Counting My Blessings
Lars Poulsen - 2020-05-05
This morning, as I was doing my daily walk around the neighborhood in lieu of
going to the gym for my daily exercise, I was listening to the latest episode
The Happiness Lab and it was about how many of us think that griping helps us voice our
frustrations and "get them out of our system", but research shows that
it actually roots the frustrations deeper, while thinking about the
positives in our lives makes us happier.
I was motivated to enumerate some of the things that I am happy for.
So here are 10 good things in my life - 5 big ones, and 5 small ones.
The Big Ones
These are the huge and constant ones, in no particular order.
I Am Married to a Wonderful Woman
Colleen and Lars Poulsen
I have had enough lonely times in my life to appreciate that I am not
alone at this time. Colleen and I are different enough in the way we
process life that we are constantly reminded not to take our relationship
for granted, and that keeps us from being bored. But we also have very
similar values, which makes it easy to trust each other.
We share values about ethical relations in family as well as political issues.
We share spiritual and religious values, even if we do not always agree
in details of belief. This is probably the biggest thing that I feel
grateful for every day.
I Have Connections to 3 Wonderful Families
Besides my marriage, I feel close connections to 3 branches of the family tree:
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- My daughter, and her husband and 2 boys. They live 2 time zones away
in Iowa, but every so often we manage to do a Zoom video conference.
- My brothers in Denmark and their kids. My parents had 4 kids, and my older
brother Peter followed that pattern and had 4 kids of his own,
each of which is now married with at least 2 kids. My younger brother
Ole only has 2 sons, who are now starting families of their own.
- My wife's family; she was one of 11 siblings, of which 8 survive, and
most of them are here in California, so we get to go to big gatherings
a few times per year. And sister Kate lives right here
in Santa Barbara, just a few minutes away from us.
She is a very good friend to both of us.
I Live in One of the Most Beautiful Places in the World
After my first divorce 40 years ago, I took the opportunity to see
something new, and managed to get a tech job in Santa Barbara, California.
That was quite a change from drizzly Copenhagen, Denmark, and as it
turned out, I was happy here. After 5 years, I bought the house where I still
live, and where my daughter was born.
A Windy Day - Loreto Plaza is two blocks from our house
I Have Loved My Work, And I Can Still Work At It
When I look at my life's work, it turns out that it has a theme to it:
I am one of the 40,000 or so engineers that built the Internet.
And I am still able to go to work and get paid for doing something
useful related to that.
I Live an Economically Secure Life
We have above-average retirement savings, and we live in an economically
stable country. Even if we sometimes grumble about the decline of the
government institutions in the last few years, we are still as stable
as Western Europe, and we can work to improve it in the next few years.
I Found a Spiritual Home in Unitarian Universalism
Yes, I know this is number 6. Sorry, I just could not leave this one out,
and I wasn't willing to cut any of the others.
My church, Live Oak UU Congregation of Goleta, California,
is the home beyond the walls of our home.
I could never abide the dogma of any Christian church, but when I
found UU, I know I was home. Fortunately, my wife felt the same way
when I introduced her on our first week-end date.
The Little Ones
And here are some good things I noticed in the last few days.
Even though in these Corona days we cannot go out,
we can still set aside an evening to pay special attention to each other
and revive our intimate connection.
When I was a child, you could not really keep in touch with people
in other countries. If someone in your family emigrated, it was likely
that you would never see them again. International telephone calls were
expensive, and letters took weeks.
The Internet has changed all that. I talk to someone from my Danish
family every week, and the only reason it is not a video call, is because
my brother Peter has not figured out how to set up his computer to do it
And during the pandemic isolation, we cannot go out to go to the movies,
but we can watch great movies at home every night.
My Wife's Gardening
When I married Colleen, the space around my house was a very conventional
front yard and backyard with a white picket fence around it and a
lawn in front and in back. The front lawn was beautiful, the
back lawn had gone to weed, but I could not figure out how to re-do
it with two dogs running free there, who would surely dig up a re-seeded
Colleen changed all that. She took out all the grass, and started installing
agaves, aloes, succulents and palms. I struggled with grief of having to
give up all my ideas of what a "normal" suburban corner lot should look like.
But a good 6 years later, it is all coming together, and I can see the
fruits of all the work she has put in.
Lunch on the deck behind the house
I am surrounded by Great Art
Even before I met Colleen, I had started collecting local landscape paintings.
Colleen enthusiastically joined my in making friends with local painters
and singer/songwriters, and we have filled our walls with spectacular
We Give Thanks
So there you have it: 10 things I am grateful for.
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