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Finding my Happiest Moment journal and reflecting on what makes me happy

Freedom in dress on BrendaKinsel.com

Happiest moments find their way into my Happiest Moment journal


I opened the doors to my Chinese painted cabinet that I use as my nightstand. I was looking for my copy of Slowing Down to the Speed of Life by Richard Carlson and Joseph Bailey. It’s a gem of a book. I remember it being most helpful and somehow that title was calling to me again. I probably read it not long after it came out in 2009. Here, I’ve got a link for you.

It would have been on one of the two shelves in that nightstand but it wasn’t. At least it wasn’t that night! Maybe I’ll look tonight and it’ll be there.

A Happiest Moment journal

I was so attracted to this beautiful silk two-tone journal


What I pulled out instead was a silk two-toned journal that I hadn’t written in since June 18, 2016. It’s my Happiest Moment journal. I first wrote in it on October 5, 2007. The entries are regular for a while and then there are gaps. The largest gap is over five years. There was nothing written in it between March 15, 2010, and July 12, 2015.

I’m sure I had plenty of happy moments between those years but I never recorded them.


While I didn’t find the book I was looking for, I found the perfect piece of reading

I realized how great this idea is to record happiest moments before going to bed. It’s a really nice thing to close my eyes to after a busy day. The other choices? I could stew over something or worry about someone or feel regret for not finishing a project I’d planned to finish that day and then close my eyes with all of that on my mind. Or, I could recognize gratitude or satisfaction and write it down. Seems like a no-brainer, right?


Happiest Moments journal

Filling pages with happiest moments


One thing I recognized was that it’s the right time to put this journal on top of my nightstand and start writing.

Reading past postings was insightful and tender

Being curious about the gaps, I started reading my entries. It’s funny how those moments can jump right into my head as if they’d just happened last week. There are patterns, I’m sure. I don’t know what they are but I’m having fun reading over my own shoulder.

I’ll share examples. Some entries aren’t dated but I know this was in the 2007 batch.

Russ is sitting in the rocking chair and I’m at the kitchen table cutting out a section of a picture from a design magazine. I’m pasting it on a 3X5 index card and planning to add a Sarah Ban Breathnach quote on top of the picture. When I go to put glue on the back of the cutout I realize the back side is prettier and I’m only vaguely aware of the grin on my face. I’m delighted by this discovery (and this new sport of creating quotes on parts of beautiful pages of a decorator magazine which I just invented this morning) and when I look up Russ is staring at me, eavesdropping on my joy. He really got how happy I was. He said something about the grin and how happy I am cutting up magazines. So true! So not only was it a pure pleasure activity but I was happy to be “discovered” having so much fun by Russ who often sees me busy and hard-w0rking.


collage and affirmations

My 3X5 beauty cards


author Sarah Ban Breathnach

Great quote by Sarah Ban Breathnach


I still have those index cards. I call them my beauty cards. Sometimes I take them with me when I travel. They’re just lovely to look at. The quotes came from a desk calendar based on Sarah Ban Breathnach’s runaway best-seller, Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy. Here’s the link if you want to visit her work.


quotes by Sarah Ban Breathnach

Does this one speak to you?


Other entries are short and not dated.

A moment during restorative yoga where I felt utterly soft and relaxed.

When everyone went home and the house was quiet.

Looking in my office and seeing order.

Being on a walk with Russ when a year ago he was in a wheelchair.

Listening to an interview with singer/songwriter Joe Henry on the On Being podcast.

(Must be the next day) Finding out Joe Henry went to high school with Phil! And married Madonna’s sister!


My adorkable brother, Kirk


And family stuff

Hearing that the procedure was successful for Kirk. OMG!

Running into Erin today when I was with my friends and seeing her so radiant and smiley and personable and pretty!

Bella got on Erin’s Town and Country magazine and wouldn’t get off. Erin kept pulling the magazine across the floor and Bella didn’t budge. Erin even twirled the magazine in circles and she still didn’t move. Too funny!

Caitlin calling me for no reason.

Driving down to San Luis Obispo with Caitlin and her playing all her great music. It was all fabulous read trip music. All of it!

Sitting in the audience watching Trevor play his standup bass, his long red hair down his back, how intent he is and how gosh darn talented he is. Amazing!

Talking to Dad on the phone. When we were hanging up I said, I love you Daddy-o. He said I love you too. I said I brag to my friends about you and he chuckled. It sounded like a 13-year-old boys chuckle — loose and tumbling. “You tell other lies too, I imagine,” he said laughing. What a guy!


Brenda and her dad

My daddy-o


I am blessed, Caitlin


Erin and Brenda working together

It’s fun having grown up kids like this one, Erin


Brenda's family

I adore these three: Erin, Caitlin, Trevor


Bella the cat

Contemplating her next adventure, Bella


Russ' birthday

A blurry selfie commemorating Russ’ birthday this week


I think the thing that has stood out the most is that the happiest moments aren’t the milestone things I’ve experienced like being on the Oprah Winfrey Show or winning awards or getting paid the big bucks for speaking engagements. It’s all the little stuff. It’s the family and friend stuff; the giggles, shared tears, singing to loud music, communicating without words. It’s noticing beauty. It’s enjoying one single day or maybe just fifteen minutes of a single day. It all counts. It all adds up.

My friends, do you keep journals like this? If you had a happiest moment to record, what would it be? I’m so looking forward to hearing your responses!


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  • Reply
    Candice Constas
    March 15, 2018 at 6:59 am

    Beautiful post, Brenda! Your reflections have inspired me to once again pick up my happy moments journal and reflect. Our 19 year old son gave this to me for Christmas a couple of years ago. Like you, I have had long spells of no entries. But it’s time. My son is also a talented “bassist”. He’s home for spring break from college and there have been so many happy moments in the last couple of days. Thank you for reminding me to honor those moments.

    • Reply
      March 15, 2018 at 6:39 pm

      You’re so welcome, Candice and thanks for reminding me…I want to reach out to my son! He’s in Paris, France sitting in for a bassist that went on tour. What an opportunity! Thinking of sons and basses makes my heart smile.

  • Reply
    March 15, 2018 at 7:54 am

    I too journal using a file card system that my daughter gifted me one year. I write a one line short burst each day. The best part of the system is looking back on notes from the last 5 years. Amazing how things change from one year to the next. Seemingly insurmountable obstacles are blessings in disguise!

    • Reply
      March 15, 2018 at 6:38 pm

      Gosh, I so agree! I love the idea of one line bursts. What a gift to have that to look back at. Thanks for sharing, Barb!

  • Reply
    Jane Carter
    March 15, 2018 at 9:34 am

    I have a beautiful blue embossed leather journal on the shelf beside my bed. Like you, I am sporadic about jotting down thoughts, blessings, dreams. Long periods go by without an entry. But, still, it sits there and quietly beckons me to pick it up in the evenings. I should make more of an effort – writing things down helps to ingrain moments in my memory with just a bit more detail. I agree that it’s almost always the little insignificant things that end up meaning the most. This was a lovely post, very inspiring. I’m sure I will be picking up that journal this evening….

    • Reply
      March 15, 2018 at 6:35 pm

      I can just see it! I hope you pick it up too. A writer once told me that as a writer you live everything twice: the time you experience it first and then again when you write about it. That’s so what happens with journaling! We live the good stuff twice…or more!

  • Reply
    Gill Hall
    March 15, 2018 at 2:01 pm

    Over the years I have kept gratitude journals. They were a great help at stressful times in my life. Something I found even more helpful we’re scrap book of pictures I kept many many years ago. I would go through magazines and cut out pictures that spoke to my heart. Beautiful pictures of decor and homes and garden. Some of clothing and some of faces and looks in peoples eyes. Over years a pattern emerged and it was like learning what I truly loved. In a way it was like finding me, finding what inspired me, what I wanted in many ways. Slowly I becan to put some of it in place. The pictures in these books taught me about my style and my home now reflects this and I have taken the next step and now run a Facebook page about style using vintage and upcycled pieces. It makes my heart sing. For me, it’s lead me on a path that totally amazing and something I never dreamed possible. It helped me find my passion. My page is Style on a Shoestring by Gill if you care to take a peek.

    • Reply
      March 15, 2018 at 6:18 pm

      You truly speak to the strength of images to teach us about ourselves. Loved reading this and will check your page.

  • Reply
    March 15, 2018 at 6:27 pm

    Hi Brenda! I started a gratitude journal years ago after reading Sarah Ban Breathnach’s “Simple Abundance”. My girls were little and I was often alone with them for days at a time, feeling stressed or lonely while my husband worked ridiculous hours. My journal helped me remember what we working towards as a family, and calmed me down! This post reminded me how much I enjoyed reading daily passages in that book, I just pulled it off the bookshelf and will turn to March 15, and start reading it again! I say my thank yous and count my blessings every night before sleep- usually I don’t make it through my entire list of everything I’m grateful for before I’m snoozing! Aren’t we lucky for so many blessings?!! And I love your idea of the beauty cards! As an artist I’m very visual and have made many large inspiration boards, having the smaller cards always available is such a wonderful idea. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Reply
      March 15, 2018 at 6:32 pm

      It’s really fun hearing how you’ve used your journals. And also happy to be going back to those classics like Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Simple Abundance. I think I may have to take my copy off the shelf as well. Things come around twice because they’re great! Wish I could see your large inspiration boards. I’m intrigued!

  • Reply
    March 15, 2018 at 6:34 pm

    Oh my gosh Brenda! I posted my comment and opened my Simple Abundance where the ribbon bookmark had been in place from the last time I read it years ago. The marker was at MARCH 15, “Self nurturing: the hardest task you’ll ever do”!! I’m not making this up! Talk about perfect timing! So thank you again for reminding me,about the book and my daily gratitude journal.
    Xo Heidi

    • Reply
      March 16, 2018 at 2:41 pm

      Heidi, buckle your seatbelt. I went looking for my copy of Simple Abundance in the spot where I thought it was. Not there. Oh my gosh, is this happening to me again? I thought. Just now I was going to store three books in my nightstand because I want to be able to reach for them easily (and not have them lying on the floor which is what I was doing all week!). And there on the bottom shelf was Simple Abundance. I didn’t remember there being a ribbon in the book (like you described) and I saw that I had two pieces of paper slipped in-between pages so I thought to myself, I must have been using those as markers. But then I saw the ribbon. Before looking at the pieces of paper I said, hum, I’ll just open this up and see what page it’s on.

      IT WAS ON MARCH 15th!!! “Self-nurturing: the hardest task you’ll ever do”

      What are the chances! I could have so easily made this up if I were that kind of person but I’m not and I didn’t. We have to meet!!!!
      xo Brenda

      • Reply
        April 17, 2018 at 4:54 pm

        Brenda I just scrolled back to this post to see if you had left a reply to my comments. Oh my goodness, the coincidences in life are crazy aren’t they? Of course some people would say there are no coincidences but just a grand plan, I’m not sure which way to think but I do know that when I ask the universe to provide it usually does! I hope we will meet at Elizabeth’s luncheon. I’ll be there on 4/28 and saw earlier on instagram that you had replied yes to her invitation. So, I hope the universe provides us with this opportunity to meet face to face!

  • Reply
    March 15, 2018 at 6:46 pm

    Thank you Brenda, this post was very timely for me and what I needed today. I’m retiring next week after 40 years with the same company. I’m thrilled and blessed but also anxious about what this next chapter will bring and how I will adjust. To be reminded that many more happy moments await was the perfect message for me to hear today!

    Maybe I’ll start a gratitude journal!

  • Reply
    March 15, 2018 at 8:08 pm

    Those cards?! How creative! It truly is the small stuff and people. Thanks for sharing a part of your heart, Brenda. LauriePOP

    • Reply
      March 15, 2018 at 8:16 pm

      Thanks Laurie! Glad you enjoyed the post. Hugs!

  • Reply
    March 15, 2018 at 11:48 pm

    What an inspiring post I have a ‘Stop and Smell the Roses’ journal in which I record the tiny things that bring joy to my day. Many of them are smells, sounds and sensations such as freshly cut grass, the first birdsong of spring or the warm sun caressing my shoulders as I go off on my run. It doesn’t sound much but it’s amazing how wonderful it is to read through my list a few days or weeks later. It reminds me how important it is to appreciate the (very) small things. I also use 3×5 index cards as you do-I print out images small enough to get 4 on both sides of my card. I add some favourite quotations and if I’m really feeling organised (not often!) I’ll laminate them so they’re easy to carry around in my purse and I can look at them throughout the day. They are definitely a calming influence whenever life’s inevitable worries and problems crop up as they do frequently do. I feel inspired to make another one now!

  • Reply
    March 16, 2018 at 6:21 am

    You capture perfectly the value of stopping for gratitude! You get to savor the experience a second time when you write it down, and then again and again when you come back to it. Thank you!

  • Reply
    Elaine @ Following Augustine
    March 17, 2018 at 10:22 am

    What a beautiful post! Thank you for sharing these snippets of your life and family with us. You have inspired me. My daughter gave me a beautiful journal for my 65th birthday. The loveliest thing about it are the special messages that she and her children wrote in the front of it. I haven’t written anything in it yet which is odd since writing is my passion, but it just seemed too special. I didn’t know what to write, but a gratitude journal is the perfect answer! Thank you!

  • Reply
    Laurie Hickey
    March 17, 2018 at 12:51 pm

    What a fabulous post and perfectly timed.
    As I read it I’m sitting in a hospital room, drinking hot tea and listening to my 97 y o mother quietly snore. I’m not sure what tomorrow will bring us, but right now, this is sweet.
    Even in tough times, maybe especially in those times, we need to say right now, this is pretty perfect.
    Brenda, you continue to inspire me in so many ways! Oh and I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to the Panda Planner that I’ve been using for the past year. Their daily reminders to post 3 gratitudes, 3 anticipations, 3 wins and 1 “to improve” has been super helpful.
    Keep up your beautiful work, Brenda.

  • Reply
    Tracey Mills
    April 10, 2018 at 8:21 pm

    I too had kept a gratitude journal quite sporadically for many years, my sons were young and life was busy.

    Four years ago at just 51 years old, my husband died quite suddenly from an unexpected heart attach. In the aftermath of the chaos of what our lives had become ( my three sons were 19 – 14 years old) I searched through all my old journals to try to find connection, something to bring back the good that our lives had been. I was disappointed with myself for not taking the 5 minutes to record all the wonderful of each day, and then when life was very tough, I couldn’t think of any of the good, let alone the “wonderful”.

    I really could have used all the reminders to help keep my chin up. Things are better now, much better, and this is a wonderful reminder that if I don’t record the “wonderful”, there will come a point in time when I will again regret my lack of record of our lives. Thank you for the reminder to make sure I do record the simple graces of daily life. It may not be what I had envisioned, but there is still wonderful.

    • Reply
      April 17, 2018 at 10:44 am

      Oh gosh, Tracey, reading your words has given me chills. Who would ever expect your husband’s sudden death and the need to find evidence of the good and the wonderful. My sincerest condolences. You’ve given me a nudge to be more mindful of writing down those moments. I looked at my journal last night and said, “I’m too tired.” Not tonight! Thank you for sharing with us. Sending big hugs and thinking about you writing tonight about the wonderful that you hadn’t envisioned.

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