Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Simple Joys

Welcome to Simple Joys on Chief 187™Chatter.

This is truly my favorite time of year! I actually have many favorite times but this is the season we are in so it is my current favorite.

Like with many things in life, it is the anticipation of what’s to come rather than the actual event that gets me and keeps me excited.

As in any situation, my good comes with bad. My joys accompany sorrows. My reality falls short of my fantasies.

But when I leapfrog from one Simple Joy to the next – immerse myself in my own private pleasures – then I find every week is most enjoyable.

And now, without further ado, is this week’s Simple Joys.

Winter Concert. My oldest child plays trombone in his middle school band. On a cold Wednesday night we dressed up and went to the school to hear the middle school choir and band play several songs – some seasonal and some just great pieces. It has been the highlight of our holiday doings so far this season as music has always been a huge part of my husband's and my life.

After listening to our son practice at home for months on end, to hear him perform ‘flawlessly’ with his school band was a Simple Joy that left us filled with holiday cheer and optimism for his future as a musician.

Snow Day. No matter how old I get, having a snow day, even on the weekend, is a great delight. Snow was predicted on Saturday starting in the early morning so we simply stayed home, stayed in our pajamas and enjoyed a totally fun and relaxing day at home.

Having a snow day during the hectic holiday season was an enormous and welcomed Simple Joy.

Unplugged. During our snow day I enacted an “unplugged” rule as I found my children were worshipping too often to the electronic gods. At first they balked – until I threatened more days unplugged if they continued their protestations – but then they had a most wonderful day.

We played a silly Christmas Ring Toss game they had gotten for St. Nicholas Day, and then we played Kids’ Charades. We ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner at home and together as a family. We made Christmas cookie dough but not cookies as we just weren’t in the mood. We got our Cub Scout to finish the rest of his Wolf requirements in a quality session of just him and me. And, finally, we sat down to watch A Christmas Story. Many watch this when it is broadcast for 24 hours on Christmas Eve and Day, but we are never able to watch it as we are always entertaining a massive group of family (happily so).

Spending a day together at home, in our pajamas, during the holiday season was a rare and luxurious Simple Joy.

Letter/Gifts for Santa. My second child is very artistic, thoughtful, and sweet. He is seven years old and so excited for Christmas.

During our unplugged day we were talking about Christmas Eve and what kind of cookies to leave Santa. My son blurted out, “We should leave a gift for Santa! I bet he doesn’t get any!”

So, we discussed what he could do for Santa and the boy came up with the idea to make ornaments for Santa’s tree. Then he happily and skillfully made three different ones out of construction paper. We added ornament hangers and then he looked at me excitedly and said, “I have to write a note and have it stand up like this!”

The note was not a reiterated list of toys wanted, but actually a thank you note to Santa for coming to our home.

Watching my son finally understand the joy of giving at this tender age is a Simple Joy I shall never forget.

Make up. My husband and I get along famously… until we don’t. Invariably we hit a snag in the road that leads to marital disharmony. Luckily we have learned tools to not let these bumps become mountains. Of course, spending all of that quality time together in close quarters led to a bump… but that just gave us a chance to make up. For those of you in relationships, you know how that goes.

Making up with my hubby is a passionate Simple Joy.

The holidays are fast approaching. My innate need to people-please will dominate even though it’s not the healthiest trait. Still, I’m excited to see family, thrilled to be entertaining, and secretly delighted to see what Santa will bring me.

By trying to keep my immediate family as my focus, remembering to nourish myself, and keeping a realistic expectation for the time together, I hope to continue to identify and LIVE my Simple Joys.

Wishing you all a week filled with Simple Joys.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Simple Joys

Welcome to Simple Joys on Chief 187™Chatter.

In this season of gift-giving it’s vital for me to remember the best gifts I receive are the ones daily from my family, friends, and life.

I’ve been blessed with three beautiful children who bring far more joy than not, friends who make me laugh and smile, and a husband who truly completes me.

In what is supposed to be a most joyous season can sometimes be overshadowed by stress, anxiety, sadness, and general ‘poopiness’.

By concentrating on my weekly Simple Joys I hope to banish the baseness of this season from my little world and focus on those most important to me and let go of pettiness that can all too easily get the better of me.

And now, without further ado, is this week’s Simple Joys.

Mommy’s Helper. St. Nicholas makes a visit to our home on his special day each year to fill my children’s shoes with holiday treats. It’s a Dutch tradition my sister-in-law introduced me to and one that I have embraced since having children. This year I was treated to a special experience. Upon my children inspecting all of their loot, my daughter offered to help clean up the small pile of mess. She took items to the trash, moved items to the stairs to go up, and brought the chocolate Santas to the dining room to be stored.

Seeing this kind, sweet, and helpful side of my four-year-old daughter was a Simple Joy I want to bottle and open when I am frustrated by her more normal four-year-old behavior. It encourages me to know that we are on the right path with her and I continue to look at her with wide-eyed awe when the small glimmer of young lady-hood shines through.

Christmas Cut-Out Sugar Cookies. I was lucky to spend a day with my niece over the weekend and we had a great time. Before I dropped her back to her mother my niece asked me if I was making my homemade sugar cookies (with frosting and sprinkles) for Christmas. This made me laugh because since she was born I have been making these cut-out cookies for her as I know they are her favorite. Even though my niece is nearing 13 years old, she still wants these cookies and wants me to make them.

Having this special request from my niece was a Simple Joy that warmed me heart and will give me renewed vigor to mix, roll, cut-out, bake, and decorate those cookies with an extra dash of love for her.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Banquet. The 2013 season is behind me and I am enjoying my off-season with holiday entertaining, an over-abundance of family time and a break from the intensity of the writing/radio work. But the fan in me still relishes the hours spent in early December watching the NASCAR Banquet.

The tuxedos, suits, evening gowns, and jewels add an extra layer of personality to the drivers, wives/girlfriends, and crew I’ve come to know. I enjoy listening to heartfelt speeches, funny ones, and even less than stellarly-delivered ones. This season, especially, I found much inspiration for article writing in the off-season. I am rarin’ to go!

Watching the NASCAR Banquet is a Simple Joy and December tradition for me for over two decades!

Peaceful moments. Over the weekend we took our family to HersheyPark to enjoy the holiday-themed CandyLand. We had a fantastic time all the while walking through the snow that continued to fall the entire day. At one point we sat in a heated theater to watch a Christmas music/dance revue. My daughter, normally very independent and fidgety, asked to sit on my lap. I spread out my wrap over her to warm her cold little hands, and cuddled her tightly to me. She nestled into me for the entire show. I was in Heaven.

Spending time with my daughter in warmth, Christmas joy, and loving embrace was the most incredible Simple Joy.

Larry The Cable Guy Christmas Special. My husband DVR’d this program to screen it for our children to see if it was appropriate for their various ages. He deemed the show fit and so we watched it last night. My boys howled at the humor, guffawed at the site gags, and laughed until tears fell down their faces.

Sharing a mindless, good-natured Christmas special that induced such laughter in our home was a homerun of a Simple Joy.

There are endless to-do lists, shopping to finish, gifts to wrap, menus to plan, food to buy, and Christmas cards to order, address, and mail, but I’m not focusing on that stuff – clearly.

Instead, I am trying to keep my world centered on the Simple Joys that will enhance my December, my Christmas, and my life the most. I’m concentrating on my Simple Joys.

In the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, I am wishing you all a week filled with Simple Joys!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Simple Joys

Welcome to Simple Joys on Chief 187™Chatter.

Some weeks Simple Joys just fall out of the sky blessed by the Heavens. This past holiday week was one of those.

As I continue to grow and evolve as a human being living this Life I learn all of the time. This lesson was clearly evident: mental preparedness allows for greater capacity for Simple Joys to penetrate. I opened the window hugely for less stress, more joy, and kept burden at bay.

Result? A week filled with boundless Simple Joys!

And now, without further ado, is this week’s Simple Joys.

Anticipation. What I love so much about the holiday season is actually a great deal of anticipation. Like a big vacation far off in the future, waiting for and dreaming of what the holidays will be like is often far more satisfying than what really happens.

Only this time I kept my daydreams to a realistic measure and when the Holiday Company and events actually occurred the reality far exceeded my anticipation.

Still, anticipation is a free, lavish, and boundary-less Simple Joy that I revel in throughout the year.

Left Center Right Dice Game. My mother-in-law loves to arrive with a new game for all of us to enjoy. This Thanksgiving she bought a gem. The Left Center Right dice game was simple enough for all at our table – from 93 to four years old - to understand and heartily enjoy.

Finding a game that holds attention, is easy to learn upfront for all ages, and is competitive but friendly is a Simple Joy that enhanced the holidays and will surely come out again to be played in the future.

Social Media. Adding to my enjoyment of anticipation was checking in everyday with my virtual friends and family. This is a force in my life that enhances my activities. Knowing I have a massive community outside of my walls to talk to, joke with, and share information adds depth to my life.

Social media is a Simple Joy I write about often because it really is that important to me.

Setting the table to the Nines. I woke up on Thanksgiving morning determined to set the finest table possible for all in attendance, including myself. As the only daughter and the first child married in my original family, I was graciously given family heirlooms to use and act as custodian. I’ve written about the Thanksgiving plates from my paternal grandmother here, but I also have her gorgeous jewel-toned wine goblets and my maternal grandmother’s silverware.

I awoke early to help my husband prepare the bird and a few side dishes and then dutifully got the silver out to polish. Luckily the silverware was in good shape so the job took minimal time.

Seeing the Thanksgiving table dressed to the nines in my home with my grandparents’ collective treasures all around made me feel connected to their celebrations from the past. I plan to duplicate the table setting this month for Christmas so my parents can share the Simple Joy with me.

Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer. We are fortunate to have a children’s theater near our home. This season they put on Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer developed directly from the Christmas special that airs annually by Rankin/Bass – same storyline and wonderful songs.

My children, being MY children, know the show intimately so they were thrilled to see it all played out live on stage.

I was so happy to share the stage experience with all three of them as theater has always been a deep and pleasurable Simple Joy for me.

To capture the memory I asked my husband to purchase one stuffed animal for each of the children. My four-year-old daughter got a “Clarice” reindeer dressed in pink bow and scarf. My seven-year-old middle boy received a dashing Rudolph reindeer, and my eleven-year-old who I thought was possibly too old for a stuffed animal, delighted in receiving the “Bumble” snow monster.

All three children had wide, excited eyes when we presented them with their respective toy before the curtain went up and held on to their characters throughout the entire play, at bedtime, and during playtime the next day! In fact, they still stay close to them adoringly.

The play was a big enough Simple Joy, but adding the extra luxury of the stuffed animal that resonated with all three of my children was the whipped cream and cherry on my sundae of an experience.

These Simple Joys are mine but I encourage you to find and identify yours. As the holiday season is upon us in full swing, it can be stressful, lonely, frustrating, and sad for many – even those you’d least suspect.

Be mindful of creating too many expectations for a “perfect holiday season” as it doesn’t exist for anyone.

Try to stick with routine while enjoy some activities out of the ordinary that are timely this season. Try to reach out to those who are alone, in pain, down on their luck, or who experience sadness this time of year.

And, if that’s you, try to reach out to those who need companionship, too.

Simple Joys are not defined by me, I only define my own. Be the one who defines your Simple Joys and make sure to write them down, say them, or at the very least think about them once a week.

A positive perspective will grow and your happiness will, too.

Wishing you all a week filled with Simple Joys!