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Monday, May 13, 2013

5 ways I LOVE the dog-gone, sometimes annoying, but always *free*, good ol' USA


During the A to Z challenge, (is that a spelling Bee? :) Rebecca Bradley posted a list of five ways to be happy here.

She then happily decided to meme others.

Annalisa Crawford was very sweet to pass it forward last week.

Annalisa, you made me happier than a broke Irishman in a Friday night bar crowd who discovers (at last call) a forgotten $20. (His happiness is tempered as he ponders three things – for he may choose only one.) Another few pints; a taxicab… or a battered sausage, curry chicken pie and a staggeringly long, (but full) walk home.

(I'll wait while the non-Yorkshire readers figure that out :)

Anyhow, here’s how the Happy Meme works:

Offer a shout out to the Happy One who tagged you.
Then, list my five happy ways.
Tag five more.

I'm tagging some of the happiest people I know:
Martin Willoughby

Morgan Shamy

Johanna Garth

Mark Means

Tammy Theriault


For *my* five choices, I’m skipping family and Hawaii - I know how blessed I am to have them – and be here.)

However, after a few hours of research and many tears (thanks Annalisa!), here’s five things and a related YouTube clip for each one) that always render me happier than a pig in fresh poop:

  1. People watching at an airport arrivals lounge.
Especially when it's a service member returning from deployment who spots and greets their loved ones.


  1. Driving across the United States.
In the last seventeen years, I’ve done so six times and can’t wait to do it again.
On my journeys I:

·         Rode a 1984 Pontiac Sunbird convertible, my first car, from Key West, Fla., to Orlando, and later moved to Chicago, Ill.

·         Relaxed in a new Mustang GT while I drove from Chicago to Newport Beach, Calif. Stopped for speeding once, I got a $50 ticket from a cop in the Navajo jurisdiction.
(Is it just me, or how cool is it to "earn" a citiation from the Navajo Nation :)

·         Moved with my new bride (a week after our wedding) from San Diego to Central Florida. (We drove two cars and connected via walkie-talkies "in a pre-text world" ;)

·         Man-handled a U-Haul (sure…those slidy bucket seats are comfortable and don’t bounce much) from Long Beach, Calif., to San Antonio, Texas.

·         Solo-chauffeured our two dogs from CA to TX and spent several nights in various, interesting Motel 6’s where I walked first one pound puppy – and then the other – to avoid pet policy penalties.

·         ROAD TRIPPED! from Newport, Rhode Island to San Diego with my Uncle Tom, a retired geologist from Holland. Ugh, I *never* want to see another rock in my life!



  1. Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the USA.
Toward the end of its morning show, the local AM station plays this song once a week.
By the end of the song, I’m always bawling while emptying the dish machine or making fresh pancakes for the boys.
(It’s quite embarrassing, really, and I hope the front door bell never rings.)
But, I can’t help it.
I’m proud that I was “born and reared” in Ireland, but I’m so proud that I chose to become an American.



  1. Thanksgiving.
I landed in the U.S. in 1996, but never “got” this holiday until 2001.
I was at a pre-Thanksgiving party with a few runner friends.
The guy next to me asks what I’m doing for Thanksgiving?
Formerly a restaurant manager, I always worked Thanksgiving so the “locals” could enjoy family time. My current restaurant closed for the holiday. I had no plans.
The guy flipped open his phone, talked to someone and handed me the phone.
“Hello. Is this Mark?”
“Yes, ma’am…?”
“Brian tells me you’ve nowhere to go for Thanksgiving..,”
“Well, yes, but that’s OK. I’m planning a quiet d—”
“Mark, dinner’s at three. Brian will give you the address. We’ll see you then.”
(Dial tone.)
Of course, I had the most wonderful experience and Thanksgiving is now my favorite holiday.

(And to close that circle, here's this :)


5.      Voting.
So many people don’t care, but oh my, it’s so important.
And, if you’ve ever wondered why, watch this.
Go on.
You don't have to.
However, I do double-dog dare you to watch this six-minute video.
It's not going to harm or hurt you.
I ask only because it's my right.
And, my fellow American citizens, it's your right to do as you wish.
How awesome is that. I love this place :)

God bless the USA.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Yes, God Bless America.
Voting is a privilege so many others in the world don't get to enjoy.

Elise Fallson said...

All of those things make me happy too. Great list. (:

Annalisa Crawford said...

Wow, that is such a great, heartfelt list. I hope no one answered the door while you were crying :-)

One day, Hubby plans to drive across the US, gigging as he goes - I'm definitely going to tag along now!

Morgan said...


Mark, beautiful post. You have lived the most interesting life, and I'm SO intrigued to know more of your stories... you really have done so much and your passion for life and your country and your family is so apparent in all your actions. It's actually quite beautiful. So thank you for sharing. We love it.

And gosh... thanks for the tag! I do consider myself a happy person---I have too much to be grateful for, so it's easy to be appreciative and to be happy with the smallest things. (I think we parents/writers *have* to find joy in the small things or else we won't survive!!!)


Elizabeth Seckman said...

Just mentioning that song brought tears to my eyes! Must be those cyber genes we share.

This is a great nation. Even at our worst, I wouldn't trade living here for anywhere else.

And it is cool to get a ticket from the Navajo. When we travel west, I love stopping on reservations for dinner. Always great food at great prices!

M.J. Fifield said...

I've never driven across the country, but I would really like to one day.

And I seriously love voting. I get a little rush whenever I go to a polling place. Unless that's totally weird. Then I don't...

Unknown said...

Your post made me happy just to read it! We're planning a cross-country drive next month and I'm so excited for the experience. Wonderful post, Mark.

Tammy Theriault said...

Ahhhh! Love ya Mark!! Great 5. My friend is navajo so I just hit her up for fry bread! Yum!!

Sheena-kay Graham said...

Happiness is a essential ingredient in life. Thanks for sharing the happy.

Gina Gao said...

This is a really awesome list! I enjoyed all of the videos.


Carrie-Anne said...

I personally don't celebrate "Thanksgiving," as a lifelong Native American ally, but I respect that some people do choose to celebrate. I agree with the importance of voting. It's hard to imagine why anyone would choose not to vote, esp. if one is a woman, African-American, poor, or from some other group that historically was disenfranchised and went through a lot of struggles to be afforded this beautiful right.

Johanna Garth said...

Thanks for tagging me! You made me HAPPY and of course the driving across the US made me think about it in a brand new light. We're going to be doing that soon...with two hamsters in tow.

Tony Laplume said...

Kind of reminds of Craig Ferguson's book "American On Purpose." I love that dude. And you're pretty great, too.

S.P. Bowers said...

Those are wonderful things. Anytime I've been at the airport when soldiers are coming home (or saw it on TV or the news) I start bawling. I can't help it. It's very touching.

Melissa Sugar said...

God Bless America, indeed. This was an extraordinary post, Mark. I don't think I've spent this long on a single post, ever. I watched each video. The song made me cry. The soldiers returning home made me smile, over & over, and also a little bit sad, noticing just how young the men & women are who fight for our freedom. I absolutely loved the video with the young girl expressing her amazement at the liberties we take for granted, e.g. check writing, etc. There was a time when I didn't think my vote counted (I still voted), but after the Bush/Gore election my view has changed.

Thank you so much for sharing all of this. You touched my heart today and most definitely made me smile.

Rachel Schieffelbein said...

Great post! Numbers four and five are big ones for me, too. :)

Donna K. Weaver said...

Oh, Mark. You made me tear up with this post. I'm so sharing that last video; it's fabulous. I'm a local election official in my day job, and I'm gearing up now for my own one this fall. It makes me so sad when we sometimes have as few as 5% of our residents vote in a primary.

Miranda Hardy said...

It's so wonderful to hear about the things that brings happiness your way. I love them all, too.

Unknown said...

Awesome post! As an African-American woman it breaks my heart to discover that someone hasn't voted when so many people of color suffered just so I can. Yes, God Bless the USA!

Mark Means said...

Hey Mark, thank you very much! But, now, you've put the pressure on me to be happy all the time....I'll see what I can do :)

Nice to learn more things about you, as well. I never knew you were a transplant from Ireland...that's very cool.

It can be a trying place, sometime, but there's no other place I'd rather live.

Thanks again for the mention, I appreciate it! :)

Rachna Chhabria said...

I agree with you that voting is a privilege which many just do not want to make use of. I liked reading about the things that make you happy.

Unknown said...

A great list Mark and thanks for linking back to me!

Tyrean Martinson said...

Wow! Love your happy ways! Love voting, that awesome song that makes me cry too, Thanksgiving, and homecomings.

ilima said...

What a wonderful uplifting post. And the bloggers you tagged are definitely happy-making people.

Chancelet said...

When I was younger I wanted to drive across America, taking my time, staying for a while wherever I chose. My college counselor convinced me to do an internship in another state instead. I went to Washington DC and interned as an investigator for the Public Defender's Office. Great experience. I'd still like to do that trip sometime though. Writer’s Mark

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for taking up the Happy Meme Mark! I love your choices, though you did have me crying into my breakfast with the Thanksgiving clip!

You now have a new follower :)

Martin Willoughby said...

I'm up for the happy tour. I'll put it up on Monday.

Voting is sadly underrated. I don't vote often as I'm not going to waste it on an imbecile. I do vote in the locals as that's where I get to make a real difference, especially with an independent standing.

Anonymous said...

Things to be happy about in May: spring (despite allergies); the community garden; family and friends; work; my pets. Thanks for the cheerful post!

Unknown said...

Excellent list. I love that you included voting. And Thanksgiving.

SO jealous of your road trips. I love traveling. I'm actually only eight hours away from Key West, but I have never been there. However, it's on my bucket list and I'm almost positive I'm finally crossing it off my list this September.

I can't wait!

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