Late bloomer. Rose-colored glasses.

Curious comments made to me over twenty-five years ago. I tried my best to dismiss them, but like the annoying jingle you can’t stop humming, they buzzed in my head. It wasn’t until I learned more about myself and experienced life did I come to understand their true meaning.

My first notable late bloomer venture happened in my mid-forties when I decided it was time to enter the workforce. While my friends were busy establishing their careers, I chose to be a stay at home wife and mother, spending my spare time volunteering at my son’s schools and local nonprofit organizations. In a sense these were my formative years.

I graduated from organizing bake sales, to putting on fashion shows, orchestrating auctions and black tie galas and, eventually to soliciting major donor funding for million dollar capital campaigns. As I waded deeper into projects and assumed leadership positions, I learned invaluable skills – time management, problem solving, working as part of a group, and working for a greater cause. I forged many friendships, some lifelong and filled my rolodex to capacity with contacts.

Although I didn’t know at the time, these activities were the foundation of what was to become a rewarding career in the field of nonprofits. The leap from volunteer to paid professional came naturally. Over the years other meaningful employment opportunities presented themselves – each affording me the good fortune to grow professionally and personally. Chalk one up for the late bloomer.

Fast forward – five years ago I began researching and writing about the positive effects of practicing good manners and expressing gratitude and appreciation. I joined the Happiness Movement, a worldwide network of people interested in making the world a nicer place.

I believe that the mindful practice of good manners, kindness and gratitude can help us get through life’s rough spots and can make us succeed in ways we never expected. And, I believe that happiness is contagious and within our grasp.