Happiness Here!

In the past week or so, I’ve seen a lot of people saying that 2015 was the Worst Year Ever (Dave Barry’s take on this was, as usual, one of my favorites. Go ahead and read it. I’ll wait).

I get it. Between ISIS and drowned refugee children and terrorist attacks and mass shootings and Donald Trump and racial violence and the unsatisfying season finale of Homeland, 2015 was rough. On a more personal level, my year was like some unpredictable*, careening* mine cart: all over the place, practically whiplash-incuding, hard to really catch a breath, and moving so damned fast, I nearly missed the diamonds in the mine. Certainly not The Worst Year Ever… but there were switchbacks where it briefly skirted with the possibility.

(*is there really any other kind of mine cart?)

My 2015 had so many highs. Travels, big birthdays, a new nephew (the cutest baby in the history of the universe; no arguing) and brother-in-law, happiness at work, DECLUTTERING THE DANG HOUSE (can I get an AMEN!), and everything that Adele has done. It also had some really deep lows – chief among them the difficult loss of three people, losses that have affected me so strongly and paralyzingly, I wondered if I’d entered another Depression.

The mine can be dark, y’all. The Great Ride Of 2015 wasn’t really my favorite.

With that said, 2015 was hardly a bust. A year ago, I set some goals for myself – and, by gosh, I more or less met them.

More sleep. Okay. Bad example. I still suck at this.

More forgiveness. Trying. Hard.

More piano; more tea; more books; more cooking; more water; more letters and cards. Check, check, check, check, check, check! There are times when these slide, but I’ve gotten into much healthier habits with them.

More communication. A work in progress, but I am much more likely to respond to an email or text right away. Sure, half the time I’m saying, “I don’t know,” but it’s a start.

More courage. I took some big steps this year. They’re kinda private (sorry for the annoying vague-ary), but I’m proud of me.

More television. I still watch woefully little television. I still want to change that. 

More Jesus. Yep. Found my Sophia Community. Found Jesus. Turns out, he’s totally down with super-liberal, often-cursing, doubting, hopeful, anxious, dream-filled moms. I really dig him.

More listening. Not sure how well I’m doing on this. Maybe I should ask for opinions? HAHA. 

More giving. Absolutely. Is there anything that feels better than giving? Not so much. 

More gratitude. This is something I actively worked on all year and am still focusing on (given that reaching a gratitude limit is pretty much the stupidest idea ever, this is probably a good thing). Really appreciating – really living in that moment, seeing what you have (instead of what you don’t) – is one of the hardest things for me to do, but also the most rewarding. 

Because, when it comes down to it, my life is wonderful.
It is the life I want. And I love it.

To help all of us (well, the girls and me, really; I kind of didn’t tell Nick about it until like four days ago) focus on the good instead of the bad, at the start of last year, I put a jar in the kitchen. Beside it were a stack of notecards and a pen. I gave simple instructions: when something makes you happy, write it down and put it in the jar. It wasn’t an everyday thing. I didn’t mandate it for myself or for the girls; rather, when the moment struck (or when I reminded them), we filled out cards and dropped them in.
happiness jar12

We never did anything else with the jar until two days into 2016 when we all sat down over dinner, emptied the contents into a bowl, and read them.
happiness jar1
It was marvelous.

There were the things that would make just about anyone happy.
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{Snow day!}
Unless you’re a parent whose schedule was knocked on its end by said snow day. Then, you’d probably add “wine at noon” to the jar.

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{friendly neig(h)bors}

There were little, specific-to-us moments that made us smile.
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{Decorating gingerbread houses with J and Z}

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{reading Stole brother interview}
{having big island pin(e)apple}
For the uninitiated (myself included; I had to ask Ella what this meant), the Stoll brothers are characters in Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. I guess Ella read some kind of interview with the characters and she really dug it.
If you are also unfamiliar with Big Island Pineapple – a snack from NatureBox – I highly suggest familiarizing yourself with it. We receive a box of it monthly and it has basically changed our lives.

There were the little moments – at the time – that turned out to be not-so-little in hindsight.
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{Taking Phoofsy to Charleston.}
This was the last trip she took. I’m so, so glad we did it.

There were also moments that, quite frankly, we’d forgotten about – but that made us all grin upon remembering them.
Some were cheery…
happiness jar8
{Having the golf lesson with Sarah!!}
When we visited my dad and Meg over the summer, they set Ella and Annie up with golf lessons from one of their club’s pros – a woman who was just awesome. The girls were absolutely smitten with her.

Some were not entirely cheery, but still good, overall.
happiness jar7
{I am thankful(l) for doctors and nurses. Sticker + cord = EKG}
Last winter, Annie had an EKG. Everything turned out fine and we had excellent interactions with all of the healthcare providers – which, obviously, made enough of an impression on Annie that she decided to put the experience in the happy jar. Complete with medical equation, of course.

Unbeknownst to us, our babysitter had been sneaking cards into the jar. Hidden among the memories were half a dozen messages like this:
happiness jar10
{I am thankful for: babysitting my favorite little girls in this world! Love you both!}
How cool is that??

And, from time to time, there were little notes like this:
happiness jar4
{my parents because I love them so}

… which made us smile and gag a bit at the same time.

The cards ran the gamut – visiting family, having playdates, successes at work or school, being grateful for snow (then planting gardens… then summer swimming… then fall pumpkins…), seeing movies, holidays. The only thing they had in common was they were all positive memories; ninety-six happinesses that made up our 2015.

Turns out, the mine was full of diamonds after all.

I’m not making any official resolutions for 2016. Instead, I’m going to continue to hold myself to last year’s ideals and to focus on two large-scale themes: connection and appreciation. ‘Cause that’s what it’s all about for me at this place and time.

On New Year’s Eve, as we sat at my mom and stepdad, Steven’s, table, I said that 2015 had been too much for me and I couldn’t wait for 2016. Almost immediately, I regretted that statement (and told the girls so as I tucked them into bed that night) – mostly because it was only partially true. Yes, last year was a lot to handle, and I am certainly excited for 2016… But not just because I want to get the heck out of dodge.

I also can’t wait for 2016 because there is so much fantasticness that’s bound to happen.

By this time next year, Ella will be in middle school (omg), we’ll have welcomed additional babies into our (extended) family, we’ll have traveled places and experienced concerts and movies and books, the US will have elected a new President, and we’ll only be five months away from Star Wars, Episode VIII.

We’ll also have just read the contributions to 2016’s happiness jar (complete with spiffy new label). I’m so looking forward to the moments that will fill it.
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