Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

The secret to happiness.

I’ve always been a long-term thinker. I bought our old house because it was in the zone of one of the best secondary schools in the state. I did this when my oldest was still in kindergarten. He wasn’t yet 5 years old.

I set a goal to pay off that house before I decided to start investing. It took me a long time, as I wrote about here in ‘The story of how Frogdancer Jones won her Freedom.‘ But I had the goal of complete security for myself and the boys in front of me and I kept chipping away at it until the job was done.

I have always wanted to travel. I mapped out my dream holiday in the UK and Europe when I was 15.

It took me until I was 51 before I finally got to go. Actually, the header picture of this blog is the skyline above Hampton Court Palace in England, which was a dream come true for this Tudor-history buff. Those clouds remind me that I’m one of the luckiest people around.

Yes, I consider myself to be extremely lucky, so much so that nearly every day I’m calling myself “Fortunate Frogdancer!” when yet another thing goes my way. But I didn’t always see myself like this.

The first few years after I left my husband and set out on a life on my own – if you can ever say that when you have 4 small boys under 5 with you! – life was tough. I was a teacher, but there was no point even thinking about going to work with all the boys still at home. The child-care fees would have killed me, even back then.

Money was tight. I had good friends and family, but it’s still quite an isolated life being at home with small children. There’s only so many times you can sing, “I’m a little teapot” along with the presenters of ‘Play School’ before you feel like your brain is turning to mush and dribbling out from your mouth as you sing.

Because money was tight, I didn’t go out very often. It took 2 years after the separation before I could even think about dating again, but when I started, most men obviously heard the magical sentence “I have four children” and that was it. The ones who didn’t seem to care were sometimes a bit creepy so that wasn’t anything I wanted to pursue.

I remember sitting on the front porch one night after the kids were in bed, feeling anxious about the future and worrying that we were never going to get ahead. I was probably still about 2 years away from going back to work at that point and it seemed as if the position I was in was never going to change. It all looked pretty bleak.

I was getting teary, thinking about our bleak, poverty-stricken future and wondering how it was that all my goals were so far out of reach when I was a well-educated person who should have run things better. That started to get a bit depressing, so I thought I’d better do something productive, so I started watering the garden.

This garden was pretty much one that I’d inherited from the old lady who lived in there before me. One of the plants was a big, lush rose bush with huge white flowers ruffled with pink. As I was worrying about all of my big goals being so far out of reach, I leaned forward on a whim and smelled one of the roses. (You can see the rose bush in the photo – Evan18’s Valedictorydinner 4 years ago.)

I smiled. The scent was glorious. I turned around to put the hose onto another section of garden and realised that I was still smiling.

My eyes widened as I realised that I’d just been given the secret to happiness.

Appreciate the little joys in life. They come along much more frequently than the big things!

It’s so true. From that moment on my life has been wonderful.

Did I feel great when I finally paid off that mortgage? You bet. One of the best moments of my life.

How did I feel when I was walking through Westminster Abbey, seeing all of those tombs of the English Kings and Queens? I was overcome with happiness and awe and I knew I’d never forget that day.

Was it worth all of the angst when the geo-arbitrage gamble I made paid off and I was debt-free again? Absolutely.

But these things only happened on a handful of days that I’ve lived. If I waited for all of the big things to happen so that I could feel great, I have to tell you that it’d be a long time between drinks!

But little things happen every single day. We just choose to gloss over them while we have our eyes on the bigger prizes.

When you switch your focus to living more in the moment, then your life becomes so much happier. The little things glitter like jewels when you stop to really enjoy them. Things like these:

*The smell of a cup of French Earl Grey tea as you raise it to your lips. It’s a tiny luxury.

*When you come home after a long day at work and someone else has started dinner!!! You sit down on the couch and they bring you a glass of wine. (I had to wait a long time for this to happen. Kids take a long time to grow up.)

*The completely unselfconscious sound of a small child laughing.

*Getting the last car park.

*The gentle weight of a dog’s head lying in your lap as you read a book. So much love and trust.

*The sound of the sea. The smell of the salty air. Seagulls soaring overhead.

*Hearing a bird sing as you’re waking up in the morning.

*The sound of a storm outside, while you’re warm and snug inside. It’s even better if you eat a bowl of icecream while you’re listening to it. So cold outside the house and inside your belly, yet you’re so warm and safe everywhere else.

*Finding out that the next season of a favourite tv show is out on Netflix. Or the next instalment of a series of books you love is being released. Or a sequel to a novel you’ve loved for decades is being written. (Margaret Attwood is releasing a sequel to ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ later this year. Pretty darned exciting…)

*Cracking a joke and everyone laughs. Or even better – someone else cracks a joke that you didn’t see coming and YOU laugh.

*Dancing, especially if you know the song so you can make all the moves, baby.

*Trying out a new recipe and that first taste-test when you realise that you nailed it. You feel like the greatest chef ever.

*That lovely feeling after you cut your toenails. So freeing. Or is that just me?

*Teaching somebody something and that look in their eye when they understand it.

*Catching a ball. This has happened very rarely in my life, but I think that even if you’re used to doing it, it must still be very satisfying.

*Still on the subject of balls – throwing a ball for a dog. They’re convinced that it’s the Best Game Ever and they never get sick of it. Such a simple thing.

*A cat’s purr. I think that’s one of the most contented sounds in the world.

*Hearing a song that you haven’t heard for YEARS and you can still sing along to all the lyrics.

*That satisfied feeling of tiredness at the end of a really productive day when you’ve gotten a whole lot of things done.

*Realising that you’re having a good hair day.

*When you silently share a glance with someone and you realise that you’re both on the same wave-length.

*Finding $20 in a pocket that you forgot you put there. It’s like free money!!

*Sunlight on your skin on an autumn day.

*The laughter and chatter of friends sitting around a dinner table.

*When your child actually acts on your advice, or when they compliment you on your taste in music.

That’s a list of 25 small things that I put down completely randomly off the top of my head.

Normally I don’t finish my posts with questions for my readers, but do you have a small thing that brings joy for you? It might be cool if we get a list of small things in the comments. I’ve started the ball rolling – so what little thing brings a smile to your face?


  1. Angela @ Tread Lightly Retire Early

    Little things that bring me joy:

    Running down trails dappled in sunlight. Sharing a dinner with neighbors. Snuggling the sleeping kiddo. Checking out a new library while traveling. Settling in to read a good book. Quiet conversations in the evening with my husband.

    • FrogdancerJones

      All but one of your things is quiet. 🙂

  2. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life

    I’m not a kid person, I like babies and tots best, but the sound of a kid unable to stop laughing makes me laugh.
    Dogs roaching.
    That feeling when typing on a keyboard that feels exactly right. Bonus points if my nails were just trimmed.
    Sleeping dog smell.
    My husband in a good mood.
    A new stack of books from the library.
    My JB’s face in repose every night.
    JB asking me for a hug.
    A good walk with all 2-3 dogs when they’re trotting and happy and listening.
    JB asking for seconds of a meal politely. Asking for anything politely without being told, really.
    Being reminded that I’m quite respected in my profession – this doesn’t come along overtly every day but I see it when my judgement is requested and respected.
    Watching a thunderstorm inside, warm and dry, not having to go out.
    Splashing out in a storm and getting soaked when we have to go out.
    Having the whole family together at night.
    Alone time during the day.
    When I’ve knowingly or unintentionally been a good friend to someone I care about.
    Really cool postage stamps.
    Recalling people we loved and lost. A little bittersweet but I really appreciate when old friends remember the core of my mother.

    • FrogdancerJones

      I had to Google what ‘roaching’ meant with regards to dogs. Never heard of it before – and yes, they look so relaxed when they do it.

  3. AussieMoneyMan

    This is such a touching and accurate post. Good job. I find just going for a light jog through the bush to be one of the most happiest moments for me.

    • FrogdancerJones

      It’s funny how different people are.
      I only run if someone’s chasing me!

  4. Cath

    This was exactly what I needed to start my day. (Well, that and the smell of my strong coffee, the feeling of our puppy’s head on my leg and being inside from the -30 weather outside!) Thank you!

    • FrogdancerJones

      Did you say NEGATIVE 30?????

      • Cath

        It is crazy cold here at the moment. Good for gratitude practice though!

  5. Karen

    A nice hot iron, pressing a precisely pieced quilt block.
    Reading well written blog posts that put a smile on my face.
    Watching my kids share memes with their dad that they have saved up to show him while he’s been away working.

    • FrogdancerJones

      You’ve reminded me that I was going to finish my son’s quilt over the holidays…
      Ah well, there’s always next holidays!

  6. Chris

    Sorry if this is taboo, but this post reminds me of the 1000 Awesome Things blog… so many things you take for granted, but when you realise they are actually awesome it completely changes your day.

    Things like the smell of cut grass, the other side of the pillow, that moment when your ears adjust to the air pressure, etc. Moments that come and go without a second thought, unless we take the time to do it.

    Great post, thank you. And good luck for the 2019 school year!

    • FrogdancerJones

      I’ve never heard of that blog… off to google. 🙂

      • Chris

        Took me a while to go through them all… but it’s time well spent!

  7. Mrs. Groovy

    When the hottest water I can stand hits my shoulders in the shower.
    A view of the cows in the pasteure down the road (but I try not to think about where they’ll soon be taken).
    The absolute lack of sound outside at night. I ask Mr G “Do you hear that?” And he replies “Hear what?” — exactly!

  8. Chrissy

    This is such a lovely, important post. Thank you for sharing. Having overcome postpartum depression and anxiety twice in my life, I’ve learned a lot about how to be a happier person. Yet I never thought about paying more attention to how happy the small things in life make me. I know they do, but to have that pointed out, and being mindful of it, is a very different experience. Thank you for enlightening me! This is one of those articles that I’m going to share with everyone I know!

    BTW, this made me crack up: “… most men obviously heard the magical sentence “I have four children” and that was it.”

    OMG, you’re so funny!

    • FrogdancerJones

      Well, you clearly have an excellent sense of humour!!
      heh heh

  9. Kris

    This is a great post. I think you can find joy in just about anything, it’s all in your attitude. Kids probably practise this without even thinking but like many things we grow out of or are conditioned to no longer do, we may need constant reminders until we cement that habit of appreciating the little things, back into our lives. I guess that where the gratitude journals come into play. I try and think of things in my day to be grateful for as i rest my head on the pillow each night but I also try hard to acknowledge all the little things throughout the day as they occur or I think of them. If I can keep it up I think it actually makes me a nicer person to be around.
    Am enjoying reading your blogs Frogdancer!

    • FrogdancerJones

      What a beautifully thoughtful comment to read.
      Today at school we were told that we are going to be doing a mindfulness session every Monday morning with our classes. When the lecturer was going through the research and the exercises, it felt a little like what I was talking about in this post. Just noticing the NOW and being in the moment.

  10. chasingFIREdownunder

    Lovely post. It is so true that gratitude and appreciation of the small things is a big part of the solution in achieving happiness. During a period of time when I was suffering from anxiety and depression I had a journal where I would write down things I was grateful for each day and it was immensely helpful..

    Things on my list include
    – the sound of rain on the roof during a storm
    – the smell of libraries and old books
    – the moment when you crack open the spine of a brand new book
    – the silent moments rugged up in bed just before it’s time to get out and start my day. (I’m hearing impaired and have a vibrating alarm, so my morning wake up call really is silent!)
    – the smell of fresh baked bread or cake
    – the moment of reflection just after finishing an epic book when you sit in disbelief that it’s over
    – the moment you learn that your favourite book series is being made into a show
    – the feeling when you donate to a cause you really believe in
    – the view out of the plane window as it coasts down towards a new city
    – the thrill of watching your nephew take his first steps and feeling amazed at being able to witness development at work
    – the feeling of standing in a hot shower completely heedless of time passing by outside

    And so many more…

    • FrogdancerJones

      I think the 2 sons I still have living with me enjoy your last item every single day. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *