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News[letter] From The Happy Side


All good stories about the happy side must begin with a situation that appears less than “happy.” This one is about a dock at the lake near my home. 

It began last summer on a particularly hot day. Having mowed, edged, and weeded my lawn, I (Alan) was also particularly hot. What a perfect time to dash over to the lake and jump off the end of the dock into the cool, refreshing water. I did just that. And as I dove and my feet left the dock I suddenly realized that my cell phone was still in my pocket. Big mistake.

Fast forward to this summer. Remembering last year, I now take special care when going on to the end of the dock. I learned to leave my phone in the car. At the dock I shed what I have with care. My sunglasses and car keys get carefully wrapped inside my rolled up shirt which sits on top of my flip flops and under my carefully folded beach towel.

Nothing could go wrong, right? On a particular recent sunny day, the end of the dock was crowded with sunbathers. With limited room, I carefully place my systematically and thoughtfully prepared belongings next to a neighbor I know, near the edge of the dock, but with plenty of room so that it will not be knocked into the water.

I go and enjoy a cool jump in the water, and after cooling down, I get out. My carefully placed belongings are exactly where I left them. I take the towel off the top and dry myself off. I unroll my shirt, grab my glasses, and then as I go to grab my keys, as if in slow motion, my keys fall out of my shirt and drop down to the dock. Is this story done? No. Upon hitting the dock, the keys take one short bounce  and drop directly into the lake.

Luckily I have another set of car keys, so all is not lost, but I still can’t believe my keys are at the bottom of the lake, eight feet down, in a bunch of weeds.

I jump back into the lake and dive down three times holding my breath (proverbially and literally). No keys.

I’m thinking that the keys aren’t going to move much since they have some weight and there’s no current in the lake. So I go back the next day with my SCUBA mask, confident that I’ll find my keys. Again I dive down three times without results. I’m frustrated and out of breath.

You may be asking yourselves about now, what does any of this have to do with the happy side? I could have done nothing. I could have gone to the dealership and obtained another key and fob. Expensive. Or I could approach the problem creatively, seeking a “happy side” solution.

I dried off and approached the teenager who was checking memberships at the entrance, hanging out with five of his friends, all looking bored. I took out a twenty dollar bill and said . . . who wants to make twenty bucks? The first person to find my keys at the bottom of the lake will get twenty dollars!

For this group of teenagers with nothing to do and probably little money in their pockets, the money, and the fun of diving for the keys, was just what they were looking for. In short order I had six teenagers diving off the end of the dock looking for my keys. Thinking it might be a while, I left my phone number and went home to make some lunch.

Within fifteen minutes I received a call. Keys found! I jumped back in my car and ran back to the beach. Standing there were six wet kids, all with huge smiles on their faces. And the biggest smile of all was on the kid who found my keys. That put a big smile on my face too.

The “happy side” is almost always there. We just have to be open to finding it. That twenty dollars was the best twenty dollars I’ve spent in a long time. Six happy kids, one relieved and happy adult (me), and keys that were now back in my pocket.

Post script: After two days in a baggy filled with rice, the key fob dried out and is now working perfectly.

Choose to find the happy side in everything you do!

Alan B. Havis and Alice B. McGinty

Quotes From the Happy Side

“It’s not about the cards you’re dealt, but how you play the hand.” –Randy Pausch 

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us.” –Helen Keller  

“You’re happy if you think you’re happy.” –Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project

News From the Happy Side

Many months ago, Alan and I made a plan. This July, to support our new book, The Sea Knows, we’d go on an east coast book signing tour. We contacted independent bookstores up and down the east coast to let them know we’d be coming and to set up events. Then, well, you know. Pandemic. But surely this would all be over by July, we thought. 

Well, the bookstores have begun to open but none are doing in person events yet. But in “happy side” style, we’ve decided to go ahead with the trip. We’ll visit the bookstores, say hello, and sign any books they have… AND we’ll videotape each visit and share it on our social media. We’re sure to meet a lot of special people and new adventures await! 

We leave on July 2. We’d love for you to follow us! Look for our videos on Pinterest at , and on Instagram at our NEW handle, @HappySideNews

Ready to hit the road! Let’s hope Petey (Alan’s moody 2005 PT Cruiser) cooperates…Stay tuned!

Happiness Is

Happiness is singing around a campfire with my (Alice) campers at Words on Fire Writing Camp for Teens. Feeling free, wholesome, and happy for the first time in months! 

What is your Happiness? Follow this link to share your “Happiness Is” and we’ll pass it along! 

Song From the Happy Side

Happy, by Natasha Bedingield

Book From the Happy Side

The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin (Part 2)

Finishing out the year of Gretchen Rubin’s “The Happiness Project” was a joy. I listened to the book digitally and loved hearing Gretchen’s voice (she read the book herself) speaking to me as she chronicled her experiences in working every day to increase her happiness. Here’s a summary of her second six months, each dedicated to one element of happiness with specific action items.

July: Buy Some Happiness (Money)

Gretchen examines the complex relationship between happiness and money. She knew that money doesn’t buy happiness, but realized that it can help if we understand our own relationship with money. Are we spenders or keepers, underbuyers or overbuyers? Her action items were: 

  • Indulge in a modest splurge
  • Buy needful things
  • Spend out (spend the money you have, spread it around)
  • Give something up

August: Contemplate the Heavens (Eternity)

Turning her thoughts further inward to focus on spirituality and admit her own happiness, Gretchen’s action items were:

  • Read memoirs of catastrophe (to better appreciate what she has)
  • Keep a gratitude journal (though she decided to stop this, as the pressure to keep it up weighed too heavily on her)
  • Imitate a spiritual master 

September: Pursue a Passion 

Gretchen realized she had to “Be Gretchen,” one of her self-commandments, which meant honoring who she was and not trying to pursue activities she believed she “should” be passionate about. With that in mind, her action items were:

  • Write a novel
  • Make time
  • Forget about results
  • Master a new technology

October: Pay Attention (Mindfulness)

This month was about stopping to reflect and enjoy the little things. Instead of multi-tasking, she focused on enjoying each moment, such as watching her children play. 

  • Meditate (though she tried, she couldn’t meditate and allowed herself to stop trying)
  • Examine true rules
  • Stimulate the mind in new ways
  • Keep a food diary

November: Keep a Contented Heart (Attitude)

Following another of her self-commandments, “Act the way you want to feel,” Gretchen’s action items were:

  • Laugh out loud (though this didn’t come naturally to her she forced it at first until it became more natural)
  • Use good manners
  • Give positive reviews (look for the good in everything – as she realized she often did the opposite)
  • Find an area of refuge

December: Boot Camp Perfect (Happiness)

Gretchen worked to follow ALL of her action items this month. Though she succeeded in some and not in others, she was able to recap and reflect on her year, putting everything together. She realized that the biggest boosts to her happiness came from eliminating all those behaviors, feelings, and thoughts that made her feel bad, from clutter to snapping and nagging, to bad food. Her most effective tool was her resolution chart, which kept her focused each day on her goals. Ending by encouraging readers to make their own Happiness Projects, she concludes the book with this paragraph:

“The year is over, and I really am happier. After all my research, I found out what I knew all along: I could change my life without changing my life. When I made the effort to reach out for them, I found that the ruby slippers had been on my feet all along; the blue bird was singing outside my kitchen window.”

Activity From the Happy Side

In her Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin came up with twelve commandments to help her. These included “Be Gretchen,” “Do it now,” “Let it go,” “Lighten up,” and “There is only love.”

In her blog at, Gretchen says, “When I look at my Twelve Commandments, I realize that five of them are actually quotations from other people. My father repeatedly reminds me to “Enjoy the process.” A respected boss told me to “Be polite and be fair.” A good friend told me that she’d decided that “There is only love” in her heart for a difficult person.”

Try coming up with your own list of commandments. What phrases have stuck with you in your life? How can they help you get through a situation you’re in now?

Thank you for reading this latest News[letter] From The Happy Side. We hope it’s brought you some joy on this first day of July. Be safe, be healthy, and be happy!


Alice and Alan 

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