On Finding Happiness or Where’s the Embroidery Floss?

happiness in a box of embroidery flossWe moved, you know.  We packed up all our stuff and headed 90 miles west.  We’ve been here three and a half months now.  Everything is put away.  We are finding a groove.  We are recreating our old schedule in these new, much larger digs.

We even survived the holidays in this new place.



A couple weeks before Christmas I was working on a homemade gift that needed to be finished and mailed.  I had to have some purple embroidery floss.  That’s when the craziness began, or I should say, the craziness got a little crazier.

I looked through all of Jen’s craft cubbies.  Three times.  Jen looked through her craft cubbies, twice.  Even Will browsed through the craft area, narrowly avoiding being dusted by glitter.

Every member of this house looked for the plastic container holding the chromatically organized twists of embroidery floss.

I may have asked the dogs to get off their furry butts and look for the floss.

I may have threatened to withhold dinner until the floss was located.

I may have yelled at the cats for not doing their parts.

And still, no floss.


I succumbed to buying some purple embroidery floss so I could finish the project and get it in the mail in time for Christmas.


Since then, I’ve kept an eye out for the segmented see-through container holding the floss that Jen had organized into a loose representation of ROYGBIV.  Each time I walked downstairs to change laundry loads, I felt a hunch that tried to direct me in the location of the floss.

I would look, and come up short.

While stirring spaghetti sauce, I’d try to picture the last time I saw the floss, or recreate the last project made with colored threads.

When driving home from town, listening to new country music on each of seven different stations, I’d complain about how country music has changed and mention the missing floss.  (If I’m crabby, I might as well lump together all the stuff I have to be crabby about.)

While searching for fabric in the converted oak buffet that was probably built to house dishes but now houses sorted piles of fabric scraps, glue sticks, and crocks full of buttons, I more than half expected to move a pile of fabric and discover the box of floss – even though I’d pulled everything out of that buffet before Christmas.  Twice.


Christmas is now two weeks gone, the outdoor lights are finally down, the rejected gifts exchanged, and I don’t need any embroidery floss for a current project, yet I still wonder where it is hiding.

Part of me worries that the missing floss represents the inevitable downward slide of my now middle-aged brain.  Soon I’ll be forgetting to turn off a burner, wondering where I left the car keys, and asking Will where he got that cool camouflage backpack that I bought him for Christmas.

The other part of me worries that the missing floss is a sign of my inability to deal with stress.  Let’s face it, stress – and its resulting health effects – can take a toll.  Even though this new chapter is a good one, it hasn’t been a cake walk getting to this new groove.


I’ve gone to bed and asked for a dream that might tell me where to find the floss.

I’ve served up chocolate milky the next morning and asked Jen if she dreamt of the missing container of floss.

I don’t ask Will very often about the floss.  As it is, he’s not convinced I’m still holding on to all my marbles.  Blame it on his 17ness or my inability to effectively relate to his 17ness, but he has bigger fish to fry than helping his mom find some colored string for doing, “What?”

What is my fixation on this floss, you might be wondering?  What is the big deal?

I can’t tell you.  I don’t know.


Today I found the floss. 

Apparently my intuition was on holiday, because I didn’t receive the slightest whisper of a warning telling me that I was about to happen upon the plastic box.  The Universe didn’t encourage me with, “Oh, you’re getting hotter!  Oh!  Now you’re burning!!”


I had no clue I was about to stumble upon this box that had turned into some kind of dusty, plastic Holy Grail.

I moved a stack of baskets that had been setting atop a bookshelf.  We’d moved the bookshelf two weeks ago.  The homeless baskets had been waiting for me to find them a new home.  I’ve walked by them several times a day.  I’d look at them and think to myself, “I’ve got to find a new place for those baskets.”  And then I’d go to change loads of laundry and forget about the baskets.  Two days ago, I came up with a new place for the baskets, and yet I still hadn’t managed to move them, until today.  (Lest you be thinking that we’ve been tripping over these baskets for two weeks, I will tell you they’ve been living in the basement, and we’re hardly down there unless I’m giving laundry instructions, or trying to find the floss.)

So today, for some reason, was the day to relocate the baskets.  I picked up the top of the stacked baskets to empty its contents.  When I did, I discovered the box of embroidery floss.

Just. Like. That.


Now you’re probably thinking that there were trumpets blaring and angels singing and birds fluttering because … well … that’s what I expected.  I ran upstairs, narrowly missing a cat who couldn’t have cared less about the floss, to hold the box over my head and yell, “Ta DA!!!”  and wait for the inevitable applause.

Jen and Will were outside.

The rejoicing would have to wait.


I placed the box on the center of the dining room table, where it was surrounded by stacks of mail, homeschool clipboards, playing cards and the other cat, but that doesn’t explain why, when I asked Will if he noticed anything on the table, he said, “A letter from National Geographic for Jenny?”  And, yes, my feelings were a bit hurt, because that damn embroidery floss was pretty important to me.  So I said, “No.  Keep looking.”  And he said, “Oh, hey.  That’s the box of string, isn’t it.”

And that was it.


And so Jen came in, and she had the nerve to walk right by the dining room table and not even notice the plastic Holy Grail.  So, as she sat on her favorite chair, perusing Pinterest and commenting on pins, I sneakily placed the fantastical box of floss on the armrest of her chair.  She was polite enough to say, “OMG!  Where’d you find it?”  So at least I got to tell her the most interesting story about the stack of baskets.

And that was it.



When licking the wounds that were the result of my underappreciated discovery, it occurred to me that the search for the floss is so much like my (and maybe your?) search for happiness.  I have looked high and low for happiness.  I have looked in the same places multiple times.  I have asked for signs and dreams and read the runes and checked my horoscope for happiness.  I have asked others if they’ve seen it.  I have been mad at others for not looking for it with me.

And wouldn’t you know, when I’m least expecting to find it, and pretty much ready to give up looking, there it is.

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  1. Z,

    It’s been awhile since I’ve thanked you for being here, so …

    Thank you for being here. ;)

  2. Dear Jesse,

    What a wonderful analogy!! I’m so happy you found joy!! You are so deserving of it!! : )

    Warm winter hugs . . .

  3. Recently I cleaned – really cleaned – Dave’s office. It was sorely in need of it, and I was proud of myself when I finished. When he came home and went into his office, I expected an OMG comment, but he never said a word. I needed a pat on the back, and I was afraid I’d dislocate my shoulder if I tried to do it myself, so I asked Dave for the applause, and I framed it by asking him to look around his office to see if he noticed anything different. He looked around the room and didn’t notice a thing. I encouraged him to look again, more slowly and carefully this time. He did that – and still didn’t notice anything. Talk about feeling underappreciated! I finally had to tell him what he’d been looking for. All he said was “Sorry. I don’t notice things like that.”

    But he did give me a kiss and thanked me.

    I loved your last two metaphorical paragraphs. (o:

  4. Lynn,

    So are you, dear. :)

  5. Pat,

    I so know what you mean about wanting/needing applause or a pat on the back. There ought to be a high school class – Appreciation 101 – How to appreciate your own good deeds and those of others. If we could learn to do that for ourselves, it might let those we love off the hook. Especially if those we love are like my people (and your Dave ;)) who might not necessarily notice the good deed we’ve done for them. sigh….

    I think it’s the human condition.

    Reminds me of that book about the Five Love Languages. I’m always loving my people in my language instead of their languages. Hoping to do a better job of that this year.

  6. Years ago, I came across your site. I would read it every once in a while when I managed a minute to myself in the chaos of leaving behind madness and building a new life. Today, when I didn’t know I needed it, my mailbox dinged and in came in the picture of colorful string. Thank you for taking the time to write about your experiences.

  7. Hi Rosa,

    Thanks for writing. You made my day. :)

    It’s nice to know my writing matters, just as your comment matters to me.

    Be well.

  8. Loved your story.
    In cases like that, my husband usually calms me down by saying “The house does not lose anything.”
    And then I stop looking for the lost item, and do my best to stop thinking about it, and a few weeks later it usually turns up just like that.
    Except that one time, when my then 3 year old son chose to play with one of the keys of my closet. I asked my husband to take it away from him, but in his usual relaxed way he said: “We have hardwood flooring. We will hear the ‘clonk’ when he drops the key.”
    We never heard a ‘clonk’. We never found the key. Almost 3 years later, the damn key is still missing. But I have learned to live with it.
    Isn`t it nice when there are still some mysteries in life?

  9. Hi Jul,

    Nice to see you here.

    I loved your comment. Do you think your husband would mind if I borrowed his saying about how “The house does not lose anything.” But wait… Sometimes I think the house and Will are in cahoots. And, of course, Will is always completely innocent. “Geez, I looked there, too. How’d it get there?”

    Must say I’m intrigued that your closet has keys. That might go on my wish list. ;)

    And yes, those mysteries are what make it all worthwhile.

    Thanks for writing.

  10. Its funny how we all search for that person or object to make us happy. Even though we know our happiness comes from within. I always told my kids they were the maker of their own destiny. I never thought to tell them if they chose to be happy then they will be happy. We all seem to miss that lesson in life. The stresses of life seem to consume our lives and we forget to be happy just because we can be.

  11. Kath,

    You make such an excellent point. We can decide to cut our hair or move to a new town or start/end a relationship. Why don’t we just decide to be happy? Why isn’t that easy? Why do I (we?) let stuff distract me from happy?

    I’m going to be stewing on this for awhile. Hell, maybe I ought to put energy into deciding to be happy, instead of deciding to stew about it. ;)

    Thanks for writing.

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