happiness now


i don’t have scheduled moments of happiness, deadlines for enthusiasm or appointments with destiny. i just try to find a way to live that feels good and right…now.  this is not always easy. it’s been a journey and, to me, a journey includes both struggle and triumph.  and when i look around, i feel like so many people are missing the point of existence. they let life get in the way of life.

i love the way my life has twisted and turned and spun around and sometimes spit me right back out where i started. my life has consisted of amazing moments of awakening, love, hilarity and beauty as well as intense moments of pain, tragedy, despair and fear.  all of them, an important part of the path to happiness now.

to me, my life has been epic and i hope that one day i look back at this point and realize i was just getting started. 

i hope i am that lucky. 

weeks ago i stumbled upon a box. it had been brought over with some of my stuff from growing up that my sister had stored away for me. it sat for weeks before i got to it. when i lifted open the flap, all i saw was this paper…


i’m not even sure this paper exists anymore… maybe in some science lab where some antiquated, but functional piece of equipment remains tethered to the original dot matrix printer it was set up with.

i knew this box contained something quite old.

i had no idea when i opened that box that i would embark upon one of those kierkegaard experiences where i’m understanding life backward while living it forward… 

i unwrapped several framed certificates and degrees…



 in this box was my dad’s bachelor’s degree and all of his professional engineering certificates for different states…carefully, and individually, wrapped. 



…and two pictures of my dad driving his corvette. a corvette whose engine roar will intoxicate you and have you thinking about it as you lie in bed in the quiet of the night.


when i stared deep into the pictures, i could feel his youth. i could see me in the picture. i never felt that before.  i thought about what it would be like to photograph him driving it today. i’ll never get that chance, but the thought of it made me smile. 



everything was neatly wrapped in the spiffy dot matrix paper except one thing that was tucked on the side, covered in dust…


i pulled it out… and my world just stopped…


  my father loved ‘the far side’ comic. i used to sit on his lap and he would read the sunday comics aloud to me. 

each and every one of them.

 i groaned through ‘prince valiant’, laughed at ‘garfield’ and often asked for further explanation about ‘the far side’. 

i knew this was his calendar, but my dad never saw 1990.  he was killed in a plane crash in 1989…sixteen days shy of 1990. this calendar brought me to my knees as i thought about the fact that he had held this calendar in his own hands with no idea that he’d never rip the pages away.

today he would have turned 65. 

fucking tragic… 

…but this is a blog about happiness. 


even in the wake of tragedy, there are opportunities to bring ourselves closer to happiness if we are willing to see them. my mother taught me that.  and as pericles taught, what we leave behind is not engraved in stone monuments, but woven into the lives of others. 

i do a lot of weaving…

because when i weave in and out of others’ lives, i am weaving them into my own…and that makes my life so much richer.

sometimes i appear to be all over the place, impulsive or maybe even a bit of a contradiction,  but that’s because i never know if i’m holding a calendar in my hands that i will never have a chance to tear the pages away from… and that can be a very intense way to live, but it’s genuine.

i do what i love for a living. i like my photography to puke happiness all over the viewer. making happy pictures makes me happy. i hope i create images that make people smile back at them. i hope they are here long after i’m gone for others to stare into and see something they never saw before. 

 don’t let life get in the way of life… and do not take for granted the calendar you are holding in your hand…

happy birthday, dad.  


  • July 29, 2012 - 5:46 am

    monika - Beautiful, Michelle. Thank you for sharing. Although I lost my father only a few years ago, I know how you feel : )ReplyCancel

    • August 1, 2012 - 5:16 am

      michelle arlotta - you are welcome, monika… i almost didn’t post this, but i knew there’d be others out there that could relate and could share in how i feel…ReplyCancel

  • July 29, 2012 - 5:49 am

    Lauren Elle - < Totally crying over here! Such a beautiful post Michelle!ReplyCancel

  • July 29, 2012 - 3:32 pm

    laura steinau - you are so powerful…powerful with your images and with your words.
    your pictures DO make me smile as i stare at them with aw, and your blogs typically make me laugh 🙂 today a powerful cry as i read. you are more than a photographer michelle and that is why i adore youReplyCancel

    • August 1, 2012 - 5:17 am

      michelle arlotta - aw laura, thanks so much… i usually aim to make people laugh, didn’t intend on making people cry…oops. :o)ReplyCancel

  • July 29, 2012 - 8:56 pm

    Erin - You have a really genuine way of looking at the world, Michelle, which is probably what made me want to be your friend all those years ago… What a blessing to find something that gave you such a visceral experience. Thinking of you…ReplyCancel

    • August 1, 2012 - 5:18 am

      michelle arlotta - erin, that means a lot to me… there is a reason i wanted to be your friend all the those years ago as well. you have a heart filled with so much kindness….ReplyCancel

  • August 7, 2012 - 9:05 pm

    Ivette - Belated Happy Birthday. Thank you for believing in me and for watching over me and my family.ReplyCancel

  • August 15, 2012 - 2:23 am

    Sara - Such a beautiful post – just saw it now.ReplyCancel

  • June 17, 2013 - 1:44 am

    Karen - Sad and beautiful! you could be a writer too! You had me hanging on your words and only a good writer can do that and I could picture it all as I was reading. Beautiful and sorry for all the years you missed with your Dad!ReplyCancel

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