V.A.H. {value added happiness}


This is one of my favorite ways to see my city.

I can quietly paddle the shoreline and observe the real in people’s lives. Because let’s be honest, the street-side of our homes? While not all Martha Stewart-y, we are definitely aware of curb appeal. But the backyards? That’s where we live. No one invites people over for a front-yard BBQ, do they?


And the houses I see from my water perch vary wildly in architecture and expanse. Some are big. Some are pretentious. Some are sweet. Some are haphazardly designed, function clearly trumping form. Others are gorgeous. And sometimes I get distracted, wishing they were mine. Then I remind myself they are all homes. Places where people live. Each lovely in their own way.

But out there on Saturday the spectacular houses didn’t hold my attention. Instead what I saw was their V.A.H.

Their Value Added Happiness. The small things that create big joy.

A rope swing. Well worn and frayed.

Three Adirondack chairs, bleached by the sun. A brick chimney abutting a tree-covered roof. Four posts, no walls. Yet a dining table. A set of useful stairs.




It isn’t Life’s Big Things that charm us. It’s the little ones.

And no matter the size of our house, or our family, we all have them. Our own V.A.H. Yet the speed of life is often exhausting, and we forget to stop. We think {or, at least, I do} that the faster we go, the more we’ll get done, the better it will be. Turns out, I’m wrong. It is the full stop that holds value.

Remember getting lost in a book as a child? V.A.H.

The teen joy of splashing shriek-ishly cold water on summer’s hottest days? V.A.H.

The adult laughter shared over the flavor in a glass? V.A.H.


What I learned from those houses wasn’t about wealth. It was about wisdom.

About stopping. And noticing. About getting down on hands and knees and looking under the big stuff. Figuring out how to hold still enough to see the dancing dust motes. The delight that waits patiently at our feet.

We think of childhood as being a time of enchantment. I think it is. Because, if our children are lucky, it is filled with V.A.H.

So. Let’s join them. All we need is a moment, maybe two. And the presence of mind to pause. To see the small. Because it turns out, it surrounds us. What’s your Value Added Happiness? Keep me posted.

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