Obama said, “Our hearts have reason for fullness,” this week in Tucson. Yes, they do. Hope and love are always here. And although this sense of fullness can be buried or obscured by our sadness, each day offers a new chance at finding lightness. Understanding, insight, forgiveness, and love, too.

Recently I returned to an incredible article I read during the summer of 2009, What Makes Us Happy, in the Atlantic Monthly. The article highlights the work of Dr. George Vaillant, director of a 72-year Harvard study on aging and happiness, who explains “what makes people strive for fame and why dirty laundry symbolizes a perfect life,” (watch his interview). You have to read it to believe it (the laundry part), but the study follows men from the 1930’s during their college years until their death, determining ultimately what defines and exemplifies their happiness. JFK was one of the research subjects (wow). Dr Vaillant discovers, like most seem to, that happiness is neither rooted in money or fame, achievement or reward, cars or vacation homes. Ultimately, happiness comes from love. And the many piles of laundry that result from time together with the ones for whom we care the most.

I’m sharing this because today my mother-in-law turns 75. And well, she is blessed with wisdom and patience unmatched by many. And she is happy. She often speaks to me about happiness. And while once describing her sixth, as the most happy decade of her life, she gives us young-ens all hope! She is an uncommon model in maintaining incredible relationships with her children and by having 4 of them (and 8 grandchildren), she’s managed to form quite a tall pile of dirty laundry…

Happy Birthday, dear Lois. Thanks for doing the wash. We are so much happier because of you.