Category Archives: happiness

That Bluebird of Happiness

Blue birds

Yes, this is an old post from 2017r that is ironically about going back and rereading old posts.  Sorry about that.  But it made me laugh when I reread it.

I often go back and re-read old posts, particularly when I discover that someone else has read them.  It is amazing to me how differently I perceive things from when I actually wrote the post.  As you write, squeezing huge, boulder-sized portions of hot, magma-like burning ideas and passions out through writing orifices not nearly big enough to accommodate, you usually hate what you wrote and are still writhing in pain from the creation of it as you try to edit it, trim it and brush its unruly hair.  (How’s that for a mixed metaphor to make you cringe?)  But given time and distance, you can really appreciate what you wrote more than ever before.  Things that you thought were the stupidest idea a man ever put in words suddenly have the power to make you laugh, or make you cry.  You are able to feel the things the writing was intended to make you feel.  You begin to think things like, “Maybe you are not the worst writer that ever lived, and maybe that’s not why nobody ever reads your books.”  But then, of course, your sister reads the post and tells you that you write like a really old, really crabby, really ancient old man.  And you use the word “really” too much too.  I know I deserve that, Sis.  Especially the “really” part.

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Here’s a post that I reread and liked today about Bob Ross.

This is the thing about happiness;  It is elusive and rare as a real-life blue bird. But capturing it for a moment is not impossible.  And as long as you don’t try to salt its tail and keep it prisoner, you can encourage it to sing for you.  (Much better metaphor this time, don’t you think?)  vintage-coca-cola-ad-1950s-1960s-clownb

When I am accused of being gloomy, old, and boring, I can happily admit it and make it into something funny.  I am something of a conspiracy nut, but not so serious that I believe all my own assertions.  For those people who took offense at this conspiracy theory of mine; Coca-Cola Mind Control, I would like to point out that “Hey, I was joking.  I actually like clowns.”  Even though there is a serious side to everything and there can’t be laughter without some tears, I am basically happy with the way things are.

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I started listening to “Live Happy Radio” on Sunday mornings on KLUV in Dallas.  They point out on their program of endlessly droning happy-talk that happiness is something that you can work at.  Like humor writing in blogs, it takes practice and practice and time.  They even asked me to share the word about their happy magazine and products, so I am doing exactly that right here.  Sometimes you simply have to put your cynicism in a jar on the shelf next to the lock box where you keep depression and self-loathing.  So you can find their Live-Happy folderol right here.

So I am bird-watching again with an eye out for the bluebird.  You know the one.  It is out there somewhere.  And I need to hear that song one more time.

Blue birds

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Filed under artwork, goofy thoughts, happiness, humor, insight, inspiration, irony, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Reading Twain for a Lifetime

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I wish to leave no doubt unturned like a stone that might have treasure hidden under it.  I love the works of Samuel L. Clemens, better known as Mark Twain.

I have read and studied his writing for a lifetime, starting with The Adventures of Tom Sawyer which I read for myself in the seventh grade, after seeing the musical movie Tom Sawyer starring Johnny Whittaker as Tom.  I caught a severe passion, more serious than a head-cold, for the wit and wisdom with which Twain crafted a story.  It took me a while to acquire and read more… but I most definitely did.  I took an American Literature course in college that featured Twain, and I read and analyzed The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  I also bought a copy of Pudd’nhead Wilson which I would later devour in the same thoroughly literate and pretentious manner as I had Huck Finn.  Copies of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and The Mysterious Stranger were purchased at the same time, though I didn’t read them cover to cover until later during my years as a middle school English teacher.  I should point out, however, that I read and re-read both of those, Connecticut Yankee winning out by being read three times.  As a teacher, I taught Tom Sawyer as an in-class novel assignment in the time when other teachers thought I was more-or-less crazy for trying to teach a 100-year-old book to mostly Hispanic non-readers.  While the lunatic-inspired experiment was not a total success, it was not a total failure either.  Some kids actually liked having me read parts of it aloud to them, and some borrowed copies of the book to reread it for themselves after we finished as a class.

marktwaindvd2006During my middle-school teaching years I also bought and read copies of The Prince and the Pauper, Roughing It, and Life on the Mississippi.  I would later use a selection from Roughing It as part of a thematic unit on Mark Twain where I used Will Vinton’s glorious clay-mation movie, The Adventures of Mark Twain as a way to painlessly introduce my kids to the notion that Mark Twain was funny and complex and wise.

I have also read and used some of Twain’s most famous short fictions.  “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” and “The Man Who Corrupted Hadleyburg” are both masterpieces of Twain’s keen insight into the human psyche and the goofy and comic corruptions he finds there.

And now, retired old me has most recently read Tom Sawyer Abroad.  And, though it is not one of his finest works, I still love it and am enthralled.  I reviewed it and shared it with you a few days ago.  But I will never be through with Mark Twain.  Not only is there more of him to read, but he has truly been a lifelong friend.

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Consecutive Daily Post #587

This is a new and better photo of an old colored-pencil picture. Yes, there are copyrighted characters in this multi-portrait, but I am not making any money at all with this post, so I am not violating anybody’s copyright.

This is the 587th consecutive day of Mickey posting at least one post on this danged old Catch a Falling Star thingy. That is not a record or even a milestone. I have reached this point at least twice before.

This is an oil painting you haven’t seen in a long time on this blog, though this is also a new and better photo of it.

A year ago in September, I lost my mother to heart and kidney problems that conspired to defeat her doctors and bring an end to her consecutive run of 87 years of being alive. I kept writing and posting all during that time because it helped in many ways. In two consecutive years, I lost both of my parents, my Dad in 2020 and my Mom in 2021. I had a lot of memories to process as well as an inheritance and all the stages of grief. The time I spent writing resulted in two books, Laughing Blue and Mickey’s Rememberries, that contained all of it… I mean most of it… err, maybe just some important parts of it. And I had them both published before my mother died, though she never got to read either one.

This is basically a portrait of my daughter, the Princess, though it was drawn more than a decade before she was born. It is based on a dream. I don’t expect you to believe any of that. And that is because it is often hard to take the truth of things at face value. Truth is only an idea after all.

I am beginning to be noticed as a writer. It is painfully slow, only a dollar or two at a time, but real. People are actually reading my books without being paid to do it. And a few of them even like the stories. I now have 21 books written. I have #22 written, but not yet published. I also have #23, a novella, only two chapters from finished. And I have started both #24 and #25 already. And the potential is there… but it is also a good thing that I don’t depend on writing for income.

This is a picture of daily life in a sealed environment on Mars, created in 1980 with a pencil and paper.

I have managed in 65 years to create some evidence that I can do art in a couple of different forms with intelligence and humor (though I’m sure there are some readers who would strongly dispute that I have either quality in any amount at all.) It is enough. I may not be the superstar I once dreamed of being. But I have learned that I wouldn’t want to be that anyway. Being an ordinary unrecognized genius is good enough to justify a life.

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Every Day

Every day has its own badness.

Enough to sour the milk.

But if you put your rollerskates on,

Wool sweaters start to feel like silk.

And the rolling life goes up and down,

And you’ll probably have some spills,

But do not take the rollerskates off…

It’s worth it for the thrills.

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Impossibly Positive

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Impossibly Positive

(a poem about positive people)

Oakie Doak was a positive man,

Who smiled as much as any man can,

And said nice things to girls and boys,

And sour-faced men he often annoys.

The whole Doak family always feel fine,

At tables all made with both oak and pine.

But scammers from Nigeria

Took every dime anywhere near ya,

And the IRS did charge him double

In fines they argued were for the trouble

He caused accountants in adding for

The many dollars he had no more,

Doak told his wife, “No problem, Honey,

We still have love, and it’s only money.”

And when the people he loved had died,

He simply said, “I’ve always tried

To make the best of the time we had,

And the memories will always make me glad.”

Oakie Doak is disgustingly happy

And decidedly stupid and also sappy.

But he lives his life on a positive whim,

And, of course, I really wish I was him.

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Sweet Success

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I told you I would do it.  And then I basically did.

 

My daughter and I got it up in the air.

 

The sun, the wind, and the kite all worked together to help me overcome the blues.

 

 

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We got it up so high that all the kite string was played out.

But then it finally came down.

And still…  I was happier.

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Filed under battling depression, happiness, Uncategorized

Now You See Me… Now You Don’t

How does an artist know himself?  Now there’s a difficult question.  I spend all my time looking at the world with the eyes of imagination.  I don’t even seem to be able to take photographs in the normal way other people do.  Maybe I should consider this self-think through the medium of pictures I have made with captions added to them?

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Mickey is not actually me.  He is my “other” me, my pen name, my goofier self.

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                                                      I was born in a blizzard in Mason City, Iowa in the 1950’s.

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I have learned about dog poop five times a day since 2011 when we found Jade, our dog.

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                                                                                                                      I was a middle school teacher for 24 of my 31 years of teaching.  I love/hate 7th Graders.

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When things go wrong, I tend to make a joke about it.

I like to draw students as I saw them, not as they really were.

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I always see myself as the one with the BIG pencil.

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If there is goofiness around here, it is all my fault.

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                                                                                           In spite of the title, I don’t know how to disappear.

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I love everything Disney.

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I tend not to be very much like other people.  I don’t think like they do.

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                                                                                                                         In grade school, I was deeply in love with Alicia Stewart, though I never told her that, and that is not her real name.

My high school art teacher told me that when an artist draws someone, he always ends up making it look a little bit like himself.  That is because, I suppose, an artist can only draw what he knows and he really only knows himself.  That being said, this post should really look just like me.

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That Bluebird of Happiness

Blue birds

I often go back and re-read old posts, particularly when I discover that someone else has read them.  It is amazing to me how differently I perceive things from when I actually wrote the post.  As you write, squeezing huge, boulder-sized portions of hot, magma-like burning ideas and passions out through writing orifices not nearly big enough to accommodate, you usually hate what you wrote and are still writhing in pain from the creation of it as you try to edit it, trim it and brush its unruly hair.  (How’s that for a mixed metaphor to make you cringe?)  But given time and distance, you can really appreciate what you wrote more than ever before.  Things that you thought were the stupidest idea a man ever put in words suddenly have the power to make you laugh, or make you cry.  You are able to feel the things the writing was intended to make you feel.  You begin to think things like, “Maybe you are not the worst writer that ever lived, and maybe that’s not why nobody ever reads your books.”  But then, of course, your sister reads the post and tells you that you write like a really old, really crabby, really ancient old man.  And you use the word “really” too much too.  I know I deserve that, Sis.  Especially the “really” part.

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Here’s a post that I reread and liked today about Bob Ross.

This is the thing about happiness;  It is elusive and rare as a real-life blue bird. But capturing it for a moment is not impossible.  And as long as you don’t try to salt its tail and keep it prisoner, you can encourage it to sing for you.  (Much better metaphor this time, don’t you think?)  vintage-coca-cola-ad-1950s-1960s-clownb

When I am accused of being gloomy, old, and boring, I can happily admit it and make it into something funny.  I am something of a conspiracy nut, but not so serious that I believe all my own assertions.  For those people who took offense at this conspiracy theory of mine; Coca-Cola Mind Control, I would like to point out that “Hey, I was joking.  I actually like clowns.”  Even though there is a serious side to everything and there can’t be laughter without some tears, I am basically happy with the way things are.

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I started listening to “Live Happy Radio” on Sunday mornings on KLUV in Dallas.  They point out on their program of endlessly droning happy-talk that happiness is something that you can work at.  Like humor writing in blogs, it takes practice and practice and time.  They even asked me to share the word about their happy magazine and products, so I am doing exactly that right here.  Sometimes you simply have to put your cynicism in a jar on the shelf next to the lock box where you keep depression and self-loathing.  So you can find their Live-Happy folderol right here.

So I am bird-watching again with an eye out for the bluebird.  You know the one.  It is out there somewhere.  And I need to hear that song one more time.

Blue birds

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Filed under artwork, goofy thoughts, happiness, humor, insight, inspiration, irony, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Mr. Happy

I know that I am probably the last person you would think of to ask for advice on how to be happy. I am a crotchety old coot, a former middle-school English teacher, a grumpy old-enough-to-be-a-grandpa non-grandpa, an atheist, a nudist, and a conspiracy theorist. You would expect someone like me to be out in his yard in his underwear yelling at pigeons for pooping on his car more than they do his wife’s car. Be that as it may, I am also basically happy.

You know what happy looks like, surely. After Christmas day is over you see two kinds of kids. One kind is miserable and grumbling in his or her room about their Christmas gift that they didn’t get, in spite of the five expensive toys they did get. Yeah, that one’s never going to be happy. Then there’s the other kind, the one happily breaking or playing with the few cheap toys their parents could afford, using more of their own imagination than the imagination the toy companies pay someone to put into their TV or YouTube toy commercials. That one is going to be somebody you can rely on for years to come. That’s the kind of kid I like to think I was. Of course, I’m probably wrong about that too. Being a middle-school teacher gives you plenty of opportunity to learn the lesson that you are actually wrong about everything in life, and like Socrates, you know absolutely nothing for sure about anything.

Years upon years of being a public school teacher, the butt of comedians’ best school-memory jokes, the target of Republican spending cuts for saving enough money to give massive tax cuts to billionaires, and having to be every kind of professional for every kind of kid, no matter how ugly and unlovable they are, teaches you where true happiness comes from.

A. You have to learn to love the job you are trying to do. And…

B. You need to do the job you love with every resource you can squeeze out of your poor, battery-powered soul.

I did that. I did the job all the way from deluded and idealistic days of youth to cynical and caustic old age hanging onto your job by the fingernails until you have to choose between dying in front of the whole classroom of horrified kiddos you have learned to love, or going kicking and screaming into retirement to maybe live a bit longer than you would have if you had stayed at your work station in the idiot-to-income-earner factory for young minds.

Being satisfied with the career you chose and the success or failure you made of it is not the only factor in being happy. Teachers don’t earn much compared to corporate informational presenters who do the same job for a lot more money in front of a lot less hostile audiences far fewer times a day. So, it helps if you can manage to need less stuff in life. After all, stuff costs lots of money. Especially stuff you don’t really need.

That is why being a nudist and not having to worry about how much you spend on clothes helps a lot with your basic level of happiness and peace of mind. Also, lots of vitamin D soaked up through your nude all-togetherness produces happy-hormones in the brain.

Being an avowed pessimist is good for being happier in life as well. After all, the pessimist is always prepared for the worst to happen. And since the worst rarely is what actually happens, the pessimist is never shocked and dismayed and is frequently pleasantly surprised.

And so, here is Mr. Happy’s secret to a long and happy life;

  1. Tell yourself that the job you have to do is the job you love to do often enough that you actually begin to believe it.
  2. Do that job you love as hard and as well as it is possible for you to do.
  3. Love the people you work for and the people you work with, even if you have to pretend really hard until it becomes real to you too.
  4. Be satisfied with the stuff you need, and try to need as little as possible. The man whose paycheck is bigger than his bills is happier than the man whose paycheck only pays for a portion of the interest on his wife’s credit cards.
  5. Wear fewer clothes. You don’t need them in a quickly warming world. And you should love the skin you’re in.
  6. Expect the worst possible outcome from everything in life, and then there is nowhere to go but upwards.

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A Mr. Holland Moment

Life is making music.  We hum, we sing to ourselves, movie music plays in our head as the soundtrack to our daily life. At least, it does if we stop for a moment and dare to listen.   We make music in many different ways.  Some play guitar.  Some are piano players.  And some of us are only player pianos.  Some of us make music by writing a themed paragraph like this one.  Others make an engine sing in the automotive shop.  Still others plant gardens and make flowers or tomatoes grow.  I chose teaching kids to read and write.  The music still swells in my ears four years after retiring.

The 1995 movie, Mr. Holland’s Opus, is about a musician who thinks he is going to write a magnificent classical orchestra opus while teaching music at a public high school to bring in money and allow him time to compose and be with his young wife as they start a new family.

But teaching is not, of course, what he thought it was.  He has to learn the hard way that it is not an easy thing to open up the closed little clam shells that are the minds of students and put music in.  You have to learn who they are as people first.  You have to learn to care about what goes on in their lives, and how the world around them makes them feel… and react to what you have to teach.  Mr. Holland has to learn to pull them into music appreciation using rock and roll and music they like to listen to, teaching them to understand the sparkles and beats and elements that make it up and can be found in all music throughout their lives.  They can even begin to find those things in classical music, and appreciate why it has taken hold of our attention for centuries.

And teaching is not easy.  You have to make sacrifices.  Big dreams, such as a magnum opus called “An American Symphony”, have to be put on the shelf until later.  You have children, and you find that parenting isn’t easy either.  Mr. Holland’s son is deaf and can never actually hear the music that his father writes from the center of his soul.  And the issue of the importance of what you have to teach becomes something you have to fight for.  Budget cuts and lack of funding cripples teachers in every field, especially if you teach the arts.  Principals don’t often appreciate the value of the life lessons you have to give.  Being in high school band doesn’t get you a high paying job later.

But in the end, at the climax of the movie, the students all come back to honor Mr. Holland.  They provide a public performance of his magnum opus, his life’s work.  And the movie ends with a feeling that it was all worth it, because what he built was eternal, and will be there long after the last note of his music is completely forgotten.  It is in the lives and loves and memories of his students, and they will pass it on.

But this post isn’t a movie review.  This post is about my movie, my music.  I was a teacher in the same way Mr. Holland was.  I learned the same lessons about being a teacher as he did.  I had the same struggles to learn to reach kids.  And my Mr. Holland moment wasn’t anywhere near as big and as loud as Mr. Holland’s.  His was performed on a stage in front of the whole school and alumni.  His won Richard Dreyfus an Academy Award for Best Actor.  But his was only fictional.

Mine was real.  It happened in a portable building on the Naaman Forest High School campus.  The students and the teacher in the classroom next door threw a surprise party for me.  They made a lot of food to share, almost all of which I couldn’t eat because of diabetes.  And they told me how much they would miss me, and that they would never forget me.  And I had promised myself I would never cry about having to retire.  But I broke my promise.  In fact, I am crying now four years later.  But they are not tears of sadness.  My masterwork has now reached its last, bitter-sweet notes.  The crescendos have all faded.  But the music of our lives will still keep playing.  And not even death can silence it completely.

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