My father kept lists. I never really knew how many until he passed away and I started going through what he left behind. I not only found grocery lists, but lists of family birthdays, lists of music to all kinds of songs from opera to mountain music. I found Christmas lists and, of all things, lists of my columns from way back in the ’80s. It was amazing.

I make out the usual lists like people’s birthdays to grocery shopping, but my mind started automatically making a list of what makes me happy — especially now that the pandemic seems to be heading backward. Millions have gotten smart and are getting those absolutely imperative vaccinations, so this is a good thing.

What exactly makes me happy, happier than a wiggling puppy slurping up warm milk? First off, when I make lists, I like to number them. They are not necessarily in order of what make me overall happiest, but more like what comes to my mind.

1. Listening to ocean waves crashing onto the shore.

2. Watching the sun appear to rise out of the ocean in the morning.

3. My husband of 51 years saying something so funny I laugh myself silly.

4. Seeing former students of mine from years ago who remember me and I actually remember their names.

5. Watching hummingbirds flit around my purple salvia.

6. Watching bumble bees land on the top of my cone flowers and just stay there until they are covered with pollen.

7. Hearing my brother’s voice when he calls and says, “Well, how’s my sister?” Or when I call my sister, the eccentric scientist, and she says “Coleen! So good to hear your voice.” They are 3,000 miles away and I miss them.

8. Eating fried okra fresh from the garden or a tomato sandwich with white bread and plenty of mayonnaise, with the tomato still warm from the sun on a summer morning.

9. Hearing the laughter of my family members as we all get together. I recognize each member’s style of laughing. And my daughter’s laughter is the most distinct of all, big and wonderful.

10. Hugs from my grandchildren as they run to me calling my name — “Grammy.”

11. A really clean house, including windows, baseboards, bathrooms and litter boxes!

12. Watching “Outlander” over and over. I’m probably a wee bit obsessed with it, but I make no apologies.

13. Sitting nestled in a corner of the couch with a really good book by Diana Gabaldon, Stephen King, Nora Roberts, Hemingway, Steinbeck, Tolkien, Michener ... some re-reads

14. Looking for a book at the little bookstore in Perry or searching Barnes & Noble for the annual special book for each family member every Christmas.

15. My furry family member Tippy (Doodle). She was originally my mom’s little doggie, but when Mom became more fragile, Tippy became more mine. My kitties: Simpson, the big yellow male, and Adso, the gorgeous, dark gray female with the most unique green eyes. All three wait for me outside our bedroom door every morning. It’s what the kids used to do!

16. Noshing on broccoli — cooked or raw. It doesn’t matter which way. It’s my favorite food. I first ate it at my grandparent’s home in New York. I was 6 years old and remember how delicious it was like it was yesterday. Just the thought of the first taste makes me happy. You don’t believe me? Ask my husband. He knows.

17. Being pregnant. It’s been 38 years since our youngest of four was born. We both wanted children so much that during my younger years I was always happiest when I was pregnant.

18. Traveling to Ireland, and our 7,000+ mile road trips out West visiting Crazy Horse Monument, The Avenue of Trees where giant Redwoods made up a spectacular forest that was simply magical, driving across the Golden Gate Bridge, seeing the Grand Canyon and more.

19. Travels with our precious Aunt Rosie. I miss her.

20. Reading Sean Dietrich. Everyone needs to discover this marvelous Southern writer.

21. Family. I am happiest when all 16 of us are together. When we were on vacation, my son-in-law and I were sitting on the beach watching family members body surf, play in the sand, just converse together, soak up some sun. He asked me if I ever thought because Bill and I fell in love and married, such a large wonderful, congenial family would come of our union. I just smiled and said, “It’s amazing, isn’t it? We are blessed.”

Coleen Brooks is a longtime resident of Gordon County who previously wrote for the Calhoun Times as a columnist. She retired as the director and lead instructor for the Georgia Northwestern Technical College Adult Education Department in 2013. She can be reached at

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