choosing to focus, first and foremost, on what’s good. The words, “I am happy to report” can’t help but bring a smile to a listener’s face. We all did Happy Reports in Asheville and found that our evening meals began on just the right note of intimacy and gratitude as a result.

Steve and I carried Happy Reports home with us and are doing them still – a powerful antidote to a day’s petty grievances or the grim realities of the evening news. Happy reports are a reminder that even the most challenging day contains its moment of grace, if we are willing to seek it out. Happy reports are a way of affirming that we can choose our own responses to the roadblocks fate places in our way. Best of all, happy reports have a way of generating, well, more happiness.

And so, to that end:

I’m happy to report it’s June and once again the days are long and warm and generous. In our yard the lupines, iris, and foxgloves are in full, harmonious bloom. The lilacs were more lush and fragrant this year than they’ve ever been and the peonies are awaiting their moment to take center stage.

IMG_9010I’m happy to report that I can work all day in the garden, come in tired and dirty at dusk, and not even think of reaching for the bottle of ibuprofen. (This feels like a gift.)

IMG_9050.JPGI’m happy to report that I’ve cleaned the screened porch and we’ve already had four dinners and one birthday party out there, listening to the birds sing their evening songs as the sun slips behind the mountains.

IMG_9021.JPGI’m happy to report that our son Jack continues to walk his path of sobriety with a commitment and humility that makes me proud to be his mom. I’m happy to report that we talk on the phone just about every day. I’m happy to report that he’s happy.

I’m happy to report that Steve and I will spend Sunday night in Providence to catch a matinee of Bullets Over Broadway and a glimpse of Henry in the orchestra pit. After the show, he’ll have a week off before heading to Texas for the last leg of this long national tour. I’m happy to report he’ll be home in his old bedroom for the next seven days.

I’m happy to report that our expanded family means there’s more love to go around. Having Lauren join us in Asheville simply made it better – more conversation, more laughter, more fun, more precious memories stored up. And we are all nuts about Carol, a sweet little pup who appeared on Jack’s doorstep a few months ago in need of a home. Perhaps there was a bit of divine intervention there, for Carol came to Jack just as Jack found his way to the twelve steps. He was immediately smitten with her, adopted her, began to train her, and got her certified so she can accompany him to work in the woods. They are a good team both on the job and at home, and Carol is proving to have a knack for the therapeutic intervention: kisses, sock stealing, and tail chasing are all effective tension diffusers. (And although I don’t expect to be a grandmother any time soon, I’m happy to report that Carol seemed to awaken some of my dormant maternal hormones the moment I met her.)

Carol with toyI’m happy to report that my parents have completed the herculean task of emptying out the famly homestead of forty-five years and letting go of an enormous mountain of possessions – with grace and good humor and remarkable energy. I’m happy to report that, after living with us for three weeks, they are finally at home in their new, light-filled cottage and we are now almost-neighbors. I’m happy to report that I can go have lunch with my mom any day – and the drive from my door to hers takes exactly eight minutes.

Although there’s no turning away from the truth of loss or suffering, I’m happy to report that at this particular moment no one in our immediate family is sick or confused or in crisis. I’m happy to report that I’m old enough to know that such a brief, blessed reprieve is all any of us can ever hope for. The clear skies won’t (can’t) last. And when the storm clouds roll back in and the emotional weather of my own life once again takes a dark turn, I also know I’ll somehow manage to gather my courage, reach for a friend’s hand, brave the elements, and carry on.

FullSizeRender.jpgI’m happy to report that with each passing year, the ordinary feels more extraordinary, simple kindnesses matter more, time with family and cherished loved ones becomes increasingly precious, and life’s small enrichments bring greater contentment to my heart than any material riches ever could.

IMG_8998.JPGDone! (As Lauren and Lindsay always say.) And now, my friends, it’s your turn. What is your happy report today? I’d love to hear it!

for my reflections & inspiration

your comments

  1. Elizabeth Stubbs says:

    Ah, these reports make me happy. For you and your family, and for myself, as I am experiencing the same currents in the river. Thank you for articulating them so beautifully, as always, Katrina.

  2. Cynthia says:

    Your thoughts resonate with my current place in life. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for the Happy report process,what a wonderful thing to implement.

  3. Anne White says:

    Thank you, Katrina, for all of the Happy Reports. I continue to be thankful for your reflections. Glad to read that Jack is settling into his adult life and is on the path to a sober life. Carol and Jack did find each other at the exact right time. Good to hear that Henry is doing well. I am happy to report that my younger son, who will be 20 this month, is studying Music Education and Jazz Performance–Percussion at West Chester University. He will hopefully play in an orchestra pit as well. And my older son, who is 21,is an active member of our volunteer fire department, and has a satisfying full time job locally as well. My husband and I have just celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary. We are all healthy, doing well, and are grateful for so much in our lives. We continue to celebrate the gifts of our ordinary days. Thank you!

  4. marlene alves says:

    So timely; so beautiful, Katrina. Thank you!

  5. I love the notion of happy reports. That quote about the little things reminds me of a sign with the same passage that is at Storyland, a place that I went for many years with my children, the ending of which I grieved for several years. Reading it here reminds me that while I miss those days, the sharp grief of their ending has ebbed some, and I’m grateful for that reminder. That’s a happy report, I guess! xox

  6. Joyce Fielding says:

    I am happy to report that I was able to sit and read your entire blog!
    I am happy to report that I found you and your extraordinary gift of words years ago, and that I still connect with you and treasure your insights.
    Thank you!

  7. I am happy to report how much I appreciate your motherly presence in my life on a daily basis. To know you’re on the other end is balm for my soul. I am happy to report that after a long day and driving 5 hours, I returned to your note in the mail. I am happy to report that the love flows both ways. xoxoxo Done! 👏🏼👏🏼

  8. Lisa Buvid says:

    I am happy to report that my husband’s siblings have grown closer in the process of cleaning out their parents house following the sudden death of their mother and helping their father adjust to his assisted living home. Watching them form this strong bond warms my heart.

  9. Beautiful as always, Katrina. I’m happy to hear that you are healed enough to get back to your familiar walking route! And I’m happy to report that today, I took some time off of my work and spent some wonderful quality time with my husband and children. Life is good indeed!

  10. I’m happy to report that this post made me smile, shed a tear and then smile again.
    Thank you Katrina! so eloquently written.
    P.S. I suppose you have thought about a little orthotic insert in your shoe to give yourself a lift and an even gait. Had a similar problem due to a wobbly knee and it has worked wonders for my balance and straight walking!

  11. Kamin Lambertson says:

    I like the daily Happy Report! It’s so easy for me to allow my nervousness to produce negative comments by the end of the day. A requirement to pick something happy during the day and report it would go a long way to that concept to “practice the inner smile” Thanks! Glad your back to walking 4 miles again.

  12. I am happy to report that we, too, (used to) do something similar at dinner time. We had a mis-matched plate called the “Special Plate”. Whoever had Special Plate that evening had to go around the table and say something special or something they appreciate about each person. With my daughter just home from her first year of college, we need to reinstate the tradition, and perhaps incorporate Happy Reports. I like the idea that each person focuses on the positive of the day. It is so easy to become negative in the craziness of daily life. Thank you, Katrina, for helping me to focus on the good things in life. Your insight and suggestions, as always, are appreciated.

  13. I am happy to report that reading this message is so spot on right now. I am happy to report that we spend a whole Saturday evening with our adult son, last night, the first time in many months. I am happy to report that it was an awesome connection. Done😘💕

  14. Happy to report that the news of how full your heart feels with brightness makes me feel happy.

  15. I am happy to report that I had your thoughts to read as I had tea in this early Sunday morning.

  16. Love the idea of happy reports…. and love hearing about yours, Katrina. Our own happy reports include a recent graduation, a new love for golf, reconciliation with a sister, and precious days together as a family before we once again disperse. On the “ordinary” scale, it is rustic avocado sandwiches at a local diner, Little Kim lilacs scenting the deck, a new tripod, and lovely spring bike rides to the library on a local trail. These are the days I want to tuck away for those inevitable stormy times you speak of.

  17. Thank you for sharing! When our kids were smaller, we did something similar at our dinner times. We called it “high/low”. Everyone shared at least one high, and if you wanted to substitute your low with another high, that was also permitted. But you weren’t allowed to just state a low. Everyone had at least one high each day!

    I love reading your blog, you are so eloquent!

  18. It is a blessing to read your beautiful words and to see that there are so many of us in the very same place on our journey. I am happy for all the goodness in your life at the moment, and grateful for the gift of every new day in my own. I am happy to report that I have the grace to realize what a wonderful life I have been given, and that staying positive is definitely the best attitude to take. Sending wishes for a wonderful summer, and thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

  19. Amy Canby says:

    I’m happy to report that, once again, your blog post has brightened my day, given me a candle to follow when things don’t seem so cheerful and another exquisite quote to add to my page of ‘treasured writings’. It makes me think that in our purest heart we all want and strive for the same thing and you, Katrina, put that ‘pure heart’ down in words for the rest of us to read, digest and find a way to bring more fully into our lives. Forever thankful.

  20. I’m happy to report that my peonies are starting to bloom. I watched the first one unfurl over the course of the afternoon yesterday. Today, waking to heavy rain, I silently implored the rest to wait rather than get waterlogged and soggy (and I’m happy to report that they didn’t listen are are doing just fine). I’m happy to report that my son’s memory garden is lush and full and the rest of my garden is shaping up too.

  21. marcela says:

    Im happy for all the happy reports written hear. Please keep writing !

  22. marcela says:

    Im happy for all the happy reports written here. Please keep writing !Today i’ll be planting some lavender and thinking how this is a big moment.

  23. Cynthia says:

    Beautiful and inspiring! Thank you for sharing.

  24. Marilyn LePan says:

    I love getting your emails, they always pick me up and make me realize all I have
    to be grateful for. I am happy to report my bladder surgery is behind me now, it wasn’t
    easy accepting so much help from my neighbours, but I don’t know what I would have
    done without them. Now as I look ahead to my hip replacement, I know I will manage
    just fine. I would love a Carol to show up at my door, so happy that she found Jack
    and that Jack has her to go forward on his journey.
    Please keep your emails coming, I feel like you are a dear friend and I love hearing from you.

  25. Thank you for your “Happy Report”. I so enjoy reading each update you write. I, too, am at that stage in life. I am happy to report that all is well in our family. My son is enrolled in grad school, has a new job and an internship dealing with Mindfulness Stress Reduction, which he loves. My daughter has a full-time job, and a boyfriend of 11months. My husband and I are finding time for ourselves, which makes us calmer individuals. And I am beginning to devote time to new adventures in my own life. Things are on an even keel for the present time. We need to cherish these moments. Thank you for reminding me.

  26. Chris Wells says:

    I am happy to report that, I connected with you several years ago and your words have kept me afloat many times! I am happy to report that my 93 year old mother is now living with me and helping me with my love who suffers from dementia. It is a relief to have her in our house and it allows me to keep working outside the home. Life can be amazing. And those ordinary days?……yes they are amazing!

  27. I’m happy to report that you and your family were in my thoughts yesterday on 101W as my husband and I drove into your dear village of Peterborough before attending a memorial for a dear cousin at Rivermead. I”m happy to report that with such lush green surroundings and blossoms everywhere, the earth is pouring out all its energy this June. I’m grateful you’ve reminded us about saying something positive each day—we used to do that years ago when the girls were little—and I shall reincorporate “Happy Reports” starting tonight – even if it’s just the two of us!

  28. I am happy to that I will be having dinner tonight with my daughter to celebrate her husband’s birthday. They are expecting their first child in two weeks and have asked me to be with them for two weeks following the baby’s birth…I am elevated!

  29. Angela Muller says:

    I am happy to report that I have inspiring friends who have taught me to always look for the rainbow after the rain! Beautiful post, Katrina…many thanks for this!

  30. I’m happy to report this post made me smile.

  31. Elizabeth McCarthy says:

    I am happy to report that it is the first week of summer vacation and my annual tradition is to re-read your book “The Gift of an Ordinary Day.” I do this every summer as a reminder to slow down, breathe and seize every bit of our lazy summer days for being together and making memories. I have two sets of twins (13 and 10) and I welcome the slowness of summer and the time to just be together. Your words, insight and advice are like salve for my soul — thank you for always sharing them.

  32. I’m happy to report you feeling happy makes smile!😘

  33. Sweetest Katrina, I rejoice with you as this new, fulfilling chapter of your life bursts into glorious bloom! Happy Reports are charming and brilliant – yet another wonderful gift from your precious Lauren. There are numerous layers to the deep-down delight your words have brought me today, but if you really want to know, I’m happy to report that you, my dear, dear friend, have made an everlasting, beautiful difference in my life. Bless you, love you, always~ x o x o

  34. Leontina says:

    It makes me happy to envision you walking without pain!
    I am happy to report that my High Mowing graduate whom you saw in last springs play when we unknowingly sat next to each other,has had a fabulous gap year incl. 3 weeks of hiking in NZ with me😊,will be returning from 2 months of mountaineering soon and I can’t wait to hug him!
    It makes me happy to report that my 16 year old builds secret houses in the woods at HMS and finds his way through the forest at night…joyfully reporting from his adventures in life!
    It makes me happy to report that I gave myself the gift of a trip to the Amazon for my 60th year and came back with a renewed enchantment with life and myself!
    Life is precious and filled with wonder!

  35. Katrina, I am happy to report that after reading your story and the heartwarming comments afterwards, I only have “happy thoughts”.

  36. Lindsay Corris says:

    I am happy to report that this blog has brought me much joy today in light of the loss I have experienced today with my dear cousin dying in a tragic accident. There is so much gratitude that comes from loss. Today I am grateful that I can feel the love from so many people who I hold dear during this time of loss – Katrina, you being one of them and Lauren, your surrogate daughter, being the other. Thank you for all of the wonderful reminders that have been posted for all of the things we can be happy to report! Life is precious – don’t take anything for granted.

  37. I have just finished watching, again, the video of your reading from The Gift of an Ordinary Day, moved at how much you’ve shared with us throughout the years, through your books, your blogs, videos, family photos and your deeply soulful self. I rejoice that you’ve regained the use of your legs (there was a day when I suddenly grew old) and that your son continues on the road to sobriety.

  38. I’m happy to hear your reports and I’m happy to report that I am, at this moment, strangely happy for no particular reason.

  39. Stephanie says:

    Thanks for the uplifting post! After reading it I got out my Gratitude Journal. I was behind in my entries so I thought back over the past 5 days. I am happy that I was able to update it with a happy memory from each day!

  40. Thank you for sharing Karina. I, too, am feeling so very grateful and also accepting of all the many facets of my life. Rejoicing right along with you!

  41. Mary Ann says:

    I got to spend an hour this afternoon holding a 6 month old baby who cuddled and fell asleep in my arms. It was beautiful and wonderful, and I am so grateful for this extraordinary time. It has been years since I held a sleeping baby and the experience really soothed my soul.

  42. Candace says:

    I’m happy you sent a “happy report” Katrina! You’ve been on my mind lately wondering if I had missed a post. You always have a way of speaking to something happening in my life. Continue to enjoy each new day In this beautiful space you find yourself.

  43. I’m happy to report I’m 75 and still in love! He is a real Prince!

  44. Good Morning and thank you. I am “happy to report” that although I face physical challenges as well I am about to ride my beautiful Lusitano Stallion this morning. Now in my 70’s I’m so grateful that I can do this and am in fact perhaps a better equine partner athlete today than I ever was. Like your parents I am downsizing and giving away stuff from my former big city life. Thank you for sharing sadness, joy and triumph and for the realization that they can all happen in the midst of an extraordinary ordinary day.

  45. On the list of happy reports to me has to be the blessings that the internet I often bemoan can bring — blogs like yours enrich me in astonishing ways. Done.

  46. Thank you, I love the idea of happy reports. I’m wishing I had thought of this before my kids started growing up and away, but maybe I’ll just keep it all to myself – and my blog – for now. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

  47. I am happy to report we are also selling our parents’ home of nearly 50 years. A sweet family inquired as they could tell it was empty. The process of passing along our beloved home feels intimate and honoring. . . I hid toys in the secret tunnel on the third floor for their young children to discover. The young couple wanted to hear our traditions and family stories. My five siblings and I divided the meaningful contents without issue and are an amazing care team for my 91 year old father with dementia. The new owners appreciate the heart of our childhood home and long time family gathering place. Every time I have returned to the house since my mother’s passing four years ago, the visit felt like a visit to the tree in the Shel Silverstein book The Giving Tree. . . the house had a new bit of wisdom to whisper to me in my mid-life. . . She (the house) held such refuge for us. . . she was trying to teach me how to feel held as I hold so many others in this season of life, including my father and two children.
    I love that you named the sense of wondering if this latter part of life will hold a chronic sense of grief. . . it has been a lingering question particularly now as I release this old intimate friend. . . this place whose sounds and smells are so dense with memory and soothing. In the last few days with the joys of early summer, I feel lighter too. I am so grateful.

    • Joyce Fielding says:

      I love your post, Amy. It makes my heart ache and rejoice, almost simultaneously…if that makes sense. How beautiful that you are passing on your special family home to a new family who want to know the history of the home and its traditions. And how wonderful that you and your siblings peacefully divided the contents. I am happy to report that I read your post tonight, and that it gives me hope. Thank you for sharing.

  48. Carrie Eklund says:

    Beautifully written as usual. I’m very happy that you are in a good place right now after all the struggles you’ve had recovering from your surgeries. I’m happy to report that my youngest daughter will graduate from high school on Friday. I’m happy to report that I was able to connect up with a wonderful friend today that I don’t see often. Thank you for the reminder to look for something happy to report each day.

  49. Gretchen says:

    Katrina, your books and this blog have always touched me deeply, often bringing tears. I am currently dealing with a foot condition of my own which has prevented me from my three mile walks, a source of great joy and solace to me. Not being able to do this has been anxiety producing and depressing. I finally made a decision to have a procedure done which will hopefully restore my ability to walk for exercise and then, God willing, I will have the same joyous experience you have as you walk each morning. I am so glad you are better.
    Getting older is all about grief and loss. Facing losses we haven’t fully grieved and losses that are yet to come. I find myself feeling more nostalgic for days gone by and
    wondering how I will feel in the future. Your writing gives me hope that I am not alone in these feelings.
    I am happy to report that I have many people, both professional and friends and spouse, who have helped me on this journey hopefully back to walking through the beautiful woods and mountains nearby soon.
    Thank you for your insights. They are so special to me.

  50. I am happy to report that Happy Reports are going to be part of my family’s daily practice. Love this so much!!!

  51. Elizabeth says:

    Katrina, thank you. Each time I read your words, I feel them connecting directly to my soul. I love this “happy reports” tradition and intend to begin it with my family. My youngest of three boys just graduated from high school, so it will likely be more of a holiday tradition, but I will incorporate it whenever possible. Your comment about “low-grade grief” caught my attention – I have wondered the same. Thank you for providing hope. Bless you for sharing your beautiful heart. I am happy to report that I am tremendously grateful for you.

  52. Hope Riley says:

    Because you mentioned that someone sent you a copy of “When Wanderers Cease to Roam”, I got a copy through my library, and liked it so much I bought a copy for myself, and sent a copy to my friend Diane. Because she liked it so much and we are both gardeners, she sent me a copy of Vivian Swift’s other book, Gardens of Awe and Folly. Because I liked that one so much, I sent a copy of it to my friend Sharon. That’s my happy report!

  53. carolyn says:

    My thoughts always come in heavy, rapid dowpours when I read your blogs.I always think – that’s what I want to do – I want to write my thoughts – I want to work out my anxiousness and my peace on paper. I want to blog. But in the meantime, I want to share a happy report that in my advancing years of sixty plus I’m about to celebrate my one year anniversary of my second marriage. I’m happy to report that someone loves me – simply thinks I’m awesome! I’m happy to report that my youngest, whom I’ve worried about minute by minute, day by day, year by year has found a wonderful girl and they are on their way to a life together, morgage, dog and all! I’m also happy to report that my daughter, although she would have loved to have been married, never found that right person, has instead found that right career for her. She is a special ed teacher and loves it! She touches lives, she holds their struggles and pulls them through with kindness and love. My oldest son, well, he’s the challenge and mostly is his own worse enemy. He too married recently, however, a few months later lost his job, both his old, barely functioning cars completely died and now he’s – well as I said – he’s is his worse challenge to himself. But in the light of finding something good to say – it could always be worse.

  54. I’m happy to report that I have appreciated and savored your inspiring words through many years. Thank you. I am happy to report that “happy reports” will live on, taking a routine role in my life at home and at staff meetings.

  55. Your happy reports make me so happy!! What good good news. You have had pain for so long and I am so glad your hardships are behind you. I have been in awe of your bravery these last months. The to let way to learn to let go is to have what we love ripped away. I am grateful for your graceful example.

  56. Winifred says:

    I am happy to report that my dogs’ jubilant greetings make me feel like a rock star.

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