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Book review: The Art of Happiness

12 May

I have just finished The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama and Dr. Howard Culter.  This book is really a series of conversations between the Dalai Lama and Dr. Culter, an American psychiatrist. Dr. Culter asks the Dalai Lama many questions about the Buddhist perspective, and the Dalai Lama’s personal perspective on how people can seek happiness in life — whether or not they are Buddhist.  Also, the Dalai Lama’s good nature and humanity came across strongly in the text. Reading along, I felt as if I was having a conversation with a wise and endearing old friend.

Let me iterate that this is not a religious book, but it does contain spiritual topics. Someone from any religious (or non-religious) background can read this book and gain something.  The author (Dr. Culter) specifically gears the writing at a non-Buddhist, Western audience.  He compares and contrasts the teachings and thoughts of the Dalai Lama with research and teachings in Western science. 

It is an understatement to say that this book moved me.  This book has changed my perspective on how I should lead my life and interact with people around me.  While there are so many lessons to take from this book, the key mantras that I took were:

  1. Happiness is not something that “happens” to you.  It is a skill that you can hone.  It is something that you must work towards — everyday. 
  2. Compassion is the key to happiness.  The most famous quote from the book is “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
  3. Suffering is a gift.  I know — this one is a tough one to swallow.  But, the Dalai Lama actually has a real and useful answer for “Why is there suffering in the world?”  I’m not going to be able to give his explanation justice here, so you’ll just have to read the book yourself.
Tempted to pick this one up yet?  I know — non-fiction by a world leader and a social scientist.  Blah blah.  But, if you want an opportunity to open your mind, and really think about what is in your control, how you interact with others, and what makes you happy — this is your book.  You will not regret the read.

Also — the next time you see the Dalai Lama in the news — notice how happy he is.  Smiling.  Laughing.  Genuinely enjoying the company of both world leaders and laypeople. This is a man who lost his home, lost his country, and has lost most of his family, and yet this man is happy most of the time. 

Genuinely, honestly, and throughout his spirit — happy.  He does that through compassion for others, appreciation of suffering, and training of his mind. 

Photo courtesy of


Tell Me Thursday: Rosie’s Diner in Rockford, Michigan

15 Apr
To start out our vacation last week, we needed a lunch stop.  My husband has become an avid fan of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, so I’ve used our vacations as opportunities to check out a few of the locations.  We’ve already hit spots in Baltimore and Chicago.  Last week, I traced our trip to the Double JJ Ranch in Rothbury, Michigan, and found Rosie’s Diner just north of Grand Rapids.  

This is your old school fifties diner — even the booths are original.  They are TINY!  The menu has your typical diner breakfast and lunch items — omelet, pancakes, and french toast for breakfast (all day long);  hot dogs, burgers, and sandwiches for lunch.  Plus, they do the old fashioned fifties diner items like made-from-scratch shakes, malts and floats.

Their specialities, according to Guy Fieri, include the onion rings and the Cobblestone french toast — so we had to order those.  The french toast was A-MAZ-ING.  A sweet cinnamon bread, french toasted, with apples, walnuts and brown sugar!   The onion rings passed my key test — the onion did not fall out of the breading;  John decided he preferred the onion rings at Blimpy Burger (another Dive pick by Guy), but I thought they were splendid.

The kids had to get their standards:  mac and cheese and a hot dog.  However, they did try an old fashion shake with a twist:  Amelia requested marshmallow flavor. They loved it.

And this is my picture from Wordless Wednesday.
At the end of our visit, we got our obligatory picture as evidence that John had eaten at yet another one of the restaurants on “the list.”

Movie review: How to train your dragon

30 Mar

We made a family outing to “How to train your dragon” on Sunday, and it was a hit.  Even my 3-year-old son enjoyed it (or maybe it was the popcorn). 

Fire-breathing dragons, Scottish accented Vikings, misunderstood teen angst, and a tough girl with a big axe — this is the stuff of a good animated flick. 

Dreamworks (mostly) bypasses the hip comic modern references, and has gone for the classic tale of boys and dragons. The story is simple, the scenery is beautiful, and the characters — especially the dragons — are endearing.

Hiccup, our young lad and son of the head Viking, wants more than anything to be accepted by his village and his father.  He is determined to become a dragon killer like his comrades, but instead realizes the dragons are even more misunderstood than him. 

Teeming with great action scenes involving dragons, shields, swords and axes, young boys (and adventurous girls) will love this film.  During a couple of the battle scenes, my son announced “this is scary” but did not leap from his chair in fear. The fantasy / fairy tale style of the movie seemed to keep the “scary” factor in check. 

Entertaining, with a good story and a good message.  I think that gives this movie two thumbs up from me.

One question though:  why do adult Vikings have Scottish accents and teen Vikings have American accents?  Very strange.  Very strange indeed.