Happiness Is…Reminscing about Terrific Old TV Ads.

I love getting the chance to meet friends from blogland in real life, and on Sunday, I had coffee with Meagan Francis, of The Happiest Mom fame. It’s so funny in these situations — we’d never met before, and I felt like we could’ve talked all afternoon, it was so much fun.

Among other topics, she told me she’d seen my TV ad, which got us talking about commercials that made us very emotional.

We happily reminisced about the “Homefront” public-service ads that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints ran on TV during the 1970s and 80s. Those ads were so powerful. She and I could both remember them well, and in fact, we both choked up while recounting them!

Meagan remembered best the ad where the father started to yell at his kids playing in the mud, then instead jumped in to play with them. I remembered the ad that opened with a husband and wife yelling at each other, then showed the husband surprising his wife at work, in the classroom where she taught, and writing, “I’m sorry” a hundred times on her blackboard. If I remember correctly, the tagline was, “Love lasts when you put your family first.”

I went back on YouTube to look for them. I couldn’t find those two, but here are a few others; unfortunately, they aren’t as good as ones we remembered:

“Power Out” – worth watching for the hairstyles alone

“Who Broke My Window?”

The public-service ad that I remember most clearly of all is the Schoolhouse Rock segment on “The Preamble.” It came in handy not only in high school, when I had to memorize the Preamble to the Constitution, but again in law school (where I often found myself wishing that Schoolhouse Rock had done a segment about the Constitutional Amendments).

“The Preamble”

Gosh, speaking of powerful ads from days of yore, what about that Yul Brynner ad about quitting smoking? I just looked it up on YouTube this minute. Until now, I’d only seen this ad once in my life, and I remembered it practically verbatim.

“Don’t smoke.”

I was trying to figure out why it gives me such a feeling of happiness to reflect on these ads. In part, it’s the nature of the messages, and also nostalgia for childhood associations, but also, I think, the happiness that comes from seeing a piece of work that’s very well done. For such a short message to be so well crafted that it’s remembered for decades – it makes me happy to see such great craftsmanship, in any arena.

Do you remember an ad that roused particularly strong or happy emotions?

* Trying to figure out a good Mothers’ Day gift? Please consider The Happiness Project. Remember that old saying! “If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” Here’s an

“Happiness Is in the Taste, and Not in the Things Themselves…”

“Happiness is in the taste, and not in the things themselves; we are happy from possessing what we like, not from possessing what others like.”
–La Rochefoucauld

This is a more poetic phrasing of a Secret of Adulthood: What’s fun for other people may not be fun for you — and vice versa.

* A thoughtful reader in Denver sent me this great piece by Emily Brendler Shoff, My own personal happiness project. Wonderful.

* If you haven’t seen the TV ad (yes, TV ad!) for The Happiness Project, check it out here!

Beware of Fake-Work and Make-Work.

I’m working on my Happiness Project, and you could have one, too! Everyone’s project will look different, but it’s the rare person who can’t benefit. Join in — no need to catch up, just jump in right now. Each Friday’s post will help you think about your own happiness project.

I remind myself that all work isn’t created equally. Just because I’m busy doesn’t mean that I’m being productive.

I imagine that every kind of work has its fake-work and make-work. For example, as a writer, I remind myself:

  • create, don’t fiddle around with italics and formatting
  • typing isn’t the same as writing
  • cruising around the internet isn’t the same as “research”
  • answering emails, checking Twitter and Facebook, and similar tasks, while important, must not be allowed to get in the way of writing and thinking
  • if I’m finding it very hard to write, I should stop trying to write and instead, start thinking harder
  • if I’m finding it very easy to write, I’m probably falling into cliché and should start thinking harder

Of course, one of my Secrets of Adulthood is that the opposite of a great truth is also true, and I have several resolutions aimed at helping me not to worry constantly about being efficient, but instead, to Force myself to wander and Schedule time for play. Sometimes, I work best by doing things that don’t look like “work.”

In your job, do you have to fight the urge to do fake-work and make-work? What form does yours take?

* I can’t resist time-lapse photography, and this video shows the sky above San Francisco’s Exploratorium every ten seconds for 146 days. Beautiful.

* The book The Happiness Project has been bouncing around the New York Times bestseller list for FOUR MONTHS now! – including hitting #1! Yay! You can…
NEW! Watch the TV ad (crazy)!
Order your copy!
Read sample chapters!
Watch the one-minute book trailer!
Join the discussion on the Facebook Page!
If you’re inspired to start your own happiness project, join the 2010 Happiness Challenge, to make 2010 a happier year.

“Naps, Music, Taking Fussy Kids Outside, and Leading an Examined Life.”

Happiness Interview: Katie Rosman.

I couldn’t wait to read Katie Rosman’s book, If You Knew Suzy: A Mother, a Daughter, a Reporter’s Notebook, because I remembered reading with great interest her original piece for the Wall Street Journal, Over the Internet, Into My Mom’s Heart: Unlocking a parent’s passion and the community that sustained her. (Also, we share an editor, which gives you a fellow feeling akin to being from the same hometown!)

After her beloved mother died of cancer, Katie, in her grief, found that she wanted to know more about her mother’s life and choices, and because she was a reporter, she started reporting on her mother’s life. This memoir is about what she discovered — and also about the relationship between mothers and daughters, and what we know and don’t know about the people we love, plus a bit about the worlds of Pilates instructors and glass collectors (her mother’s passions).

Whenever I read a biography or a memoir, I love to see photos, and you can see photos of Suzy and Katie on Katie’s author website.

Gretchen: What’s a simple activity that consistently makes you happier?
Katie: I like to sleep. I like to take naps. When an adult sleeps during the day, it’s often looked down upon as slothful and lazy. And I think working parents are often made to feel like every second they are not in the office should be earmarked for the kids. I love my kids. But I love taking naps too.

If you’re feeling blue, how do you give yourself a happiness boost?
I like to sit in a pretty spot in my house by a window, put on music and write. When it’s working well, the words pour out of my head and through my fingertips. Sometimes I like the process of writing. Other times I don’t: I struggle though it knowing that on the other side, I am going to find clarity and relief. Sometimes I love writing. Other times, I love having written. Throughout the writing of my book, I swung wildly between these poles. But happiness always came at the end of the day, both because I was creating something I was proud of and because I was working through some of the issues related to loss that had plagued me.

Is there anything that you see people around you doing or saying that adds a lot to their happiness, or detracts a lot from their happiness?
When my kids get all worked up into a lather of frustration and exhaustion, I will walk them (if it’s not the dead of winter) right out the door and into our yard. The sounds distract them. The air calms them. It underscores for me the connection between humans and nature. When we re-enter the house, we’re all feeling a lot better.

Have you always felt about the same level of happiness, or have you been through a period when you felt exceptionally happy or unhappy – if so, why? If you were unhappy, how did you become happier?
I ride the rollercoaster; I am up and down and have been for most of my life. I am able to get myself out of ruts more quickly as I get older and better understand that the swings are part of who I am. I can remind myself, This too shall pass.

Do you work on being happier? If so, how?
I think I work on my happiness all the time, though it’s not always a conscious “Let’s
Get Happy!” impulse. I am someone who examines my life, who needs to live an
examined life. My original impetus to devote a year to reporting on my mom’s life came
from a personal curiosity to understand why she had conducted herself as she did in the
face of death. I needed to understand for my own peace of mind. And to me that what
happiness is. It’s peace.

* I’m getting a lot of vicarious satisfaction from reading about Sarah Fain’s kitchen renovation on Starfish Envy. Is anything as delicious as a good before-and-after?

* I send out short, free monthly newsletters that highlight the best of the previous month’s posts to about 42,000 subscribers. If you’d like to sign up, click here or email me at gretchenrubin1 [at] gmail.com. Just write “newsletter” in the subject line.)

Mother’s Day eCard

If you’re buying The Happiness Project as a gift for Mother’s Day, you can send this e-card to let your mom know that the book is on its way.