Important decision

Contagious happiness: Carla snapped this photo of Ms. Ella, Raynard and Mary with Matt and me. That's a yummy chocolate cake in the tin on the table in front of me. But I digress... Virginia Beach, July 2015

Contagious happiness: Carla took this photo of Ms. Ella, Raynard, Mary, Matt and me.
That’s a yummy chocolate cake in the tin on the table in front of me. But I digress…
Virginia Beach, July 2015

“The most important decision you make is to be in a good mood.”Voltaire

In the grand scheme of things, it might seem that Voltaire is exaggerating to describe a mere mood as being so important.  After all, there are plenty of huge and life-changing decisions that are far less transient than how we feel on any particular day.  But when you think about it, our moods have such a pervasive effect that it might not be too much of a stretch to say they have the potential to change almost everything.

A good mood is, in most circumstances, a choice we make.  While there are burdens and sorrows that are too heavy to allow us to just “snap out of it,” I think that most of our daily irritations are relatively minor.  Have you ever known someone who seemed to take everything in stride, smiling even when things don’t go well?  People like that serve society well, because a good attitude is contagious.  How different would the world be if everyone managed to keep a positive and sunny spirit through everyday frustrations?

Looking at the picture above, you would never guess that Ms. Ella, Raynard and Mary had just spent most of their day sitting in horrible traffic.  But that’s exactly what had happened.  After several planned meet-ups that fell through for one reason or another, we had finally found a day when it seemed we would be able to get together in Virginia Beach.  My sister was in town from Alabama, and I was taking her for a late breakfast at the Belvedere.  We figured our friends would arrive around lunch time, and Raynard had promised to bring me a freshly-baked cake that would be one of the three choices I gave him (chocolate, chocolate or chocolate, or if none of those worked out, chocolate).  We all looked forward to meeting face-to-face for the first time after years of online friendship at Upper Room and this blog.

Though it was a Saturday, none of us guessed that the beach traffic would be so bad all the way from Delaware down to Virginia.  I guess that’s always a risk when driving down the outer coast. To complicate things, I was using a new cell phone that I couldn’t figure out how to answer, so every time they called to give us an update, I ended up having to call them back because I didn’t know how to answer their calls.  It seems funny to think about it now, but at the time it was driving me crazy to be unable to answer my own phone.

If you’ve been reading the comments here, you probably remember that Raynard is a cheerful type who can see the humor in almost any situation.  That comes in handy if one is snarled in traffic.  I don’t know about you, but there is hardly anything that can ruin my day more quickly. By the time they got to Virginia Beach, they didn’t have much time to do anything but grab a quick bite and turn around to head home. But the short time we had together was quite memorable, and we had that delicious cake as a take-home souvenir.  It’s the first time someone has ever baked me a cake for their own birthday!

Matt, Carla and I all had a great time chatting with them, and their short visit was a note of cheer that lasted for days.  Mary even figured out what I was doing wrong with my cell phone, and with her help, I’ve been able to answer calls ever since!  Meeting all of them was certainly a high point of the summer for me.

Sometimes we might feel that there is not much we can do to change a world that is too full of sadness and nasty behaviors and outright tragedy.  But if you are blessed to know someone with a sunny disposition, you know that they can take almost any situation and turn it around.   I’d like to be that sort of person, wouldn’t you?


  1. Ann

    What a great picture! I feel like I know Raynard from all his comments on The Upper Room web site, his cakes and big heart are famous.

    • Ann, how true! I can recall those dark, dark early days of living through the shock of Jeff’s diagnosis, and the mornings we would head to Bethesda before daybreak for chemo sessions. The fellowship at Upper Room helped me keep going, and Raynard never failed to bring a smile to my face with his funny stories and comments (to this day I remember the Mr. Potato Head gift that concealed a “long overdue” diamond ring for Mary). So glad you are here to share the joy!

  2. Yes!
    Good morning, Julia!
    Ah yes, the “I can’t answer my phone because … I can’t answer my phone” phenomenon. I don’t recall anyone ever mentioning that Mary is a techno geek. 🙂
    Bless her!
    This picture actually brought tears to my eyes – what a monumental occasion! A Joy Summit, in a way. I’m so excited that you were able to meet in person!
    I’m would love to someday meet all of these wonderful folks that post here, dedicated to defeating despair!

    • Susan, you have no idea what a relief it is to know I’m not the only one who had that problem! Remember the old days when all the phones looked and worked the same way? I remember thinking the extra long cord that enabled me to walk all over the kitchen was one giant step for mankind! 😀 Wish you could have been with us at the Joy Summit (though I wouldn’t have wished that traffic on you) but I do believe we all WILL meet eventually, if not in this world, then in the next! Now THAT’S a thought that defeats despair! 😀

  3. I agree, I always try to put on a good mood every day. Going through a tough time right now so it is hard.
    Good to put a face to an Upper Room friend Raynard.

    • Hi Barb, so sorry to hear you are going through a tough time. I really do need to get over to the Upper Room and catch up on how everyone is doing. Some days it’s hard to put on a cheerful face, and it might not feel as if it’s getting us anywhere, but we don’t know how many people we may be helping with our smiles and good will. I do find that when I’m feeling worst, sometimes I need to give myself a few minutes to cry or have a pity party or whatever, but then I have to turn my thoughts in more positive directions so my despair won’t spiral downward into deeper depression. I will be thinking of you today and praying you will tap into those inner reservoirs of joy that will keep you going. Thanks so much for being here and sharing joys AND sorrows. I know you will get some prayer support from many who read this. ❤

  4. Cherie

    Julia, so glad to finally put a face to Raynard, our cheerful funny commenter in the UR family!! Hope things are going well for you and the boys. Love you, Cherie.

    I hope I can be the positive uplifting one in the crowd.

    • Hi Cherie! I was just thinking about you EARLY this morning when I woke up and couldn’t go back to sleep. I was thinking of my parents and I had woken up with that old church song “A Land Where We’ll Never Grow Old” playing ceaselessly in my head, so I decided to start praying for all the folks I like to pray for, and of course you and Ron were on that list. I am so happy to hear from you this morning! Hope you are doing well. Sending hugs and love.

  5. Linda Blackford

    What a great picture of happy friends getting together! Believe it or not, I knew immediately that was Raynard, though I’d never seen a picture of him before. I wonder if he has any idea how well-known he is and how many smiles he’s brought to faces all over the world! I’m convinced choosing to be in a good mood can be life changing, both for the decision maker and everyone he or she encounters. Thank you for this perfect Monday morning post!

    • Linda, I agree – the moment we pulled into the parking lot I knew Raynard when I saw him (though, to be fair, he had told me to be on the lookout for a guy wearing a Pittsburgh Steelers cap! 😀 ) Raynard somehow manages to cut through the gloom without negating or minimizing the sorrows and cares others are dealing with. Isn’t Ms. Ella a doll? I am so happy Mary and Raynard are taking care of her. Thanks for being here and sharing the joy!

  6. raynard

    Julia I guess’ I won’t be the man behind the curtain anymore”.. I’m still humbled that you chose me for this blog. To be fair this trip was the only thing we did all summer. I just found out last night that my youngest daughter” has the baking genes” like her dad..Something I always wondered, how come Batman, Robin and The Riddler wear tights but you never see them do” ballet”. I know I know someone thought” they were John Trovolta in Saturday Night Fever walking down the street with a can of paint not spilling” lol Keep me in your prayers. I’m recovering from a trip to the V.A Emergency Room last Friday..I had a nurse who” couldnt prick a porcupine” then her supervisor stuck a i.v in me and had me ” squeeling like a pig at a state fair”.. Kidney stone on right side. I’m drinking more water as” I stick my tougue out at” that hump day camel’ I digress.. Since June I lost 20 pounds and” I can teach Richard Simmons a thing or two on” How to sweat to the oldies’ lol Be blessed

    • Raynard, I just read today at UR that you had a kidney stone. I never had one but I heard it’s worse than having a baby, and if so, you have my complete and total sympathy. I hope you are feeling better! Keep drinking that water so you don’t have a recurrence. My brother can tell you some horror stories about that. BTW I have never ever seen “Saturday Night Fever” but now after that paint can remark I’m curious, maybe some time I will have to get it from the library. Thanks to you and Mary and Ms. Ella for agreeing to let me publicize your sunny smiles on this blog! P.S. tell Mary I’m answering my cell phone like a pro now. 😀

    • Raynard, I had lunch with a friend today who’s husband was rushed to the ER (everyone thought stroke) only to find out it was a kidney stone. It sounds like misery.

      Congrats on the weight loss. I would be in big trouble if I lived with a baker. I’ve never met a baked good I didn’t like. Be well.

  7. Sheila

    Good Monday morning, Julia. What an occasion this must have been! It really looks as though happiness was being served with “free refills”! I am so glad the Belvadere was the chosen location for your meeting, seems so right. Raynard has been such an inspiration and given so much happiness (and many laughs) to Upper Room and DefeatDespair readers. He has touched more lives than he ever imagined. What a wonderful way to start our week. Blessings to this delightful group! 🙏

    • Thank you Sheila! I know you were with us in spirit. The Belvedere is the official coffee shop of Club Verandah so I’m sure we’ll be there one day watching the waves and sipping and chatting. Hope you are having a wonderful week!

      • Cheers to waves and sipping and chatting! 😍 Speaking of Club Verandah…. The 9th PORCH, can you believe 2015 has gone so fast? This month looks like “Tea for two” and I love the open door, close to all the ivy. I’m so glad that I added you to my list so we can share our porch everyday. On the porch and in my heart, Sheila 💛

        • Sheila, I’ve been away from our Alexandria home but will return there tonight, so I can’t wait to see the new location for our tea time club! No, I can’t believe it’s already September. Good thing we never get any older. 🙂

  8. Despite the ‘wrong things’ – the lovely people, interactions and fabulous humour = a wonderful meet-up!! So lovely to see xoxo

    • Thanks Pauline! We learned in April how much fun we can have even when things go wrong and there are delays! 😀 I still can’t believe how we wandered around Dulles Airport for over an hour looking for each other. All’s well that ends well, as they say. Hope you are having a fabulous week.

  9. I’ve seen Raynard’s comments often. He’s cheerful, positive and he bakes too. Way to go Raynard. I’m delighted that you all had a chance to get together. I will send you a private note when I get a moment, but this post arrived in my Reader at just the right time.

    Mike and I were invited to an open house/pool party yesterday by our dear friend Sue. Her husband just came home from the hospital after triple bypass surgery. We were stunned that they wanted to go ahead with the gathering, but dear Sue said she would keep it to a strict two hours, and we all dutifully headed to the door on time. Sue is the same kind of person. She has a sing in her voice, a love for life, family and friends, and though tragedy has certainly crossed her path, she lives life to the fullest. She’s a joy to be around.

    Julia, I snickered at your three choices of chocolate cake. Delightful post.

    • Alys, I’m so happy you are lucky to have friends such as Sue to brighten your life. I’m sure she knew her hubby needed some therapeutic contact with friends, though she was wise to keep it to a clearly defined limit. Glad the post was well timed. Isn’t it nice how that happens sometimes? Sending you warm wishes for a lovely week.

  10. I loved the quote. I’ll save that one. I have a red stone from Arizona that says “Attitude is Everything” It’s where I see it first thing in the morning. You are right. Mood is a choice. Bad things happen but I chose to focus on the good more. I have to acknowledge the bad and deal with it but then turn my attention to something I can be grateful and happy about. Traffic is getting worse all the time because there are more people and cars. it’s a given so you have to plan accordingly. I’m always quite nervous with too many cars. Shows my age. ;( I’m with you on cake flavors.That applies to ice cream as well. Chocolate! I love meeting fellow bloggers especially since so many are contagiously happy. You know of those I speak. I am always afraid to go to certain bloggers commenters sites. It’s like going down another rabbit hole. You just have more blogs you want to read and I can’t keep up now. They are all so nice. 😦 Makes it hard to resist.

    • Hi Marlene, I share your frustration at having so many wonderful blogs to follow and so little time to do it. It’s like being at an endless party with fascinating people and only being able to stay for five minutes. Re: traffic, when we moved around in the military, every place we lived would claim to be the traffic capital of the world. While it does seem to be getting worse everywhere, I must say that I think DC takes the prize in that category, followed closely by the East Bay traffic (just outside San Francisco) on weekends, especially to and from Lake Tahoe. Of course, LA is in a category all by itself. I HATE driving in heavy traffic, and to be truthful, I’m not fond of driving anytime. Thank goodness for CHOCOLATE to take the edge off the stress!

      • I think you are right on all counts with regards to where the traffic is worst. My son is back in LA for a couple of weeks work. Traffic here looks really good to him after LA. East coast is denser I think. Wouldn’t even try there. I don’t drive much anymore since the Bells hit. Took 2 full years before I could drive just to the store and it was exhausting. Now I can do a 40 mile round trip to the fabric store and back. No big city driving for me these days. Good public transport here. Chocolate will fix anything. 🙂

        • Marlene, I have always thought it would be ideal to live where one could avoid driving almost completely, using either walking or public transportation. But I am thankful to to have my car when I need it. Re: LA, ever time we would go back there we would say “WOW, we forgot how bad it is here.” You kind of have to see it to believe it. What always amazed us is how it’s crowded pretty much any time of day. Sometimes when we made a long drive and got there very late (close to midnight) it would still have heavy traffic. It’s a great place to visit, but… 😀

          • I’m with you there. My son is working there for the next week and a half. Boy does he want to come back here.. My kids grew up there but would be quite happy to never see it again. You are right, any time, day or night it’s bad. Don’t even want to visit. 😦

            • Hi Marlene, I’m so sorry it took me so long to get to this comment. By now you know why. I am doing OK under the circumstances. I miss everyone here and hope to be back on a regular basis soon.

              • Take your time. You have lots to deal with as I well know. Nothing else matters and we are all supporting you virtually. When ever it gets to be too much, just see yourself embraced by all of us. We are a very patient lot. That’s a must for writers, you know. Hugs.

                • Thank you Marlene, I do sense and appreciate the virtual support. What a blessing and comfort. You are all with me and that means so much.

  11. Julia…good evening. A wonderful picture of you and Matt visiting with Raynard, Mary and Ms. Ella. Yes, Raynard stands out in a crowd. 😀 I’m glad his visit to the ER was short.
    I agree with your choice of cake or ice cream…chocolate, chocolate, or chocolate. yummm!
    I chose to not be a victim…but be a survivor and an encourager.
    Do bad things happen to me and my family? yes…but there is always someone in worse shape.
    Blessing to you, Jeff and Matt. ❤

    • Thank you Merry. I am always encouraged by those who know how to remain positive in all circumstances. It really is a choice, isn’t it? I thought you would enjoy seeing Raynard’s picture. My site had a lot of visitors from Upper Room the past two days since it posted. He is a popular guy there. Sending you some virtual chocolate cake (did I mention it had a coffee glaze? YUMMY!)

  12. bobmielke

    I sure wish I could be that person all of the time. My weakness is traffic. I just can’t seem to grasp the logic that some people have to speed on the highway. Of course if you think about it the only people you see passing you on the highway are indeed speeders. If they’re not speeding they’re tailgating, something that can ruin my day.

    In just a month I’m moving across the country to New England where I’ll be living in the country. The closest town has just 11,000 residents. It’s been 55 years since I lived near that small a town. I’m looking forward to the peace and quiet.

    • Bob, you really don’t want to get me started on my most oft-repeated rant about tailgating and people who go too fast on the freeway. I have read some interesting articles and one book about traffic, written by engineers who specialize in freeway design and efficient driving practices, and they are most enlightening. Several of them a person who drives aggressively (tailgating, weaving, speeding) actually ends up impairing traffic flow by cutting in front of people causing them to brake, and they do not gain any time, or at most very little, by these practices when there is steady traffic. One author wrote “whatever time you gain by these habits, you lose at the other end of your life because the stress you provoke actually shortens your life span.” I believe it! So I agree that traffic is a definite mood spoiler. The funny thing is that the speeders probably get even angrier at my slower driving (I do always go at least the speed limit and stay in the right or middle lane).

      I’m excited for you and your new adventure moving to New England. I wish you a smooth transition and much joy in your new location. You are arriving there at a perfect time of year!

  13. Julia,
    All is fleeting; the good and the bad. When faced with some trial it is best to first look in a mirror. Then force the frown, that I know will reflect your mood, into a smile. The change in one’s countenance will, with certainty, make quite evident that your circumstance could be much worse than it is.

    • Alan, I have read that research says exactly that; the mere act of smiling actually puts us in a better mood. That’s a bargain, especially given that it also helps others. AND almost everyone looks more appealing with a smile. My Daddy loves to say “nothing is ever as good or as bad as you think it is at the moment” and I think that’s probably true. Sending you many smiles! 🙂 😀 🙂 😀 🙂

  14. Utterly agree with our choice to be happier and better people each moment of the day. Lovely share!

    • Thank you, Cynthia! I am always happy to hear from you.

  15. HarryS

    🙂 Some of our sages tell us that AA stands for attitude adjustment. 🙂

    • Perfect! I love it.

  16. Michael

    Nice pict of Raynard. Fun to connect a face to the words. I could also do with less driving. I was reading an article about Hibiscus and there are some new varieties out there for our area-more compact and more disease resistant. We had a beautiful purple “Rose of Sharon” that passed suddenly one winter. In the article, they mentioned a hibiscus known as the “Confederate rose.” Have you heard of it?
    Hope to visit the Belvedere one day in Virginia Beach. BTW- I assisted in a wedding- spur of the moment – for two servicepersons- Zach and Hilary. Zach is in the marines and heading out to Norfolk. There is a nice little write up on the hospital face book page if you are interested. Heather is in the coast-guard and they were high school sweethearts. Both seemed so young. www,valleymedicalcenter. com. I will see if I can find a link. It was a special time and took place in our hospital healing garden.
    As far as cakes go-red velvet is my current favorite.

    • Hi Michael, I thought you might like seeing Raynard’s photo. We have a potted Hibiscus that is doing well so far; we hope to bring it inside for the winter. My parents have a couple the do that with, that they’ve had for years and are now taller than I am. Our Rose of Sharon continues to do well despite our wooded area being way overgrown and blocking too much of the sun. I have never heard of the Confederate Rose plant but I’ll look it up. Speaking of which, I went to the website you mention and couldn’t find the write up, so send a link if you can find it. I even did a page search with the word “wedding” but couldn’t find it. I will check the Facebook page too but I was hoping to find a link I could post that anyone could see, for those who don’t use Facebook. I’m sure all three of them would like to see it. 😀 Just kidding, I know there are more than three. But maybe fewer than 20?

  17. Michael

    I will try and punch the Belevedere into my GPS? Do they have web site?

    • Try this Trip Advisor link with reviews. Hey, are you coming this way? If you told me I somehow forgot or missed hearing it. We have been in York a lot lately so maybe we can meet up. If we can plan around the traffic we might even talk Raynard into bringing you a Red Velvet cake. Raynard, are you reading this? 😀

      • BTW I would invite everyone who reads this to meet at the Belvedere, but I think the entire place only holds about 20 people tops.

  18. Hello, my friend. I’m sending you a virtual box of crayons, and they’re all YELLOW! I think of you so often! 🙏🌻💛🌼 and of course 🐥💛🐤. Love to all at 5928, Sheila

    • Sheila, I now have a giant (virtual) mural on my wall, all in YELLOW! Luckily I’m the only one who can see it, since my artwork leaves something to be desired, but the color certainly is right!! Sending love and hugs to your whole household!

  19. Michael
    I will see if I can find a link.

    • Hi Michael, I just tried this link but got a “page not found” message. I’ll try the other one.

  20. Michael
    • Found it! What a sweet story. Thanks for sharing this lovely couple’s joy with us.

  21. Can you hear me giggle when I visit? I so enjoy your company Julia. Stopping here, I now hear your voice when I read and it’s even more fun. I found that part about your cell phone especially fun because that was happening to me one week. Honest to goodness ! Something got changed (by me no doubt) and I couldn’t figure it out. I was returning calls all week, LOL. Maddening right? But funny too. I was like, ‘man, when did I become this old person that can’t figure out technology?”. Then I remembered that I never did learn how to set our VCR to pre-record at a specific time. That’s really sad, LOL. Luckily, that technology became old news before I figured it out.

    It’s hard to be ‘on’ at all times. Everyone has sad days or low days. If anyone I know has good reason, it would be you Julia. Yet you maintain a wicked sense of humour and fun and are a complete delight. As I’m sure many others have told you. I find it so much easier to be happy and not moody, so maybe I’m just a slacker, HA. Moodiness gives me a headache and I usually end up feeling guilty. I’d feel bad that I could have made someones day by being nicer but indulged in a pity-party and missed out. Listen, I’m no Saint and Mr B has probably suffered the odd slip-up, LOL.

    Then there’s your Matt! I’m sure his smile melts away a poor mode in a heartbeat! It’s great to see you two! Thanks for sharing your photo, you’re cute as ever xoxoxo K

    • Thanks so much for your sunny words, K — they are a real joy to me after this difficult week. I couldn’t help but think of you this weekend when we went to north Alabama to bury Daddy, and I found that my Fitbit Charge automatically reset itself to the central time zone. If only your “smart” phone had done that on your adventurous trip here in March, but of course, then we would not have a fun story to laugh about later. I can say for sure that even in the darkest and most sorrowful times, it helps to stay grateful and rejoice in all the good, of which there is always plenty. I miss you and everyone here, and hope to be back very soon. I am holding up fairly well, as are the rest of us. Poor Mama has it worst. Daddy has been taking care of her for so long. We knew it, but because he refused so much of our help for so long, we didn’t know quite how much she depended on him for every basic aspect of getting through her days. Hopefully we will have some in-home care set up for her soon. That’s what we are all working on now. I’ll keep you posted. ❤ ❤ ❤

  22. Michael

    So you have two places? One in Virginia Beach. The board walk looks amazing. My wife’s nephew and family live in Norfolk and he works at the base there. When we visit- someday- on the bucket list- perhaps we can connect. Both of her nephews are in Virginia and originally from San Francisco they now call the East coast the right coast.
    The Confederate rose- “Hibiscus Mutabilis” sounds amazing and changes color through the day- would you believe. Starting as white in the A.M., then pink at midday, and later red in the evening. Never heard of such a thing.

    • WOW, I have never heard of a rose changing colors either. I’ll have to try to find one if I ever return to what increasingly seems like an imaginary parallel universe where there are no crises. Our Tidewater home is in York County, across the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel from Norfolk and Virginia Beach. Raynard comes down from Delaware and thus bypasses our neck of the woods, so since VA Beach is an easy drive for us (45 minutes) it’s the logical place to meet. YES, I hope we can all get together one day. Maybe we can have a big Upper Room party with those who live close enough to visit. Henry and Cindy and I had breakfast together one morning when Cindy was in town for a conference. It was so fun.

  23. Michael

    It is only 3037 miles to the Belvedere from us. 47 hours by car.

    • Wow, easy trip! Be sure and let us know when you will be coming so I can give Raynard and Mary some time to arrange one of their “Cannonball Runs.”


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