You know my project, the “What made you happy today?” one that I’ve been doing lately…  (It literally makes me giddy. Stopping people and asking them this.)

It makes me want to write a million stories and look into a million faces and never stop listening. @JenPastiloff (Click to Tweet!)

Today I saw a woman in my ‘hood’ and I thought: I must ask her. I must know what made her happy today.
She was so cute, standing there on the corner with all her groceries hanging from her walker. She started walking away so I ran after her. I came up behind her and when she turned around I realized I had asked her already a couple weeks ago.

I am going to repost the story I shared on my Instagram from then. She is “the woman with the dug.” << aren’t you curious? You must read on now…

A few weeks ago I wrote this blurb on my Instagram:

“Tonight, I was running and I saw these three old women sitting on a bus stop bench. One was sitting on it and leaning her arms over it, in her hand was an old transistor AM radio, which I haven’t seen in what feels like centuries. The other was standing with her dog behind the bench and the other, in a wheelchair.

The sun was about to set, there was a grey dust hanging in the air, maybe just smog, I don’t know, but still, it felt beautiful. I felt like I knew who they were before I approached them.

I turned down my cheesy running music. I walked over to them and they looked surprised but confident.


‘Can I ask you something?’


‘What made you happy today?’

‘What made me Happy?”

“That I am still here. In this country. Which is the best country in the world. Thirty-eight years I have been in this country.”

‘Thanks. Where are you from? Russia?’


‘I’m Russian. My last name. Pastiloff.’

Her: Pasti-luff. Yes. Russian. (Nods approvingly.)
‘What about you?’

‘Her?’ (The one who has already spoken interrupts.) ‘She does not speak English.’

Me: That’s ok. Can you ask her in Russian?

Her: No, I will not ask her. The dug makes her happy. The dug. (Points to small dog by lady who doesn’t speak English’s leg.)

The one with the dog smiles. She has no teeth.

The one in the wheelchair. I face her. ‘What made you happy today?’

‘That I am alive.’

‘So, you are Russian?’ transistor radio asks me.

‘Yes, my grandfather.’

‘What state?’

‘I don’t know actually. He died before I was born. 1969.’

‘Oh. Long time ago.’


I left my happy Russians thought about how I wish my grandfather were here so I could ask him and maybe we’d drink vodka and be happy we were here.

So today when she turned and I saw her toothless smile and the dug, I remembered.

“I remember. You don’t speak English. But the dog makes you happy.”

I’m not sure she understood but she started nodding and smiling and pouting at the dog. She kept saying a word in Russian which I am guessing was the dug’s name. I really like calling him a “dug.” The dug. The dug makes her happy. The dugs make a lot of people happy.

“Oh, it’s you,” I said to her.

I imagine, if she could speak English, she’d say, “Yes, it is me.”


Post below what made you happy today and make sure to follow me on instagram at @jenpastiloff as I am going to announce a Challenge soon surrounding this project. See you Sep 27th in NYC, Pos Pos Tribe! Make sure and let me know that’s who you are. xo jen

Jen will be leading a New Year’s Manifestation Retreat: On Being Human in Ojai, California. All retreats are a combo of yoga/writing and for ALL levels. Read this post to understand more. Check out for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you (Dallas, NYC, Seattle, Atlanta, Miami, South Dakota, Vancouver, Princeton are next). Jen is the guest speaker 3 times a year at Canyon Ranch and leads an annual retreat to Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health every February, as well as an annual invite only retreat to Tuscany. She is the founder of the popular The Manifest-Station website. Jen and author Lidia Yuknavitch (“The Chronology of Water”) will be leading a Writing + The Body Retreat Jan 31-Feb 1. Follow Jen on Instagram and Twitter. You can also find her at

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