Bess, Mary, Cynthia and Kathy.

Hard to believe, but November, known as gratitude month, is just around the corner. Ushering in the holiday season, November is past the chaos of summer and the bridge to the new year, making it the perfect time to cuddle up at home and think about what makes us happy.

With happiness in mind, our Living Well-ness Committee has put together a Happiness Challenge, and we invite you to join us. The PDF 14 Days of Happiness (HAPPY) includes a list of 54 activities covering six different areas. The goal is to complete at least 30 activities by the end of the challenge—that’s two to three activities per day. Most of us here at Living Well are planning to keep the challenge going the entire month! Check out the easy ways to boost your physical nourishment, emotional wellbeing, social connection, community wellbeing, career care and simple pleasures—all with the intention of inviting more happiness into your life.

Think about it for a bit …what makes you happy? We asked a few Living Well staff, and their responses were perfect. What they had to say ranged from simple pleasures all the way to trauma that ended up bringing peace and purpose:

Anh and baby Hudson

For some, family and friends rose to the top. Anh Phan, HR Manager, is a new mom with a five-month-old son. She says, “Having a child brings me joy, when I look into my son’s eyes, I forget what is happening in the world. If I am tired or having a bad day, he looks at me and gives me his cute smile and I am like, wow, I am a mom.This is what happiness feels like.” Anh also gets joy from connecting with friends and community. She hosts several parties throughout the year, and it makes her happy to bring people together.

Cheri with her daughter with Bones UK

Cheri Edwall, Administrative Assistant, loves live music. She says, “Music has always brought me joy.” Adding, “Sunshine. Coworkers. My kids. My grandson. Flowers. I am pretty simple and have gratitude for each day.”

Devan Heinsen, CDO, says, “Happiness to me is an evening with a delicious meal surrounded by friends and family, hearing stories and learning things I may have not known before.”

Mary with her son and his girlfriend.

Mary White, Program Manager at Star Lane, says, “Happiness to me is my son telling me he is proud of me. That’s when I knew I had succeeded in life.”

Jamee and Peggy at the STARS Halloween Party.

Jamee Yung, Individual Giving Manager, tells us, “Being with friends and family makes me happy. Especially being able to spend time with my daughters and seeing them smile, going on adventures, learning together, and laughing together makes me happy.”

For others, like Bess Bryan, Program Manager at Brunswick, their responses leaned into the feeling of ease. Bess replied to the question with, “Happiness to me is a good laugh, deep conversation, connection, and contentment.”


Ashley Aljets, Program Manager at Selkirk, says, “Happiness to me is the feeling of warmth after a much-needed hug, the rainiest of days where you have nowhere to be, and the way your heart feels after doing something nice for someone. What makes me happiest is, after a long day going home to my family and realizing how blessed I am to have such a beautiful life I worked so hard to get.”


And Deb Krienitz, Program Manager at Central, brilliantly grasped the notion of self-care. Deb said, “What makes me happy? First and foremost, I make me happy! I wake up every day and tell myself today is going to be an amazing day! I surround myself with wonderful people. Being a mom and a grandma is truly an incredible thing! All their accomplishments big or small make me happy! In general, I live to make as many people smile as possible! I am truly Blessed!”

And others dove straight to happiness within the walls of work. Pete Koehn, Interim CFO says, “I smile and am thrilled to talk with Peggy in the office on Wednesdays. She brightens my day.”

Alison Nelson, HR Director, says, “What makes me happy both personally and professionally is seeing and supporting other people to thrive. I love when people share their successes and when I can see the direct impact the work I have done has had.”

Breanna and Alexis.

Alexis Santana, APM at Carmen, says, “In the sense of happiness in the work place, happiness is looking forward to going to work and truly loving your job because the work that you do and the people you support is what makes you truly happy. Seeing the people you support smile or laugh and knowing that you are the reason and that not only are they making a difference in our lives, but we’re making a difference in theirs and that’s such a happy and rewarding feeling.”

Cynthia in the rare situation where someone else is cooking.

Cynthia Hinojosa, Program Manager at Thompson, says, “I think I’m most happy when things are Zen and organized and I can spend a day doing things I love. An absolute perfect day for me would be doing my volunteer sign work (ASL) in the morning coming to work and meeting with my supervisor telling her all my antics and things I have to catch up on (cause let’s be honest I like chaos so I’ll have a long list of things to get to) then I’d go out with people served (a van wash is a must stop in our happy day!) and then we’ll grill out as a house. Seeing people find joy in life and sharing experiences is what my life mostly consists of. I can’t imagine it any other way. If my people are happy then I’m happy.”

Adolphus with his family.

And one employee went deep and shared a beautifully personal story about adversity and how choosing happiness through the lens of perspective has made his life exponentially better. Adolphus Kesseh, Program Manager Upper 55th, says, “Instead of using the word happy, I am rather going to dwell on my blessings. I am blessed because of my faith. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is “humble yourself before the Lord and he will lift you up”. It was over thirty years ago that amidst gun, rockets, and bomb fires during a civil war in Liberia that my family was able to escape to a neighboring country and then made it to America. My job at Living Well Disability Services has helped shape me into the joyful and jovial person I am. Every day is a blessing, and I am humbled by the opportunities to make a change. I am blessed because I am alive and healthy. I am blessed because my wife and kids are very supportive of everything I do, even missing family events due to work. I am blessed because my kids are doing well. I am blessed because I have joy in my job. My relationship with the individuals at the home, their families and my colleagues make for my brighter days. When words cannot express emotions, I am blessed because the individuals are able to show that they appreciate my presence. I am happy because I am grateful for being paid to do something that I am passionate about.”

Adolphus, Cynthia, Alexis, Alison, Pete, Deb, Ashley, Bess, Jamee, Mary, Devan, Anh, and Cheri—thank you for sharing what brings you happiness. Each one of you makes a career out of caring, and does it so brilliantly because of the kindness in your hearts that drew you to be of service to others.

The people who work at Living Well believe the work matters, and how they find happiness is much like everyone else—breaking bread with family and friends, treasuring moments with their children, finding peace, and being part of community.

Happiness is a worthy endeavor. Wishing all of you a happy November. Join the challenge and find new paths to happiness.



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