Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Simple Joys

Welcome to Simple Joys on Chief 187 Chatter. We have embarked upon one of my favorite times of the year , Holiday time. From Halloween through New Year’s I throw myself into

holiday mode. In addition to the joys of the season there can be great stresses, intense sadness, and unchecked consternation. I realize that and have lived through much of it in my years. But, trying to harness the good, beautiful, and peace of the holiday season is important to get through the next few months. Opening oneself to finding and accepting the Simple Joys of the season is the trick to making this a tolerable time when it may usually become a negative one. Yes the economy still sucks and there are presents to buy, yes people who shouldn’t drink too much do and make social situations unbearable, and yes, you are supposed to spend an unusual amount of time with your family who you left long ago to be on your own. But,

if you concentrate on the little pleasures, the Simple Joys of the season that matter to YOU, this will be your best holiday season yet. And now, without further ado, is this week’s Simple Joys.

Animal Report. My eldest child had an animal report due this past week. He was given five weeks to do it and he worked on in diligently each week. Although he was feverishly making changes to it the morning it was due, he had the bulk of it completed in good stead. As I’ve disclosed before, my son’s hand writing leaves much to be desired although he’s made great strides to fix it. This year his teacher stated typing was not only allowed but encouraged. Initially I felt a mixed bag of emotions; elation because it was a tedious and frustrating task for my son to handwrite projects as late as last year, and trepidation because the one time he did type something last year he was as slow as molasses. When the research was finished my son sat eagerly at the computer and asked me to set him up on our word processor so he could commence typing. As soon as I left him to his own devices I heard “click click click” in rapid succession. In no time he was telling me he was finished with the paragraph! With only a few very minor mistakes he was finished with the first section! The entire process went smoothly and I witnessed a young man’s maturity when it came to budgeting time for a long-term assignment, gleaning information and instruction from his school teachers, and a building confidence that allowed him to succeed with little trouble. Watching my son blossom into a fine student in ways that he was lacking before is a hard-earned Simple Joy.

Cub Scout Halloween Party. Each year we’ve been a Cub Scout family we’ve had the pleasure to attend the annual Cub Scout Halloween Party held at the local school cafeteria. The children are asked to come in costume and the Den Leaders and their dens are instructed to bring a game to play with the rest of the Pack so at the conclusion a candy treat can be handed out. It’s a most fun and anticipated party! This year was no exception! The one detail that seemed to change for some of the boys in our den was the need to be a very scary character. But mostly the

children were simply excited and anxious to play the games and win/eat candy! Having a place to go as a family to enjoy safe and engaging Halloween fun and dress in costumes BEFORE Halloween

is a Simple Joy I relish annually!

Snow in October. We were told on the news and weather stations that “it” was coming. We were instructed to prepare for 8-10 inches or more. Grocery stores were at peak capacity, Lowe’s and Home Depot were selling salt, shovels, and, to those who could afford it, snow throwers. But I still wasn’t wholly convinced that a major snowstorm would hit my cozy little New Jersey home at the end of October, two days before Halloween. Sure I’ve encountered freak October snow as recently as 2009. I remember lying in a hospital room with my newborn daughter in my arms looking out the window at wet, chunky snow falling. A bit of accumulation led to some canceled fall school fieldtrips and traffic was a bit snarled, but it was nothing like this year! When the first flakes began to fall the children and I were in the car on our way home from swim lessons. Instead of our normal rockin’ playlist on my iPold I switched to my annual favorite music of all time, Christmas music. The children, used to my being “nuts” sat quietly and, I’m guessing, secretly enjoyed the music as they are all getting giddy about the upcoming holiday season. Once home the snow became more serious. A dusting became an inch, an inch increased to two and finally, when the snow gauge read 3-4 inches the children begged us to get them properly dressed to play in the snow! A wild search for hats and gloves that fit ensued (fortunately everybody had snow pants, winter parkas, and snow boots to don)and finally the children tumbled into the backyard for a snowball fight. Snowball fights led to the desire to make a snowman but by then the temperature had dropped even more and the snow was not very packable. The whole afternoon adventure culminated in my frozen children disrobing their wet clothes in the mudroom and begging for “hot chocolate”. We enjoyed the Simple Joys of winter a couple of months early thanks to our Nor’easter that laid us with a foot of snow!

Watching Peanuts Halloween Special. It used to be that if one wanted to watch a seasonal special one would have to scour the television guide for weeks before and make sure to note when it was on and then watch it. Now that home entertainment systems and videos are available to the masses all it takes is the desire to watch it. We are a Peanuts-lovin’ family. Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Sally, and Schroeder are as much a part of our family traditions as trick-or-treating and hanging stockings. I had tried to watch It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, the 1966 special that still resonates strongly with audiences today, with my children one day after school, but my two-year-old daughter is still unable to focus for even that short of time. So, once the baby went to bed, exhausted from her romp in the snow, the boys, my husband, and I sat down to watch the program. I have seen the show literally hundreds of times because I used to show it as a teacher. I always felt even 8th graders deserved time to embrace the child within during the holidays. We would discuss the “holiday traditions” associated with the show and other lessons, but mostly I just wanted my students to sit back and enjoy the fun of Halloween. Now I’m trying to instill that same message to my own children. They are still well-ensconced in childhood, but I want to lay the foundation that Halloween is a time of sweet child innocence, cute instead of unbearably scary, and a part of holiday magic. I think this is a Simple Joy they will carry with them for a lifetime and one I indulge every year.

Even situations that can be tedious, stressful, feared, or dreaded can produce Simple Joys if you allow for the environment to deliver. By keeping an open mind and heart, changing your attitude to gratitude, and trying to find good in a situation, Simple Joys will abound. By looking for them, and, indeed, creating them, Simple Joys will begin to color your world in the most glorious ways. As the holiday season begins in earnest, try to remember what is most important and stay focused, or at least, refocus, when your center of gravity is thrown off. By aligning yourself to finding Simple Joys, Simple Joys will reign again and again.

Please join me tomorrow when I wax poetic on yet another topic.


  1. I've always enjoyed the Peanuts Specials, and the Great Pumpkin episodes were no less enjoyable. Congrats to your son on his successful journey into report writing.

    As you point out, The Holidays can contain pitfalls filled with stress and sadness, especially as we get older and more of our friends and family have passed away, but if we focus on the meanings of these celebrations and not get too carried away with "preparations", they can still be a time of great joy.

  2. As I brought my house plants in Friday afternoon I was snickering about the snowy forecast. Yea right we're getting snow was my sarcastic thought. Saturday morning I got up to a dusting and heavy flakes coming down. I was surprised but thought I'd be going to Home Depot later for paint supplies. So I was off to make a pot of coffee and read the news on the internet. Except 2 hours later it was getting worse and 2 hours after that it was even worse and 2 hours after that I scrapped the Home Depot idea for safety reasons. Sunday morning was a chorus of chain saws in my neighborhood.

    Loved all The Peanuts specials. The Peanuts were the first comic I followed. Still have my stuffed Snoopy doll.

    I dread the holidays. We have one of those out of control alcohol soaked individuals in my family that you speak of. He doesn't see the hurt he causes and lives in his own world based on the past hurts he's never got over. The family immediate and extended is dividing over his behavior and actions. Sad. I'm going to focus on my new grandson and wish for peace in the parental house hold on Christmas. Wishing for simple joys for you and yours.....=)

  3. Seeing just two figs almost ripe at the very top of our fig tree :-)