When people get to be as old as I am, they are expected to be overflowing with wisdom and interesting life stories. We are asked about our secrets for a long and/or happy life. I don’t feel very wise, but I get by; I gripe about the losses of “the Golden Years” but I do get along quite well, and I am happy.

My secret to a long life? I don’t think there is one. First in importance would be to inherit good genes; next would be to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Good luck helps; so could prayer. No secrets there, but I can tell you a few things, like moving mountains and counting my blessings, that have made me happy.

To be happy is somewhat up to you. It is important to stay positive, which is helped a lot by recognizing your blessings and all the good things in your life. We have a holiday, Thanksgiving, dedicated to counting your blessings and feeling gratitude for them. Taking note of pleasant things often is good for emotional health. Your thoughts dictate how you feel. Happy thoughts equal happy you.

You can raise your spirits, remedy boredom, and even help mild depression, by consciously listing in your mind all the pleasant things you experience, big blessings or small — a compliment, a smile, a sunset, a robin — whatever pleases you. Also important are helping others, playing nice, (see the Golden Rule) and avoiding regrets. Love, laughter, and music fit in near the top. Staying positive does make us happy!

Tragedy strikes all too often in this life. I have been lucky — blessed. But problems? Yes, plenty of problems, and work, sometimes seemingly impossible. But we have attempted to move mountains, and have sometimes succeeded.  That has made me very happy!

Raising six children was not easy, but you can’t imagine the exponential joy and reward. Either because of us, or in spite of us, every one of them is a person to be proud of. I am proud of their children also, and I treasure each of those grandchildren. There are 37 of us now, counting spouses, grandchildren and great-grands, and we are a very close family.

Coming from several states, we vacation together twice a year. They visit me singly also, and visit each other. Now that I am dealing with a few demons of old age, they are right on deck, as needed. I am so lucky, especially compared to so many who face their last years alone. We had a big family, with great rewards. I am so blessed, so happy.

One of my most challenging periods of time was the five years I spent getting my college degree, beginning at age 39, when the University of Maine came to Augusta. I had a husband and six children at home. Life threw most everything at us during those five years. My father-in-law died of a heart attack. My mother-in-law needed home care, and we all pitched in until her death. Both of my parents died of cancer after long illnesses, with the need for care.

I needed surgery, which I was able to schedule between semesters. My youngest child started school; my oldest child began college. During those five years, two more started college. I was mother of a bride. My daughter went with her new husband to Morocco for 10 long months, which included Christmas. Still these five years stand in my memory as a wonderful time of growth: stimulating, challenging, fulfilling and happy!

Probably the most visible accomplishment we can claim is building the largest greenhouse range of its kind in the state. We had worked for nearly 30 years at the old place, operating a small greenhouse business, with pansies grown in the field, and gladiolas to sell as cut flowers. There was so much work! The kids worked some with us. When we moved we dropped the field-grown crops, making me happy.

We finally got clearance on the funding to build the new greenhouse range on the last day of 1976.  That winter of 1977 was harsh, but our family put all efforts into getting ready to open in the spring.  My husband and our oldest son worked daily from Day One; our college boy came home on break to help out. Our college girl put herself through school, with practically no help from us. We had two kids still at home, and they helped after school.

I was teaching, and we were living on my wages. We commuted during all those months, but moved to Manchester in the fall. We all did our best, and then some. The seeds were planted on time for the spring season; we held open house before the carpenters finished the sales room; the employees were hired and were transplanting, and were filling the benches as soon as the carpenters built them. We “moved our mountain.”

It was an anxious yet happy time.

We had a successful business, which we built with high ethical standards, with honesty, generous care for our employees, and fairness and concern for customer pleasure. We made every effort to be sure that a customer never left unhappy. We ran the business for 10 years, and then sold it to our son and his wife, the son who had been working with us from the start, and who was our general manager. They have done a marvelous job, and they continue with the ethical practices we established, and the values embraced by all of our children. We often hear, “I just love this place!” I am proud and happy.

So treat yourself occasionally to a bowl of ice cream, snuggle up by a cozy fire, read a book with a happy ending. Choose TV shows and movies that make you happy. Laugh often. Put on some music, and sing along — be sure some is the toe-tapping kind. Invite the whole family for a home-cooked dinner or barbecue, but tell them ahead of time that politics will not be discussed, or anything on which there is serious disagreement. Insist they be polite.

Take one day at a time; learn the line from the Irish song “Come by the Hills” (by Celtic Thunder, among others): “The cares of tomorrow can wait ‘til this day is done.”

You can add these things to the blessings you count.

Mavis J. Longfellow and her husband Lawrence were the original owners of Longfellow’s Greenhouses in Manchester.

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