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anne mikolay 2012 120Recently, I cleaned out a trunk full of ancient artifacts from my high school days and came across a little book titled “Happiness is a warm Puppy” by Charles Schulz. Peanuts and Snoopy were quite popular back in the day; I even had Snoopy's picture taped inside my locker. Finding the book moved me to reflect on all the little things that make me happy.

For me, happiness is an animal, whether a dog, bird, or soft, tabby kitten. (On the other hand, happiness is not a kitty litter box, but that's another story.)

Happiness is a black and white cookie from J and M Bakery on Route 35 in Middletown. (Happiness used to be a Yankee Doodle but apparently Yankee Doodle no longer comes to town with the rest of the Drake cakes.)

Happiness is a Sicilian pizza from Villa in the Kohl's shopping center in Middletown or a plain pie from Napoli in Toms River.

Happiness is chicken and broccoli or sweet and sour chicken from House of Chong in Red Bank.

Happiness is uplifting music from 99.1 FM Star Radio or a John Denver song from the 70s.

Happiness is good health and a day sans migraine.

Happiness is an autumn leaf bursting with color or a winter day, complete with gray sky and bare tree branches.

Happiness is strolling the Jersey shore with my oldest son, something we have done together since he was a wee boy.

Happiness is crocheting an afghan to keep a loved one warm or making soup for family and friends.

Happiness is Downton Abbey on PBS. (And eating a black and white cookie while I watch!)

Happiness is writing, and a positive response to my books, or an email from an Atlantic Highlands Herald reader with comments on  my columns.

Happiness is my family: a good husband, two wonderful sons, good parents (my dad here and my mom up in heaven), and my sister, Jean.

Happiness is learning family doesn't always mean blood relation. (I am richly blessed to have a “sister of the heart” named Lynn and a “mom” named MaryLou.)

Whilst I agree with Charles Schulz that happiness is a warm puppy, take it from Snoopy: happiness is so much more. It's appreciating all the little things in life. As Thanksgiving fast approaches, why not take a few minutes to acknowledge what makes you most happy?