Family & Friends Experiment #4: Send Birthday Cards, Not Texts

Between “The Power of Love Notes” and my admiration of Happiness Guru Kelli Davis’s project, Happster Mail… I think I’ve made it clear I’m a sucker for old-school communication. I’m a romantic, so sue me! (Oh yeah, and I’m bringing back “So sue me.”)

Today’s experiment was invented at the crossroads of two major events in my life: my wedding & the passing of my great grandfather, BTO. Do allow me to explain…

Somewhere in the midst of my Pinterest-wedding-planning-blackhole, I discovered the brilliant idea to replace a standard “guest book” with a personalized calendar. Each guest signed their name on their birthday, so at the end, I had a calendar full of my loved ones’ birthdates! Brilliant. Right?

DSC_2020Admittedly, when we got home from our honeymoon, I hung it up and aside from giving my friends and family a birthday phone call, didn’t do much with it. UNTIL, my great grandfather passed away.

This legendary man, aptly nicknamed BTO (Big Time Operator), was an anomaly in his non-digital age. He kept record of EVERYTHING. He was a father to 7 children, who yielded 21 grandkids, who gave him 35 great grandkids (including me), and finally 16 great great grandkids. And that’s not even the impressive part. He managed to hand-write cards to each of us on our birthdays, Christmas, Easter, Valentines Day, I’m pretty sure one year I even got a card on Groundhogs Day.


The man, the myth, the legend card writer on his 100th birthday party with a gallon of tequila in a rifle bottle.

In each card, was a crisp dollar bill, for big birthdays, a fiver. My cousins and I would joke,

“If I had a dollar bill for every time BTO sent me a card… oh wait..”

When he passed away we were all grief stricken. I felt suffocated by the idea that his traditions would die with him. We all had our favorite memories with him, some of hunting, some of strawberry picking, but mine was DEFINITELY the letter writing. He also did this weird thing. He would include 3-5 printed pictures he had recently snapped of friends on his disposable camera. Half the time I had no idea who was even in the photo! But one thing was clear, he cared about me and he cared about them. He was so DAMN proud of his family and friends and wanted everyone to know how much he loved them, even if all he had to gift was one dollar and a few polaroids.

This year, I started this experiment and would be moved BEYOND THE STARS, if you would help me carry on the tradition of love and giving, in honor of my BTO.

Here’s what you do:

1. Get a calendar and fill it in with the birth dates of your friends and family.

2. Send a CARD or LETTER (NOT a text or fb post) wishing your loved ones a happy birthday/happy holiday!

3. Include a single dollar bill and write “BTO” on it.


May you and your loved ones get as much joy and happiness from this small gesture as I did from my sweet and thoughtful BTO.

Tuesday Teacher Feature: Kelli Davis!


Kelli Davis

 • Founder of The Happsters • 

• Instagram Sensation

• Social Media Manager @ IDEA Health & Fitness Association •

Age: 27

Happy Song of the Moment:      Anything “Tay” [lor Swift]

Happy Role model: Gabrielle Bernstein

#imahappster What a brilliant name, right? Yep. So brilliant, in fact, that both Kelli and I came up with it before we even knew each other! I wanted to be angry and mourn the loss of my idea and hashtag, but I couldn’t help but simultaneously fall in love with the damn girl’s blog! Don’t you just hate that? I saw that she had created a Pen Pal program called HappsterMail, and I promptly applied to receive my match! Ironically, that day… #ibecameahappster.

Allow me to introduce blogger, instagrammer, and happiness guru, Kelli Davis!

Do yourself a solid, and join the 65.5k + people following Kelli (@happsters) for a daily happiness quotes and facts. I can certainly tell you it brightens my day!

Kelli is a recently engaged, USC graduate, with a knack for bringing people together and spreading happiness. Two of my favorite qualities in a person.💁

12286011_10205209538022751_739177357_nShe revealed to me in our interview, that she takes very seriously, the responsibility of “matchmaking” in her HappsterMail program. After careful evaluation of each happster’s questionnaire, she pairs them up and creates friendships across the world with a click of a button. And MAN is she good at it. I absolutely adore my British penpal, Laura.

I finally realized, what better Happiness Guru for Friends & Family Month and so I asked her the questions I was dying to know:

1. [Jess] So, the big one, where did you get the brilliant idea for Happster Mail?

[Kelli] I really happstermailwanted to connect the community. At first I thought maybe locally – small groups, masterminds. Then I started seeing this community on Instagram through hashtags: #penpalswanted #snailmailrevolution. I saw the demand for it on an account I followed called @paperedthoughts. She was being flooded with requests to be her penpal. I realized this was a great opportunity to bring these people together! Currently, I am developing other projects and so HappsterMail will be on pause until January. In the meantime, you can apply here and be at the top of the list to be paired up in 2016!

2. [Jess] It’s Friends & Family month here on the blog and I love the idea of making new friends in non-traditional ways. Can you tell us about any happsters who have formed great friendships through your program?

[Kelli] I always look at the hashtag and see the connection growing. I matched up my best friend with a happster in another state and they have gotten so close. In her most recent letter she included her wedding invitation!                                 

[Jess] That’s incredible. It really gives people a chance to slow down and pull back and get to know each other. They don’t have the chance to stalk each other before deciding about each other.

3. You completed a 10-week “Science of Happiness” course at UC Berkeley, and obviously something really stuck! Enlighten us! When it comes to happier relationships with friends & family, what was your biggest takeaway? The course stressed the importance of social connections. Connections outside of commenting on someone’s photo on Facebook. The one-on-one connection that isn’t public for everyone to see is important. The intimacy and trust is not there when it’s public.

4. [Jess] I know you are working on some new projects, outside of Happster Mail. Can you give us any sneak peeks?

imahappster[Kelli] I’m working with my friend, Gina on a podcast all about happiness! We will interview all kinds of people, from happiness experts to every day happy people, about how they stay happy and their definition of happiness. I will be announcing it on Instagram pretty soon, so stay  tuned!

5. [Jess] Your projects revolve around the idea that “The world would be a better place if we all went OUT OF OUR WAY to spread happiness.” You have done just that at 27 year old, brightening the lives of over 65 thousand Instagramers, tons more through the ingenious HappsterMail & now through “Morning Mantras”. Do you have any friendship and family advice for our generation, blessed and cursed with over-convenient technology and social media?

[Kelli] You know, it’s so crazy how attached people are to their phones. I try my best to give my full attention to my friends and family when I’m with them because that’s what they deserve! I try to keep my phone out of sight. If it’s out on the table you can’t help but look at it. and that makes people feel like what they’re saying comes second to whoever or whatever is on your phone. Also, when it comes to my fiancé I’ve been keeping my phone outside of the bedroom. I noticed my phone was the first thing I reached for and last thing I looked at before we went to bed – not exactly the healthiest relationship habit.

Do you have a question for Kelli? Are you curious about one of her programs or upcoming book? Ask it all in the comments section below!


Making New Friends… As An Adult

The first day of school came with so much anxiety, but its biggest perk was the promise of new friendships!mean-girls-lunchroom

Once you leave school, the process of making new friends changes. You no longer have the luxury of strolling into Room 101, sitting next the least sketchy looking stranger and making a sly comment about how horrendous your commute across the quad is…. BOOM, FRIENDSHIP COMMENCED. Sigh… those were the good old days.

Post-grad friendships can be (more…)

Family & Friends Experiment #3- Soak Up Your Grandparents (& Other Elders You Love!)

It’s a bit obvious to say I have a unique family dynamic because, of course, no family is the same. But the most unique thing about my particular family, is that I have four, living grandparents and two, living step grandparents. Four of the six are featured in my wedding procession above (from L to R: my maternal grandmother, studly cousin Jay, paternal mother, paternal grandfather and my paternal grandfather’s wife). I have a close, personal relationship with each of them, but I suddenly realized, I am STILL taking them for granted.

UPOur grandparents are god damn national treasures. They have lived through times that we cannot travel back to, they have stories that they want to share, legacies they want to leave behind, but too often, as twentysomethings we (more…)

Family & Friends Experiment #2: Keeping It Fresh with Long Distance Friends

Does your bestie live in another state? How about a friend in another COUNTRY? Chances are good you have some sort of family or friend who doesn’t live in your town. Well, I’m wondering… how do you keep in touch?

As new social media and communication platforms continue to explode onto the scene, we have adapted and changed the ways that we communicate with our friends. We “snap our story” instead of reaching out, text instead of call, skype instead of write letters, facetime instead of go over to a friend’s house. All in all, it has become more convenient to stay “in touch”.

Naturally, this caused a shift. People now (more…)