How Happy is Your New Year?


Happy New Year.

Either I am getting older, or the world is getting more complicated—or both. This year at The Shining Beautiful Series, we decided to keep our celebrations simple, grabbing for clarity rather than verbosity.

On January 2nd, sitting in my favorite coffee shop awaiting the arrival of my delicious latte, I flipped through my smartphone like so many folks do these days.  I stumbled upon a New Year’s blog post written by Bono, member of the famous band U2.  I was inspired.  Bono’s recent injuries from a bicycle accident in Central Park gave him time to reflect, to re-soul, as it were.

Last year’s I wrote about Resolutions. This year our first post of 2015 is both reflective and resolute….re-souling.  For the month of January, our focus is on the “Happy” of Happy New Year. You will see posts from many members of our community zeroing in on their ideas and thoughts regarding the subject of happiness.

But first, let us wish you a Happy New Year!

Here we go:

H is for Health and Happiness.

Recently, I opened my gmail account inbox and saw the email I had been dreading, but knew would come. “I have some sad news.” It read. A light had left this plane. A friend had passed.

My friend and I met as sorority sisters at the University of Northern Colorado.  College life was great, we enjoyed learning our future professions and savored the freedom it brought. Girls grew into women.

My friend, nicknamed the General, was tough as linebacker, tender as a marshmallow and always carried the sunshine with her, even on rainy days. We shared beer breakfasts, dinner dances and celebrated marriage engagements.  Our rituals set the stage for the rest of our adult lives.

Decades passed with occasional lunches and telephone calls as we pursued careers, married and raised children.  Then, came the long overdue reunion. Forty women from all over the country and refreshed their collective spirits in the Colorado Mountains. Friendships re-kindled, the sisterhood reconnected and re-souled.

And then, suddenly, it changed. Cherish health. Celebrate happiness. Take time to re-soul.

A is for Abundance.

Frequently in the world of disability, assumptions of poverty and limitation dominate like an unkind warden. But, at the Shining Beautiful community, abundance is the lifeblood of our existence and is darn near sacred. Our passions revolve around learning, growing and expanding our personal connections, rather on limitation.

Our job is to have an abundance of laughter and fun in 2015. So let the good times roll.

P is for Patience.

The twin sisters of happiness are patience and poise. As brightly as our world shines, we still experience the storms of life like everyone else. During those times, we seek elegant solutions reaching deep into our souls capturing the necessary poise and patience needed for the sometimes soul-sucking routines of daily life.

Patience creates space in life allowing us time to grow into our problems and discover the once elusive answers we sought. In time, the clouds of doubt and despair will part. Poise allows us the grace not to create more problems than we need.

P is for Persistence.

While the body tires and the mind grows weary, the heart persistently pursues our dreams.

As an example, I am reminded of a Christmas gift I received from my son, Kasey as a teenager.  He wrapped the small rectangular package with precision and care.  Curious, I pulled the tape from the end, gently tearing back the silver and gold Happy Holidays wrapping paper. Inside, I found a small framed picture of a yellow No. 2 pencil, the kind we all used in school back in the day.

The pink eraser was worn and chewed. The lead point was carved with a pocket knife. The pencil was just too short for the pencil sharpener.  The dark background gave dramatic light to the message below.

“Now that you have exhausted all the possibilities…let’s get started.”

Persistence opened the doors to schools which preferred “special classes” rather than “regular classes.” Persistence paid off when Mikelle graduated “Outstanding Senior” from her inner city high school.  Persistence brought serious rewards as Mikelle spoke to members of United State Congress about work, and the joys of earning money with the independence it produced.  Persistence created opened up pathways to allow Mikelle to own her own condo and a wheelchair accessible van.

Kasey understood, even at a young age, that persistence creates possibilities. And we still have lots of both.

Y is for yippee! 

Gratitude is the perfect companion to the morning cup of coffee.  And, we love our coffee.

It wasn’t always that way. Waking up with worry is like trying to overcome a hangover. Starting the day stewing about to-do lists, inadequate funding and obtuse bureaucratic closed systems clearly can make your head hurt. Ouch.

In truth, striking the tension and worry from the start of my day took a little raw-nerved effort. Changing habits are hard. Engaging in the power of persistence, patience and poise helps in starting the day right.

Today, even on my worst, most unfortunate, cataclysmic day, I celebrate the little things, like running water, toilets that flush and a washer and dryer to take down that mountain of laundry each day.

While this country isn’t perfect and needs improvement, there is no better place on earth better to live with a disability than here.

N is for NOW!

In the spirit of happiness, it is Carpe Diem here at Shining Beautiful. If the chance to spend a moment with friends comes up, we seize it. If we drive by a Starbucks, you can be assured Mikelle wants a Frappuccino at that exact moment.

Happiness is not something we postpone any more. Knowing our priorities, setting boundaries, understanding what makes us happy helps us focus on enjoying life NOW.

E is for Enthusiasm each and every day.

Enthusiasm can be defined as intense excitement and active interest or lively pursuit of something. In 2015, we are not only enthusiastic about the future, we are engaged in its creation with our efforts with Families at the Forefront of Technology Conference, otherwise known as #FFTCon. And, yes, we will have our 2nd Annual Conference at the Viceroy Hotel in Snowmass on Oct. 23rd-25th, 2015. Our sponsors are already enthusiastically committing to giving even more support for next year’s conference.

Mikelle and Taylor are working together to learn to embrace their enthusiasm for each day. Every day is different, some days are harder to reach for it and other days the conditions are right and enthusiasm blooms forth like a spring flower. Reach for your enthusiasm daily to re-soul your day.

W is for Work.

Work is applied effort involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result including obtaining a dream. Drudgery isn’t necessary, because happiness and drudgery don’t go well together. Reframing applied effort towards a meaningful and rewarding goal in a persistent manner yields results worthy of our excitement and enthusiasm.

Learning to dance was work, but it wasn’t drudgery.  Some things I find laborious, like taking Mikelle grocery shopping. But, other people on Mikelle’s team don’t mind, they might even enjoy it.

Delegating these responsibilities help me focus on what’s important each day and it will be good for you too.

Y is Yes

Just say yes. You have permission to do what you love.  Love to dance, love Frappuccino’s, love the mountains, love hanging out with friends, love watching an NCIS marathon; those are many of our loves.  We operate under the assumption we deserve to be happy. What about you?

E is Energy

Happiness is difficult to obtain when feeling lethargic. Mikelle, Ashley, Taylor and I have joined Kasey, Allison and Jack in our efforts to eat healthy, get exercise and eliminate or seriously reduce stressful situations. We have learned to set boundaries on our time thus eliminating energy draining relationships and activities. Now, we have more energy!

A is for Advocacy.

Whew, enthusiasm and excitement ruled as we stepped lively through the last year’s calendar.  Our efforts made a difference as we talked technology, advocated for supported employment to be included in the Community Living Advisory Group’s report to the Governor. My interest in updating the website at the Colorado Developmental Disabilities Council was successful. Check it out.

As the Division for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities moves, the successful Consumer Directed Attendant Support Services (CDASS) program into an option the DD Waiver Supported Living Services, Mikelle and I have been there sharing our experiences as part of the task force.

We can’t stress enough the importance of getting involved. Believe it or not, we have real power and influence and can help change the human service system. Get involved in 2015!


R is for Rest and Relaxation at the end of the day. 

For years, the idea of relaxation was difficult to embrace. There is always more to do. When Mikelle was still in school, we were exceptionally goal oriented. If felt like a race to graduation day. We needed to achieve major goals like—getting Mikelle summer jobs, figuring out Social Security, Vocational Rehabilitation and other adult systems before we crossed the finish line.

After graduation, we realized life is more a marathon than a sprint. We have many years to travel down the roads of life and one of them needs to be the road to relaxation.

Each of us in the Shining Beautiful Community has devised their own way to relax.  I walk. Mikelle loves a long drive and Starbucks. Taylor likes to read or hang-out with friends.  Kasey likes to head to the mountains, like his mom. Jack falls into a video game. Ashley plays with her kitties. Allison gets her nails done. (Me, too.)

Enjoy and celebrate your new year!