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Cameron + Whitney + Momba + Matt = INSTANT PARTY! Fairfield, California, August 2003

Cameron + Whitney + Momba + Matt = INSTANT PARTY! (Momba + anyone = instant party)
Fairfield, California, August 2003

“You seldom come across anything more enjoyable than a happy person.”
Frank A. Clark

When I told Jeff I wanted to use this quote in a post, I asked him if he could think of any photos that would go with it.  He immediately responded, “Have you got one of Momba?”

“Yes, I have a whole bunch of photos of Momba — and actually, I have been intending to feature one of her for a long time.”  Well, that was easy!

“Momba” is the affectionate nickname the kids at our church in California called our friend Mary Ann.  Those who read the blog comments regularly have seen her sunny, generous and supportive contributions here often.  You may recall that she is the one who explained to me what a “street machine” is.  Yes, this grandmother is a biker — no wonder she enjoys life!

But Mary Ann is so much more. She’s a woman of great faith who always finds the positive side of any situation.  It’s no wonder Jeff thought of her first when I read the quote about “happy,” even though we have not seen her in nearly ten years!

I’m sure there are people you know who come to mind when you read this quote.  Chances are, you may be smiling just thinking about them.  See how much a happy person blesses the world?

I wish I could claim to be such a person, but I’m afraid “happy” is not the first word that comes to people’s minds when they think of me.  Still, I appreciate happiness in others, and I try to imitate them.  I want to smile as much as I am able, particularly when I see someone who obviously needs to see a smiling face.

As with other virtues, happiness is really more a decision than an emotion.  It’s almost like a habit, one I want to cultivate.  One of the best ways to do it is to surround myself with people who understand that life is a blessing, and joy is there for the taking if we know how to find it. I’m grateful to know people like Mary Ann, and I wish you many such people in your life!

One year ago today:

A light from within


  1. bobmielke

    I’ve had a few run ins with happiness. A family counselor I was seeing explained to me that happiness in an internal mechanism. You cannot “make” someone happy. In marriage and in life we often fall into the trap of constantly trying to keep everyone happy. The key to success is to be happy yourself and let that radiate out to others.

    • Bob, that’s so true, but it’s a lesson I’ve had a hard time learning. As a generally optimistic, extroverted type who frequently finds myself surrounded by pessimistic, introverted types, (not that those traits are always associated; introverts can be optimists too!) I always feel so driven to “make” a melancholy person enjoy life. I agree with you that it’s a trap, one that never accomplishes anything except frustration and guilt for all. I know that when I am down I can be difficult to reach when people try to cheer me up, so you would think I would have learned by now to let people have their space and give them time to resolve their negative emotions. One thing I like about this blog is that nobody has to read it unless they want to and are in the mood (or have a bit of time). I can sit at the computer and write away about all the reasons I think happiness is out there for everyone, and since nobody has to read it, I’m not putting pressure on anyone or trying to “make” them happy, just sharing — if that makes sense? Years ago I would have had a very hard time letting anybody at all read what I wrote, but I guess at my age it’s easier to be open about everything.

  2. Larry

    Matt is a picture of happiness in almost every picture he has made. It captures his true outlook on life. He brings a smile to everyone around and makes a bright spot in the room always.

    • Thank you Larry! Matt does have his “off” days (as we all do) but he has far fewer of them than most people, although his reasons for having them are too numerous to list. He’s a perfect example of how happiness does not lie in having all the things people chase so desperately.

  3. Sheila

    Julia that description of Mary Ann is so beautiful. What a great thought to be simply, “so much more” in anyone’s mind. I can’t think of happy without Matt’s infectious smile coming to mind. 😍 I hope you are feeling better. Smiles crossing the distance to start our week! 😎

    • Thank you Sheila, I am better today. I am thinking it must have to do with seasonal allergies since I have been spending a great deal of time working outdoors. Since my throat started hurting so bad I cut back on the amount of time I stay outside and I really miss it, but I am doing better. I’m usually not bothered by allergies so I hope I’m not developing them. I’ve always felt lucky not to suffer any of the maladies that many of my friends have had fits with, specifically migraines (I don’t think I’ve ever had one) and allergies. I’m glad you think of Matt’s smile when you think of “happy.” I think that is why he and Mary Ann clicked from literally the very first moment they met. You almost have to wear sunglasses when the two of them are together!

      • MaryAnn

        This morning before I opened email; I told Paul that Matt & I have been connected at the heart since the 1st time we smiled at one another! I feel such joy each time I think of him. There is photo of him & me that you took at a teen party at my house where Matt was the star at “Outburst”. That photo has been on display with my other treasures ever since you gave it to me. It always brings a smile. He is SO special. I love your idea to “wear sunglasses” when we smile. Great mental image.

        • It’s a perfect mental image for both you and Matt. Charter members of the “Life is fun no matter what” club! 😀

  4. Julia.
    Your friend Mary Ann seems like a one in a million, person.
    You’re right, that happiness is more a decision than an emotion. A “just do it” act of the will.
    The longevity of happiness, I believe, depends on the strength and stability of the thing that is the object of that happiness.
    C.S. Lewis says: “Don’t let your happiness depend on something you may lose.”

    • Alan, I believe Mary Ann would agree with you there. She finds such joy and strength in her faith, it’s very contagious to be around her. Anytime anyone ever wants to plan some sort of service project, she’s in. If people could bottle enthusiasm and sell it, she would be a very rich woman. Come to think of it, she already is a very rich woman!

      • MaryAnn

        What a sweet “cheerleader” you are, also!

        • ❤ ❤ ❤

  5. MaryAnn

    You have given me “wings” today! Such a wonderful time filled with camaraderie, conviviality, togetherness & the joy of being alive! All three of these happy people pictured with me are the best example of how to love one another. We had a great youth group at our Fairfield church. You & I often facilitated the place, time, ideas for it to flourish. Game Night comes to mind: Matt “schooling” us at “Outburst”, Drew shining at “Beyond Balderdash”! (I WANT TO PLAY GAMES WITH YOUR BOYS TODAY!!!)
    I wish to now give my view of your comments regarding yourself: my dear Julia, when I think of you I see a joy-filled Christ-follower who does everything possible to be the best. You are the person we all can learn from to became the nurturer that you are! Paul & I were at the computer doing morning devo, when I opened this blog. We have smiles that will last all day!
    “Nurturing” was the word he said describes Julia. I wholeheartedly concur! Thank for this accolade & for your kindness you always extend to me.
    Thank you & big hug to Jeff!
    I love “my” Dentons!
    P.S. Let’s go walking at the beach & splash each other!:)

    • MaryAnn

      Your ability to capture “treasures” in photos AND know where there are when you need one is laudable. Alas, a skill I do not possess.

      • Mary Ann, I have TONS of them that I don’t know where they are! I have literally tens of thousands of photos, and not all have ever been digitized. So the secret is just to take so many that the odds are in my favor that a few will survive and show up when needed! 😀

    • Mary Ann, the beach sounds great! I appreciate your kind and generous comments; everyone needs a cheerleader in their life and you have always been mine. BTW I was remembering the funniest story that happened at LTC with Whitney and Matt. They were doing the puppets and Matt was great with the script, but because of his problems with motor skills, he could not manipulate the puppet. So Whitney moved his puppet for him (as well as her own, though at different times) and she did such a great job staying in sync with everything he said. But the other big problem was, Matt would get tickled and laugh loudly during the show (it was a funny script) and we couldn’t seem to stop him from laughing. I was nervous at the convention in San Jose; I didn’t know how he would do. Then the most wonderful thing happened. Matt started laughing aloud and every time he did, Whitney simply made his puppet laugh. It was really hilarious. She would make the puppet’s shoulders go up and down as if he was cracking up at what the boss was saying (the puppets were on a ship and Matt’s puppet was laughing at what the captain was saying). I was amazed how much skill Whitney showed with that puppet; it all looked just as if it was part of the script. The audience was roaring with laughter as Matt and Whitney’s puppet ended up stealing the show with his zany laugh. Perfect example of how to make lemonade, I guess, but I cannot see Whitney’s photo without remembering that puppet show — it is one of my favorite memories. They ended up with a silver medal, I think. I wouldn’t take anything for the memories of how all those kids worked so beautifully together.

      • MaryAnn

        Exactly, my Dear: watching those young people interact are priceless memories! That puppet show is one I missed, so I am very glad you shared it w/ us! My 2 youngest grandbabies won medals at LTC. Mega fun & joy to recall.

        • They are precious memories indeed!

  6. raynard

    Juila , there is a term, Quiet Strength and it applies to you. As for me i’m more of a ” behind the scenes / Oddjob(from James Bond minus that derby he use to wear lol) People say ” I’m silly and I turn to them and say” Did God laugh and he” didnt have the look of eating lemons and prunes on his face.. I digress lol. be blessed

    • Thank you Raynard! I love having the word “quiet” applied to me, as I’ve heard it so little in descriptions of me throughout my life. I can’t imagine why. 😀 NOT! I remember Oddjob and I think I even remember his last name. Bond fans, wasn’t it Sakata? I have often wondered if God has a sense of humor in the way that we think of it – since God is so far beyond us that none of our concepts could even come close to accuracy. But I fancy that there is something humorous there, and I sense it whenever I think of Matt, who clearly lives up to the meaning of his name (“gift of God”). I think laughter is humanity’s pressure valve that prevents more damage than we can imagine! Laugh on, my friend!

  7. Michael

    Wasn’t Momba also the housekeeper on that T.V. show- The Brady Bunch? She looks familiar.

    • Michael, I can definitely see the connection, but Momba is much more hip than Alice was. Plus she had a Brady Bunch of her own, with her children and grandchildren!

  8. Julia, thank you for sharing this inspiring friendship with us. :~)

    • Merry, you are welcome! I appreciate your encouragement, and your presence here.

  9. That’s just an awesome memory to have and Whitney did an amazing thing. To be able to think on your feet and make it into a wonderful moment for Matt and everyone there was so poised and lovely.
    I really feel like most of the people I spend time with are definitely ‘happy people’. Maybe I’m naive, or maybe they put on a happy face when we’re together. I’d like to think that’s not the case. You haven’t met me or Alys in person yet, but I can tell you, I know what you mean when you call Mary Ann your cheerleader. I still have to shake my head when I think about how we started this life long friendship. When I think about just the logistics, me in Canada, Alys in the States, me no children, Alys two great kids, it seems totally unlikely that we’d cross paths. But yet we did and our lives are better for it. Somehow, life always brings me what I need. That’s not the same as getting everything you want. It’s better.

    • How true, as the Rolling Stones sang – “You cant always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might find you get what you need.” It really is better that way, isn’t it? I believe some things are just meant to be. I realize many find that a fanciful notion, but those of us who have lived by providence all these years know better. 😀

  10. Michael

    Momba sounds pretty awesome. You probably remember the story that Precious Ramotswe told about the green Momba that hid within her engine. Of course there is no connection- or is there?

    • No, not that I know of. I believe the snake’s name is usually spelled “Mamba.” Mary Ann, can you tell us where your nickname came from?

      • MaryAnn

        When my boys were teenagers our home was alive with kids! There was lots of playful teasing, joking & play on words. At one time they were rhyming everyone’s name by adding endings. It began like this: our sons: Lancebenz, Shanebenz, Dalebenz; there friends Karlbenz, Clarkbenz, Kevinbenz, Mikebenz, etc. My Mombenz became “Momba” from the beginning. It stuck. All the names for the kids fell away. It is easy to tell when I 1st met a young person by what they call me. I am AKA: Mrs. MaryAnn, Mama Clontz, Mom Clontz, Momba & Grandma; from teaching 2’s & 3’s Bible class for 40 years, Sierra Bible Camp, youth group at church, my sons’ group of friends & now grandchildren. So, the answer to your query is the kids in my life have great terms of endearment for me! For which I thank our Lord!
        Great question stirring up great memories of wonderful people in my life!
        Thanks, Julia! Your blog friends are thoughtful people.

        • So now we know! Thanks so much for giving us the answer. It’s funny that I never thought to ask you where it came from. It was such a perfect fit, I guess it never occurred to me to wonder!

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