Thursday, October 31, 2013

31 Days of Seeking Joy in the EveryDay: Resolved to Joy

On October 1st, I joined a big party of other bloggers in the Nester's 31 Day Challenge.  
If you haven't had the pleasure of perusing the blogs that participated in this annual event,
click }here{ to check out some amazing blogs ... but don't forget to come back!

I set out to spend a month intentionally looking for joy in each day.  
My greatest hope was to establish the habit 
of savoring the sweetness of the everyday kind of day ... 
reveling in the goodness of the commonplace, 
ferreting out the joys that hide behind things I've done a million times,
and marking the loveliness of nothing at all out of the ordinary.

Because the ordinary days slip by too easily, and much too fast.
But if you count the joys in the ordinary days ... the days aren't ordinary anymore.

 I learned that big joys can come from very small things.

I learned that the remembrance of extending grace compounds joy. 

I learned that feeling joy for someone else is as good as feeling joy for yourself.

I learned that looking for joy makes me more likely to step outside 
my normal routine in hopes of finding it.

I learned that joy doesn't dim its glow in the presence of heartbreak. 
 Joy holds grief's hand and tells it everything will be okay.

I learned that to stop for just ten seconds is more than enough time 
to be astounded by all the things to be joyful about ... in just those ten seconds.
And I learned this:  when you wake up wondering what joy you'll find in this day, 
joy unveils itself in the unlikeliest of places.  
And when you wake up and wonder how many joys you will find in this day, 
you'll meet with more joy than fits in your basket.

"To get up each morning with the resolve to be happy...
is to set our own conditions to the events of each day. 
To do this is to condition circumstances
instead of being conditioned by them." 
--Ralph Waldo Emerson 

If you've come along for the 31 Day journey this October, 
thank you for joining me!
And a big thanks to my personal team of cheerleaders 
who've been so kind and encouraging along the way ... you are a great joy to me :o)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

31 Days of Joy in the EveryDay: Making Yourself at Home

One of the benefits of having four kids, three out of four having had braces, 
is that you get to read all the best magazines in the dentist office waiting room. 

I read the October 2013 issue of Good Housekeeping pretty much cover to cover, 
but the best article was an interview with Michael J. Fox 
(Family Ties, Back to the Future, SpinCity ... that Michael J. Fox). 
If you aren't aware, he's launching a new television series this fall that gleans 
great situational comedy from his real life and his 20 year experience with Parkinson's Disease.  

This is a remarkable man ... 
and he offers some excellent insight on life and some surprising perspective on joy.

When asked what he wants viewers to take away from his new TV show, he said,
 "Whatever your challenge is, everyone else has one, too."  
He further explained that he doesn't attach feelings of inferiority to having Parkinson's, 
nor does he consider himself damaged, frail or fragile.  
He notes that those are other people's perceptions, 
but it's clear they have nothing to do with his own feelings about himself.  

In talking about his outlook on life, which seems to have always been empowered and optimistic, 
he talks about appreciating the good things that happen, and not dwelling on the negatives.  
Not allowing yourself to be resentful, he says, makes life really easy, and it creates a lot of space.  

What I found to be most delightful were his comments on joy.  
"That's really what it comes down to, joy.  I said to the writers on the show,
 'Whatever you do, write me joy, because I play joy well.' 
 That's the emotion I'm most at home in. 
 Not that I can't experience sadness or desire or whatever.  
I'm just most at home in joy."

One of the things I've enjoyed a great deal about writing this series about seeking joy in the everyday 
is that it's made me feel I had permission to feel joy.  
That sounds a little strange ... but my life is full, as I'm sure yours is, too,
and who has time for joy?  

But I think Mr. Fox is right ... 
Joy is what it comes down to, 
and it offers a constant invitation to make yourself at home in it.

Let's do.
Every single day.

 “Joy does not simply happen to us. 
We have to choose joy 
and keep choosing it every day.” 
 Henri J.M. Nouwen

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

31 Days of Seeking Joy in the EveryDay: Power to the Pumpkins!

I love pumpkins.  
Every.  single.  one.  
A new pumpkin has been coming home with me this fall
ever since they showed up in the produce section at our grocery store.
I want to have a home for unchosen pumpkins.  

Today's joy came with pumpkin carving.  
Or some of them ... Ben and Abbie are doing their's tomorrow.  

 LtDan pulled out the power tools for us and that was so much fun ... 
There is great satisfaction in drilling a precisely round hole!

The plan in my head was something like ...

(source for all images:  Pinterest)

But in the end I was content just to do polka dots.  

Because sometimes, 
just the doing of a thing brings far more joy than looking at perfect Pinterest pictures.

"Happiness grows at our own firesides,
and is not to be picked in strangers' gardens."
-  Douglas Jerrold

Monday, October 28, 2013

31 Days of Seeking Joy in the EveryDay: What You Remember

 Abbie and I went to the dentist today.  It was a lovely day to be out.  
The trees are at that point where they just seem to glow from way down deep inside. 
On the way to the dentist we saw a bunch of pea hens on top of big round haybales.
My favorite dental hygienist hugged me when she saw me.

Aaron went with me for Mom&Me night, and we ate pizza at CiCi's.
He brought his iPod and played DJ all night.
We sang along to Steam Powered Giraffe, Randy Newman, Styx, Kenny Chesney,
AWOL Nation, Lynyrd Skynyrd, DuranDuran, SmashMouth and ColdPlay.  
Oh, and Donald Duck from the Three Caballeros :o)

I had two cavities filled today ...
but the joy part ... that's all in what you remember.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

31 Days of Seeking Joy in the EveryDay: Joys Longing to be Ours

This is one of my favorite things:

A college ruled 5 subject spiral notebook.

I use them for journals, and I use them for to-do lists and notes in general.  
I can’t deny that a brand new spiral makes me more than a little giddy :o)    

Last week I flipped through the nearest spiral  
to find a blank piece of paper and I encountered a stranger.
Well, not a complete stranger. 
It was me  … Past Me.  
The me from May.  
She was a little hard to recognize because she was all dressed up in wisdom.   
Sometimes I have to laugh a little at Past Me’s … 
they can tend to take themselves too seriously and be a little grandiose.   
I don’t remember exactly what happened in May that prompted these deep thoughts.  
There were some significant, life changing events that made the summer poignant and important.  
I’m glad this Past Me was there to set the tone … 
and I’m glad the Past Me from May wrote her thoughts down so I could revisit her wisdom in October.  
I needed it.

Here’s what Past Me said on the principle of being present, 
in that everything in the right here and right now
uninfluenced by anything past or anything future, 
is  j u s t  f i n e:

The present is perfectly acceptable ...
Often wholly good ...
 Often very, very good.

It’s the pollution of the past ... experiences, disappointments, situations, events, hurts, heartbreaks ... 
that muddy the circumstances of the present.

This concept of living in the moment, 
and in this very moment ONLY ...
it frees you from everything.  
It opens you to all the goodness and joy of the present.  
It’s the things that we drag forward out of the past  
– memories, responses, reactions, expectations, interpretations – 
that ruin the present.  
They obscure it.  
They veil it.  
They distract us from it.

This principle applies to relationships, too, and it’s necessary to really love unconditionally.  
You have to let go the memories of conflict, offense, hurt ... to genuinely appreciate another person.  
To respond in the present free of the past is to invest grace in the relationship. 
To relate to another person in the right here and right now frees them to be their best self.  

To truly look at another person as ... new ... to truly relate to them in the now,
 rather than following in the ruts of the past is to free yourself to love fully and drink deeply.  
It’s to set each other free from mistakes, offenses, hurts. 
It’s to love in the here and now, and to live in the here and now. 
To relate in the right here and right now is to free yourself to revel in the moment.  
To enjoy and savor it.  

To experience everything as a child, without preconceived notions and expectations – 
makes everything new.  
It makes everything a miracle!

It opens up your eyes to appreciate, to be grateful, to walk into a room and see it as new.  
To truly look at the world around you rather than dwell in the forest of the mind 
is to free yourself to live fully in, and drink deeply of the present.

It was good to be reminded of all that, and to try and learn it again.  
Take a look around ... try to see your world as though you’ve never seen it before.  
Try to see your loved ones as though they’ve never hurt you before.   
I hope you see a world that’s bursting with goodness, 
and I hope today that your heart is filled with joy.
Because this moment right now?  
It is 
very good.

“There are joys which long to be ours
God sends ten thousands truths, which come about us like birds seeking inlet; 
but we are shut up to them, and so they bring us nothing, 
but sit and sing awhile upon the roof, and then fly away.”  Henry Ward Beecher

Saturday, October 26, 2013

31 Days of Seeking Joy in the EveryDay: A Broad and Rich Life

We've lived in the country more than ten years now, 
but one thing that never gets old is hearing the coyotes howl at night.  
They run through the creek beds that wind around our property, 
and also frequent a nearby pond.  
It's not uncommon to hear them go off at least once a night,
sometimes two, maybe more, packs at a time.

We've never seen a pack, but we've seen a couple lone coyotes on occasion.  
They're bigger and more beautiful than I expected - 
I thought they would be weak, thin and skanky looking, 
but they're actually healthy and quite beautiful.  

Once I watched our dogs chase a coyote through the back field ...
 it appeared to be running fast - until the dogs got close, 
and then apparently it switched on those Wylie Coyote Acme rockets  
because it made the running dogs look like they were moving in slow motion.  

When the coyotes howl, our dogs howl along with them,
and it's another reminder to stop a minute to soak up the joy this everyday life brings.  

I took this last night, standing on the front porch ... all you can see is the tiny speck of moon, but you'll hear the coyote pack that's less than 1/4 mile away.  Our dog Raider is singing backup vocals :o)
Have a listen:

“Coyotes move within a landscape of attentiveness. 
I have seen their eyes in the creosote bushes and among mesquite trees. 
They have watched me. And all the times that I saw no eyes, that I kept walking and never knew, 
there were still coyotes. 
When I have seen them trot away, when I have stepped from the floorboard of my truck, 
leaned on the door, and watched them as they watched me over their shoulders, 
I have been aware for that moment of how much more there is.
 Of how I have only seen only an instant of a broad and rich life.” 
― Craig ChildsThe Animal Dialogues: Uncommon Encounters in the Wild

Friday, October 25, 2013

31 Days of Seeking Joy in the EveryDay: Today in Texas History

My awesome friend Amy teaches Texas History to Middle School students at our HomeSchool Coop.
Brave soul, that Amy.

Today, the kids were assigned the task of convincing 300 families to move to Texas,
as Stephen F. Austin did in the early 1820's.

The kids all got right to work making posters.  
Even the boys were into it.
They were all so proud to present their work at the end of class.
Very cute.  
So much energy, creativity, good friendships, talking, laughing, and joy.
Great kids!

They had some funny Lone Star State slogans:
Really hot, but really fun!
Plenty of nice people and good food!!
We produce only the finest boots!
Texas:  so much land it will make you pass out!

“It is always worth itemizing happiness.” 
 Sebastian Barry

Thursday, October 24, 2013

31 Days of Seeking Joy in the EveryDay: The Great Pumpkin

I love every. single. one. of the seasonal pleasures of autumn.

But there's a special place in my heart for The Great Pumpkin. 
We watched it tonight after dinner.
It was so fun to watch the kids soak up the nostalgia.
Nostalgia equals joy.

Yesterday Abbie took the dogs on a walk down in the creek.  
There was a great adventure involving a huge hollow fallen tree, the dogs, and a SKUNK.  
For some reason our dogs love skunks.  

After a skunk encounter, the dogs smell awful.
Although they don't come inside, 
somehow the smell all over them seeps in anyway and permeates the whole house.
We finally figured out we needed to open all the windows and let the wind blow through,
but the skunk smell not only gets in your nose, it gets in your head.

Today, the REAL Great Pumpkin was Pumpkin Marshmallow burning in the Scentsy burner.

“... Experiencing deep sadness can, sometimes, 
heighten your ability to feel joy.” 

― Markéta Irglová

Or:  smelling something awful can make something delicious smell even better.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

31 Days of Seeking Joy in the EveryDay: Glow

I had a meeting in town last night ... left just before the sun went down 
and took back roads into town.  
It was that time of day when the sunlight is slanting through the trees 
and makes everything glow. 

As if that wasn't enough, the moon was rising when it was time to go home, 
so I got the other best time of day, 
when the moon rises in air so thick with glow 
it looks like you could scoop it out of the sky with a spoon.  

I love glow. 

“There is not one blade of grass,
 there is no color in this world 
that is not intended to make us rejoice.” 

 John Calvin

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

31 Days of Seeking Joy in the EveryDay: Attention, Please

This is the best drawer in our whole house.

It's like a playground for your nose.

I was crazy for candles until I found Scentsy.  
It's the simplest of pleasures to change the scent of the whole house.  
Sometimes I use it as a reward for doing chores
(a reward for me ... my kids aren't nearly so motivated by it :o) 

 Cozy Fireside is my absolute favorite scent for fall and winter.
It's warm and smokey and spicy and it reminds you of cold autumn days 
when the leaves are turning and everyone has their fireplace going and smoke hangs in the air.

Burning a lovely scent throughout the house heightens all the other senses.
It pulls you into the present.
It makes you more conscious of walking down the hall, 
cutting up the vegetables,
greeting your children,
looking out the window.
Every intake of breath makes you happy,
and heightens your attention to life and its uncountable small joys.

Do you have a favorite Scentsy fragrance?  

One of the secrets of a happy life 
is continuous small treats.  
– Iris Murdoch

Monday, October 21, 2013

31 Days of Seeking Joy in the EveryDay: A Cup of Kindness

I don't think there's a better way to start your day than with a good cup of coffee.
I take it one step further and fall in love with a special coffee cup and that borders on obsession.
I take it when we travel. 
I search for it high and low rather than use another.

I know ... the obsession is a little silly.  
But I figure if Maria can have us all singing about her list of favorite things, 
the pleasure I take in my favorite coffee cup isn't really that odd.  
And it's a nice way to start the day with just a little extra joy.  

What about you?  
Do you have a favorite coffee cup?

"[We must not miss the opportunity to] own the power that as adults we do have - 
that of taking good and loving care of ourselves.  
Making ourselves happy."  
- Geneen Roth

Sunday, October 20, 2013

31 Days of Seeking Joy in the EveryDay: Signs of Maturity

It feels like you're raising your kids FOREVER.  

And we're not even finished :o)

The day when I looked around and realized I had no more little guys was fairly recent,
and even then I'd been in denial for a good couple years ... maybe more.  

It's shocking ... delightful ... exciting when you begin to see maturity in your kids.  
If you're in the toddler years, let me tell you all the hard work, the long nights, the patience exercises, 
the teaching and careful discipline you're doing so much of now are going to pay off with massive gains.
Keep going!!  

Keep going, because one day, on your refrigerator marker board,
 you're going to see something like this, 
written by one of your kids:

Happiness is the consequence of personal effort.  You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, 
and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it.  
You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings.  
– Elizabeth Gilbert  

Saturday, October 19, 2013

31 Days of of Seeking Joy in the EveryDay: Pleasure in the Walk

There's just nothing like a walk on an autumn afternoon.  Everything is impossibly golden and crisp.  The best part, though, was a surprise encounter with an armadillo :o)

  Her pleasure in the walk must arise 
from the exercise and the day, 
from the view of the last smiles of the year 
upon the tawny leaves and withered hedges, 
and from repeating to herself some few of the thousand 
poetical descriptions extant of autumn
--that season of peculiar and inexhaustible influence 
on the mind of taste and tenderness--
that season which has drawn from every poet worthy of being read
some attempt at description, 
or some lines of feeling.”
 Jane Austen, Persuasion

Friday, October 18, 2013

31 Days of Seeking Joy in the EveryDay: Come Away with Me

One of my most favorite, favorite memories is of the Christmas I got a puppy.  
Our whole extended family gathered at my aunt's house
 - a beautiful tudor style home worthy of a Better Homes and Gardens feature (which she declined ... ?!) - 
it was the perfect holiday.  
There were aunts and uncles and cousins everywhere.

When I had opened my gifts, I sat surrounded by the generous bounty and felt so happy and content.  
Then I watched my dad walk down the hall toward me with an old fashioned pet carrier.  
He put it down in front of me, opened the door, and out wiggled the cutest little puppy,
 the color of coffee with lots of cream and big brown eyes.  
His name was Chipper.

It was one of those sweet moments in life where everything was absolute perfection.  
It could have been a movie.

So, so, so happy :o)

Here's a video to spark a little joy in your heart today ... the dog reminded me a little bit of Chipper. 
 I'm not affiliated with the organizations or suggesting a donation ... 
just watch it to the end and feel the happy.  

“Joy is to fun what the deep sea is to a puddle. 
It’s a feeling inside that can hardly be contained.” 
Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky