Tales From A Hungry Life

January 2, 2015

New Year’s and The Secret to A Happy Life

by Maria Schulz

Another holiday season is behind us. The days aren’t so much merry and bright as they are bare and gray. It’s the New Year, and that makes me think about all I want to accomplish in the next 12 months.

What will I accomplish in 2015?

What will I accomplish in 2015?

The earliest days of January always fill me with a mixture of boredom, anticipation, anxiety, and hope. Maybe this year, I will become a better person, write more books, sell more copies of the one I already have out there, be kinder, get fit, lose weight, or even finish reading November 22, 1963 by Stephen King.

As I searched the Internet for ways to become a better person this New Year, I came across an article called “The Secrets to A Happy Life—Courtesy of Tolstoy.” In this very inspiring article, the author explains how, through Tolstoy’s example, we can keep an open mind, become more empathetic, make a difference, learn new things, and accept others.

Not her.

Not her.

I enjoyed War and Peace and Anna Karenina, but I realize that some readers’ eyes may glaze over by the things that excite an English major like me. So, I tried to think of someone a little bit more current. Someone who was a good sport, fought fair, and tried his or her very best. Someone whose worldview I admired, appreciated, and embraced. They didn’t have to be real…just real to me.

Therefore, I’m going to put forth my own:

Secrets to A Happy Life—Courtesy of Jim Rockford

What a smile

What a smile

1. Keep Smiling. Sure it’s hard to smile at everyone, especially when you suspect that they’re stupid, insane, or bent on killing you. But a smile is always your best bet, because the people who like you will be more willing to forgive your mistakes. And the ones who don’t will spend so much time trying to figure out what you’re smiling about that you’ll have the extra time you need to get away from them.

2. Accept Your Friends’ Character Quirks. Angel wasn’t exactly the best friend Jim could’ve hoped for, but he certainly did make life interesting. Yes, he was the reason that Jim often got shot at, beaten up, or found by the bad guys, but he also unwittingly helped Jim solve a case or two. So you’ve got to take the good with the bad.

3. Keep an Open Mind. Beggars can’t be choosers, and it’s not every day that someone comes through the door willing to pay $200 a day, plus expenses. So when opportunity comes a knockin’, you’d better open that door.

Rockford Files ad

4. Expand Your Social Circle: it’s important to have family and friends to get you through the rough times, but it pays to meet new people. Sometimes Jim’s escapades let him play at being an Oklahoma millionaire or even to hob knob with rich folk played by Lauren Bacall. So go on…get out there!

5. Practice Empathy. When his friend, Rita Capkovic (played by Rita Moreno) gets beaten up by her pimp, Jim takes her into his trailer and nurses her back to health. Yeah, sure, this ends up causing her to fall in love with him and drive him crazy, but still. Empathy is good.

6. Live the Simple Life. Jimbo lived in a trailer! He’d rather go fishing with his dad, Rocky, than work! He didn’t obsess over the many debtors that called and left messages on his answering machine! His favorite foods were Oreos, tacos, and steak, with a beer chaser! He lived life on his terms, and I love that.

I still want to meet Jim and Rocky

I still want to meet Jim and Rocky

7. Beware Your Contradictions. While Jim may have preferred the simple life of fishing and loafing off, he also liked things like gold Pontiac Firebirds, dinner with a pretty girl every now and again, and loud sports jackets. Did he begrudge himself these things? Nope. He embraced it all. That’s my boy.

8. Never Take Sides Against the Family: Sure, Rocky drove Jim crazy. Whenever he heard what Jimmy was up to, he tried to talk him into “getting a real job,” or “staying out of prison.” Others may have found Rocky annoying, but no one said so to Jim, since he inherently understood that his father always had his back.

9. Always Keep It Real. Jim Rockford never put on airs; you knew where you stood with good ol’ Jimmy. Wouldn’t it be great if you could say the same thing about all of the people in your life?


10. When in Doubt, Run. Perhaps Jim’s best character trait was his ardent desire NOT to be shot, manhandled, punched in the head, or beaten to a bloody pulp. He was the anti-hero’s hero at a time when detectives like Mannix showed their masculinity by being left for dead in the gutter. Sure, a punch or two always seemed to hit the mark, but if Jim could disappear at the first sign of trouble, he was out of there. Now that’s my kind of hero.


Hmmm hmmm good

Hmmm hmmm good

Chile-Spiced Skirt Steak Tacos: delicious, and a great way to combine two of Jimmy’s favorite things (you don’t even have to visit his favorite restaurant, Casa Taco):

Oreos! Make ‘em at home using this recipe.

Food Network's homemade Oreos

Food Network’s homemade Oreos

I would give you a recipe for home-brewing your own beer, but that’s WAY too swanky for Jim Rockford (not to mention, me). Remember to ask yourself: WWJD (What Would Jimbo Do?) Keep it simple—pop open a can of your favorite, just like Jimmy would.

For those of you who are wondering, I was inspired to write this post because  James Garner was on all of the “Celebrities We Lost in 2014” lists, and it made me a little bit sad. So here’s a fun way to celebrate him again.



So, Hungry Lifers…what are your hopes for the New Year? Which TV show would you base your Secrets to a Happy Life on? Do you like spicy tacos, oreos, and beer chasers? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks, and Happy New Year!



  1. Smiling over here! 😀 Thanks for enduring my quirks! Really good piece, Maria!

    Comment by wordimprovisor177 — January 2, 2015 @ 1:36 pm | Reply

    • And thanks for enduring my quirks as well! I’m so glad you enjoyed this post, Darlene.

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — January 2, 2015 @ 5:46 pm | Reply

  2. Fantastic post, Maria. And, James Garner was hot!

    Comment by Elaina R. — January 2, 2015 @ 1:40 pm | Reply

  3. Very good Blog. BUT Maria you have to let it go I hate to tell you this but Jim Garner is dead.. RIP!!!! By the way I never make New Year’s resolutions, any resolutions as a matter of fact. The last time I made a resolutions I was 13 and resolved never to get married, have pets, get close to anyone just play music, play ball, drink make love and die by the age of 30. So what happened, I got married, loved the girl, still do; have seven children ten grandchildren,; one great-grandchild; a bunch of dogs, cats, birds and am one month away from 81 and still am not giving up the ghost. So I say the hell with resolutions.

    Comment by Bglou — January 2, 2015 @ 3:52 pm | Reply

    • This blog post is meant to be taken as tongue-in-cheek. I’m sending up the whole “ways to become a better person” articles that you see constantly around the New Year. Besides, didn’t you think it was funny that instead of choosing another literary genius like Tolstoy–who also lived an extraordinary life–I chose a classic fictional character from the 1970s? Btw, I know that James Garner has passed on. I got over 1500 hits on my blog on that day and many more in the days that followed. Thanks, Jimbo! And thanks, Dad, for the fun comment.

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — January 2, 2015 @ 5:50 pm | Reply

  4. Maria, you just described my life in this blog. As I get older I need less and want even less. I enjoy the company of family and like my alone time. Jimbo knew what was important and it wasn’t him, but the people around him. Too bad more people don’t put others first and have to have it all about themselves (like what I did at the beginning of this comment). What ever the New Year holds for you Maria, keep writing and give us insight into ourselves.

    Comment by Tony Lagalante — January 2, 2015 @ 5:02 pm | Reply

    • Thanks, Tony! It’s always fun to write these kinds of things. That’s one of the reasons why I asked my readers to say which TV character’s secrets of a happy life would work for them. Imagine if I’d chosen Archie Bunker from All in the Family or Chief Brody from Jaws? The possibilities are endless. I’m glad you enjoyed this–thanks for playing along.

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — January 2, 2015 @ 5:55 pm | Reply

  5. Wow… in toying with the concept and not having to actually write 10 things, myself, since this is only a quick and fun response to your blog, I like to imagine who the t.v. characters would be that other people who choose to base their “secrets of a happy life on” — two of my brothers would undoubtedly pick Kirk and Spock from Star Trek. My husband just told me who he would choose, and he explained why but I am not poised here to write his reasons, but I think they’re great. Me, I would choose the one and Only Victoria Barkley from The Big Valley! This was my favorite show and Victoria has the vigor and spunk and spiciness and class that every woman should enjoy in their age-old years… give me a lever action rifle I can swing at my hip and I can imagine lots of reasons to be happy in 2015! Happy New Year!

    Comment by Anne — January 3, 2015 @ 12:34 pm | Reply

    • That’s great, Anne! Victoria from Big Valley sounds like a perfect role model. Thanks for reading and commenting. Tell Chris to leave one too–i want to hear his choice!

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — January 3, 2015 @ 12:45 pm | Reply

  6. Love the post. Great rules to live by. I would love to be Scarlett O’Hara for a day. Just to have the luxury of saying “I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about it tomorrow.” She was a strong independent woman. Now where are those curtains….

    Comment by Kathleen — January 5, 2015 @ 11:11 am | Reply

    • Because tomorrow is another day! I think you’d look great in curtains. Thanks for playing along, Scarlett!

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — January 5, 2015 @ 11:15 am | Reply

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