What’s Making Me Happy Right Now?

Wow. Just looked and the last post here was over 2 years ago. That really surprised me, because I remember writing so many thing over the last couple of years. Then I realized doing it in my head as I drive down the highway doesn’t actually get them typed in or posted. This place would have been a lot busier, at least on my part if that worked. Then again, there are a few of them that I am pretty sure would have been embarassing (well, more embarrassing than normal anyway) so it is just as well they didn’t end up in public.

So the last couple of year has happened. My father died in January, 2014. Lung cancer, his second bout in a year, just not strong enough to keep fighting. Not a great man, sometimes not a good one. And I did not always like him. But he usually tried for good, and I still miss him at times. No services, just a plain cremation, my sister and I finally got it paid off with my tax return this year. Amazing how expensive dying is.

I’m now a Type II diabetic. Since August of 2013 actually, missed a few months of work because of DOT regulations. Controlled with diet and some generic pills. (Metformin, if anyone cares. Pretty standard and cheap for 3 months at Walmart.) Happily, I had already moved to diet sodas years ago, and cut out most of the sweets and carb heavy foods. So the basic adjustments to my diet were not that large. More salads and smaller portions are the primary change, with some increase in exercise. I have never been one to denigrate salads, although I do prefer meatier meals, so more of them is not an issue. And the smaller portions with more exercise has been a little helpful with keeping my weight down, never a bad thing.

Earlier this year, I had a very frightening health scare. The kind where you spend a couple of months wondering if you have been wasting your years here on earth. The doctor was fairly sanguine about it, although that may have something to do with it not being his life and seeing it happen a lot.

Turns out he was right, they think. And I get to have 6 month check ups for the foreseeable future. But it has really messed up my inner gestalt, such as it was. Decisions I made years ago, that are clamoring for attention, despite no change in the reasons for the way they were made then. Things I have considered doing, but not down that are nudging me to get them done. Those are at least reasonable, seeing a deadline looming does have a way of bringing out things that are undone.

Overall, this has been a less than fun year. And I have been spending too much time with not fun in my thoughts. Driving it great for thinking about things, unless those things are unhappy and not really solvable problems, just worries and regrets.

But it also gives me lots of time to listen to podcasts. Lots and lots of podcasts. (A couple of the posts I wrote in my head the last couple of years have been about podcasts I listen to. Really wish I had actually written those.) From NPR, BBC Radio 4, Nerdist.com, How Stuff Works, The Dicetower Network, and a variety of independent stuff.

I was listening to one of my favorites, NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour (@nprmonkeysee), this week when they did their weekly segment, What’s Making Us Happy. And I realized I need to focus more on those things than the not fun stuff. Because while I have had some bad stuff the last couple of years, I have had fun too. I’ve done some driving on my own time, heard some great music, met some good people, even seen a couple of fun movies and read some good books. But just thinking that doesn’t make it happen over time.

So I decided to steal from the best and blow some dust off here, and see if I can, just once a week, put up something here that is making me happy. I don’t actually expect anyone to actually read this, or care if they do, but putting it here is a way of committing myself. These first couple of weeks should be easy, since I go on vacation a week from now and actually have plans, assuming nothing breaks, like my car. And I doubt most of the posts will be this long, at least they had better not be. With all that said, my first post about what is making me happy right now.

It was actually a remarkably easy decision about what to put here. Because what, or rather who, is making me happy this week, and really the last couple of years, is Marian Call (@mariancall). I’ve mentioned Ms. Call here once. Well, maybe twice. Okay, three times. So you might get the impression I am rather taken with her as an artist. And you would of course be right.

The last two years, Ms. Call has released her Live in Europe (Feb. 2014) album that was funded by her Kickstarter. Then she released Sketchbook (Dec. 2013), full of new songs, some from commissions given as rewards to her Kickstarter. Next, another Kickstarter reward album, Marian Call Sings the Classics, Vol. 1 (July, 2014), full of requested covers that were her stretch goals. Got To Fly was re-released on CD, so it is once again available in that format. Then she finished up 2014 with a holiday EP Yippee Ki Yay. And in July, 2015, another EP, Fun Singles In Your Area.

No doubt about it, a productive couple of years, especially considering how much time she spends on the road touring so she can earn a living. And right now she is finishing up the second volume of covers to complete her Kickstarter stretch goals, getting ready to start another Kickstarter to finance the actual production of her next album, Standing Stones, and working on editing and producing the parts of that album already in her hands. With more touring ahead in the late fall, to help pay the rent.

All of these albums, and her older works, have had songs that have made me feel good. That have made it a little bit easier to deal with the death of a loved one, with grief, with fear and loneliness. Sometimes by making me laugh, imagining her and Scott Barkan (@scottbarkan) singing Moving Right Along as they drive through the Midwest. Sometimes by helping me believe someone else has faced the fears and understands, which is basically the Something Fierce album.

But it isn’t just her music that has helped me through the bad times, and helped make the good times better. It is also seeing her in concert, reading her on Twitter, and on her forums. She takes time to talk to her fans in all those places, making them feel special and happy to meet her. And while she is doing that, she is also conscious of what is happening in society around her. She is concerned with the racial strife in our country that has finally been getting reported, and is working to learn more about what she can do to help. And she is a firm advocate about others finding out what they can do, however little or much that might be.

That is why I had no problem deciding who to write about here today. The last two years of my life, through the good times and the bad, there has been nothing, and nobody, that has done as much to help keep me going. And unless or until she reads this, she hasn’t even known it.

For anyone that has actually read this far, sorry for the length. Assuming I can muster enough self-discipline to post again next week, it will be much shorter. I think. Maybe.

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