don't even blink



Shifting things around and around
Making room for more
More of what—more change
Unsettled and unhappy as the days melt
Into each other without stopping
Joyful and energized at the same time
Two sides of a coin, some might say
But she is no coin
She can't make change on a dime
It takes something out of her
As it breathes new life in too

In the blink of an eye, change has
Changed everything
Nothing is the same—again
Every step in any direction
Takes us further from the other
The horizon is unrecognizable
Unfamiliar faces and places
All while she stands in one place
Watching the world walk past
Without her
No one noticing she doesn't want to blink anymore


choices

Every day, there are choices before us. Every single day, I make good ones and poor ones. But I want to talk about a slice of good ones.

Being a mother is by far the most difficult thing I've ever done outside of getting divorced, and yet I have a sense of satisfaction in my efforts as my children are growing up. They are turning out to be be these people that are so amazing and easy to love. They are the best part of me.

Not all of that can be attributed to me since they have their choices, of course. But I want to celebrate the good choices I've made that have helped them along their way to making their good choices. It feels so good to see them learning and growing and discerning right from wrong.

This summer has been peppered with—even immersed in—change, and still my children keep on shining and making me look so good. My heart is full of love and gratitude for all the blessings we enjoy because of their precious hearts being so true and sure as they work out how to make good choices and recover from poor ones in the best ways.

It is all glorious to behold.


buying drinks and things

While on a late night run to the store with my youngest, I had an experience I don't ever want to forget:

My little guy and I were finishing up shopping for some random items like a new scooter since I had forgotten to bring home his scooter he got for Christmas from the park as I had promised him—and it got stolen—big surprise, and we had decided to get a cold drink last thing before checking out since it was still pretty hot outside even if it was late. Nothing too out of the ordinary there, but then he surprised me.

I chose a drink, then he chose a drink, and then as we walked toward the cash registers, he said, "I want to buy my drink with my money," as he showed me his folded up dollar bills. He had earned five dollars from selling a bean bag chair of his a couple of weeks prior and somehow still had a little bit of money left over. That's not really what surprised me most though. I was surprised by when I asked him if he was sure how he was emphatic about needing to pay for himself. My oldest son had just been emphatic about paying for a really large purchase just a few weeks earlier, and I was in awe of his drive to step up, and now my little guy was doing the same thing over a cold drink at the store.

What a place to be in as a mother. I see my boys striving to be men, and what am I to do but let them be men. I almost cried as I witnessed them stepping up each time. I think this most recent one hit me the hardest though as I had already seen one son set the example just weeks earlier on a much larger scale. I felt the ripple effect of his choices pushing his little brother along a good path.

And then, as we were walking to the car and he held his drink in his hand, he explained more of his thoughts. He told me about how awesome it felt to buy food for himself for the first time ever when he had walked to the store with his sister earlier this summer. He said that he didn't expect it to feel so good to buy food for himself with his own money. He gave credit to his sister, saying how he could understand now why she liked to buy her own food with her own money now, and that's why he wanted to buy his own drink—so he could feel good about getting something he needed for himself.

The simplicity with which he explained himself put me in awe. I was in awe of my little son for even being so mature as to hold this type of conversation. I was in awe of my oldest son's example of being assertive and insistent on providing for himself better. And I was in awe of my youngest daughter's example that was quiet, unspoken, teaching her little brother about spending money on things that matter to help take care of yourself.

My children's good hearts bless and honor me as a mother. I can hardly find words to describe the immense joy I have as I recognize my children's goodness.




thoughts on aging



I've decided to capture a slice of my thoughts now, so I might compare them later down the road.

Being single and in my 40s means I get to witness all of my peers who have gone the distance in their marriages reach epic milestones like 25th wedding anniversaries. Who knows, maybe I'll find someone in enough time to have that celebration before I'm dead, but I won't be in my prime when it occurs. I will be getting on in age for sure. Even if I married tomorrow I'd be officially a senior citizen. Now that's a hard pill to swallow. Not that I think it's bad to get older, but I never pictured myself so devoid of romance in my prime of life.

My parents were not romantic types if you would have asked me when I was younger. Thinking of that in this context, I remember the excitement I enjoyed putting together my parents' 25th anniversary party. I hand stamped and embossed all of the invitations, arranged for the cake to be made by my grandpa who is a master baker, and witnessed my parents' joy in being so celebrated by friends and family for going the distance. Who could have known she'd be gone just shy of their 30th anniversary. And who even does a big deal party then anyway? I'm so glad I could play such a large role in making that one anniversary memorable.

But I don't want to focus on the party aspect. I want to note the small everyday things that brought them to that point: the not giving up, the choosing each other even when life was very hard, the learning to be and stay friends. That's real romance, you know.

I hope to find that to share with someone someday. I just really hope it happens while I can still dance and play with vigor. 

joy quest: hope and healing


Today marks my 30th joy quest post and the end of my formal exploration of joy—for now. So what do I write? How do I choose my words for something that I still don't understand completely? I have questions still.

How can we feel joy when also overwhelmed with sorrow? And yet—it happens. How does joy make its presence known when there is so much fresh pain pushing down? And even still—it happens. How does joy heal our hearts when our hearts are continually being wounded anew? I don't have the perfect answer to this question either except that I have seen the hope joy brings in our human suffering, and it is a continual healer. Joy heals as we look for it, embrace it, and allow it to heal us.

We have to choose joy though. That is something I have learned and know about joy. It is everywhere, in everything we do; however, if we aren't choosing joy, we can't see it or feel it. When in the midst of adversity, it is critical that we reach out to hold onto the joy that is available. Even still, it is more critical that we recognize the joy we experience in times of peace. There is no worse waste of a gift than to take it for granted.

Being apathetic to the gift of joy that makes life so good sets us up to not be able to see how joy works for us when things get difficult. We need to keep watching for it and wanting it continually to truly appreciate the work of joy in our lives.

I found a talk that teaches how to appreciate and understand how joy works in our lives, and I hope you will watch it. As I listened to it, I knew it belonged in my joy quest because of the truths it bears witness of. One of my favorite quotes by Yoon Hwan Choi:
It is not easy for us to recognize the love of Heavenly Father when we look around with our temporal eyes, because we see inconvenience, loss, burdens, or loneliness first. On the other hand, we can see the blessings beyond when we look up.



This joy quest has been perfect in its imperfection. I have let loss and burdens keep me down a few times. But I have learned from it when that has happened. The hope and healing of the paper crane I began with has been ever present, and that is why I share it at the end of my quest too. Recognizing that I have seen how I push away joy, I want to do better. I have done better. I have loved the challenge of these past thirty days that has pushed me toward understanding joy better, to seek it out and be part of it more often.

I thank my friend Julie for being the catalyst for such an enlarging experience when I needed to be stretched and healed and fortified. Joy has become a true companion.




joy quest: memory lane


Harris Lane. Now that has some memories on it. There are actually many lanes and streets and boulevards all over East Las Vegas that hold memories for me. The best memories. The worst memories. And memories that have made me who I am.

I will choose joy today as I say goodbye to my family home. My parents and siblings, aunts and uncles, many cousins and friends, all have been part of that house being made into a home. It takes people making joy-filled memories to have a real home, and we had that. Most of all though, my parents' love for each other and us was why that place was home to me. Despite all the troubles and trials, I can look on that place with joy and love because of them.

Bledsoe Lane and Harris Lane and all the other roads in my old neighborhood will still be there, but they won't ever be the same without us there anymore. I know that for sure. And that gives me a tempered joy—joy in knowing how much my parents made a difference in establishing a legacy of love that is only held down by missing their presence for so long.

My joy is full today. My joy has tears washing away any pain, leaving a shining, golden memory lane to walk upon whenever I may need it.


joy quest: quiet


Life can get so hectic that you never find time to slow down and be quiet. But then someone passes away, and all of a sudden, you have to make time to stop for awhile.

It might not sound right, but there is a type of joy in the period of time that is set aside to be with the living and share grief. There is no way to describe it without sounding almost irreverent unless you've been part of it before.

There is no gladness for the loss of my friend's brother, but in the quiet after the funeral, I felt joy that I could see my friend and his family come together to celebrate a wonderful life. Everyone has become such wonderful people as we've all grown up, and their little brother was a real treasure. And then just having some time to be quiet to recognize all of this calls for joy.

I have quiet joy right now, but it is joy nonetheless.


joy quest: friday

There is just something magical about the song "Friday I'm in Love" that makes me smile every single time I hear it. It could be that my friend, Suzanne, comes to mind. It could be the cheerful beat. It could be the hope that is laid upon Friday—that promise of being in love every Friday at the very least. Whatever the reason is at the time, every time I want to get up and dance.



Today won't be a day for dancing for me, but I have a wish for joy to be planted in the hearts of all who mourn and want for love and comfort today. I have joy in that hope. And we will dance another day soon because joy comes from behind and cures sadness. Every single time.





joy quest: turning points

Summer is a turning point in the lives of children. They grow out of their clothes at least once. There are friendships made and lost. Anticipation for what autumn will bring hangs in the hot summer air once July presents itself.
 
There are other turning points that happen too. Graduation from high school brings with it a lot of change. Learning how to grow up for real and finding the footings for the future pose real challenges for young adults. There is joy infused in every step though. Every accomplishment, every time a goal is met (no matter how small), joy is right there waiting to be scooped up and embraced.

Adults face these turning points. It's not necessarily at the all important summer finish line, but we have them. We lose a job and get a new job. We move and have to make all new friends. We lose a friend or family member to bad feelings, but we renew the relationship through communication. We lose a loved one yet hope for eternity to bring us back together someday. We learn to look around every bend for joy because the hard times just can't last.

Today is a day to be thankful for turning points, getting around the bend of a long stretch of difficulty, and looking to the future for joy and hope. 

joy quest: pink lozenges

I'm so tired I can hardly think straight, so no fun logos on the picture and no refining filters. Just pure pink paradise before your eyes.

These pink candies were some of my favorites growing up, and I've never grown tired of them yet. It's probably due in part from not being able to find them most of the time, but they are worth the search!

My city opened a giant new grocery store, and they have these bulk candy bins there, and lo and behold, my pink candies are there. I bought some and even shared with my children. Speaking of my children, I think they were a bit embarrassed by my sheer delights upon seeing these at the store. So delicious that even the thought of them makes me smile! Sweet joy!

So anyway. I love these candies so much. I hope you do too, but if not—more for me!


joy quest: freedom

As I was pondering what I'd share today since it's Independence Day for Americans, I thought about many things: music, inspiring quotes, inspiring leaders, the wars and victories, and my parents. All of those people and things as I thought of them in turn gave me a measure of pride and joy. How do I decide what to share then?

I decided to share a video of me riding a roller coaster:


This decision came to me because I believe it encompasses in a very short period a metaphor for my pursuit of happiness. Ups and downs. Laughter. A whole lot of "holy craps" said and unsaid. And being free to do all those things.

Another reason I decided to share this video is as a metaphor for my freedom. I was with my son celebrating his 17th birthday on Independence Day last year when I shot this, and the memory of it reminds me of how free I am now. Life isn't easy in the least. I get sad. But I am free to keep trying and keep improving and be myself.

Speaking of being free to be myself. Is it terrible that I can watch this over and over and I laugh at myself every time as if the video is new? Like, I crack myself up so bad. I wonder what level of crazy I'll look like when I'm an old lady. I can't even comprehend it! haha!

I'm so thankful for everyone who has made my freedom possible. And thank you for sharing this slice of joy with me today! God bless America, land that I love!




joy quest: grief's gift

Some sad news came my way last night after writing the joy quest post, and so I felt compelled by inspiration to write a poem, Without Even Trying. It's what I do; I write poems when I am grieving. I write them for myself and for my friends and family who are affected by loss. And something happened with this poem that surprised me and gave me such a gift.

Because of the sad news, I thought I wouldn't be able to find anything joyful to share today. But I was so wrong. I didn't think anyone would really read the poem. And that's fine, I write to express inspiration and feelings whether or not anyone else reads my writing. However, it does feel nice when my work gets read and shared though, and this poem was read, loved, and shared so very much. It was truly appreciated. And that gives me so much when I second guess my writer's life I've been cultivating. To be clear, I feel like such an imposter most of the time.

Not today though. My writing gave comfort to the sad and gave people reason to smile inside. And they shared this far and wide already in less than a day. It gives me a full heart to know I could help even one person with my words—and there were many more than one. I am so thankful, and gratitude is joy's seeds.


without even trying



In an instant
Everything is different
Just like when we first meet
Someone—anyone
They change us
Without even trying

Meeting a baby for the first time
Whether your own or someone else's
Someone's baby brother
Can change you
You fall in love a little
With their laugh and smiles
You tuck a piece of them
In your heart
Carrying it with you
Without even knowing
It's there
Until—

They change you again
By not being here
To breathe earth's air
With everyone together

It matters not
Where they live
Or how long it has been
Since you saw that smile
Or heard that laugh

It matters not
Any of the different paths
Everyone took
Because you realize
In an instant
That you had them held
Within your heart
Forever

Where they will stay
Always

To remember the smiles and laughs
And the sweet and tender heart
Who showed you
So many years later
That there are many pieces
Of your heart that were whole
Until they left




For Jeff, the baby brother I loved the moment I saw him
Rest in peace


joy quest: fire



I don't have an elaborate story to tell, nor a well thought out response to an inspiring source. I don't even have a proper picture really. I just snapped a quick shot of our fire pit party and kept on enjoying myself.

There's something about roasting marshmallows and hotdogs (and pork steaks like savages) over an open fire. We were able to really enjoy the evening as we wound down from the week before on this beautiful Sunday. And it gave me joy. I am thankful we could take the time, that we observe the sabbath and shut out the world some one day a week.

My joy is quiet yet on fire tonight.


joy quest: making room for more




We can love something so much. We can have the best memories. We can even not want to set it aside. Yet—if that something, a habit, a hobby, a thing, anything keeps us from receiving untapped joy, it is time to let it go and try making room for something new. 

Tillman has been a fun bear, a sweet bear, and remains a most precious bear to me and my children, but I've decided that we need to retire him. There's so much love wrap up in this little stuffed animal that I fear prolonging our adventures with him will only end up breaking our hearts more as time goes on. He has come to represent a bridge of sorts for us with one of our dear friends, and it's just hard to think about how much we care. 

So I've found a home for Tillman where he will be safe and accessible but not out as a constant reminder, in the hope that we will open up some space in our hearts for more joy—new joy—fresh and rejuvenating. 

This whole thought isn't very joyful if you ask me, but this is a quest, not a perfectly joyful 30 days. I am finding joy, understanding joy, and learning how to open my heart to receive more of it. And this is something that I believe needs to happen to make room. 

Just don't tell my kids. Okay? They will figure out my decision soon enough, and I don't feel like crying over a purple teddy bear in front of them. 





joy quest: destinations

I was listening to this talk, Return and Receive, by M. Russell Ballard, and joy began filling my heart.  There are many golden messages to help me right now as I try to find my way to find daily joy. I want to share some of what I learned.

Knowing what matters most is a big factor for finding joy:
Goal setting is essentially beginning with the end in mind. And planning is devising a way to get to that end. A key to happiness lies in understanding what destinations truly matter—and then spending our time, effort, and attention on the things that constitute a sure way to arrive there.

Understanding God's plan for us and setting good goals lead us to joy:
I believe that one important key to happiness is to learn how to set our own goals and establish our own plans within the framework of our Heavenly Father’s eternal plan. 

Introspection is an essential companion to receiving the joy that comes with blessings:
I have found that to stay focused on returning and receiving the promised blessings, I need to regularly take time to ask myself, “How am I doing?” 

As I contemplate how I receive joy—and inadvertently reject joy—I recognize that these words are not just nice words, but they are key tools for helping me get where I want to go. I want to have a joy-filled journey. I want to create my eternity each day. Somehow I will make my way, and I am thankful I decided to study this talk. My heart has been given more hope, more real ways to find my way to receiving blessings I need, and joy—a well deserved measure of joy. My destination is heavenly joy, and I know I can arrive at it one step at a time as I trust in God.






joy quest: new music

A song is just a song unless it strikes a nerve, touches your heart, and/or sucker punches you in the gut. In any of the aforementioned cases, the song turns into a part of you. When you hear it even for the one hundredth time, you remember how it affected you that first time hearing it, and you remember the journey of change that it took you on.

Sometimes a song can mean new things to you as well, so maybe it becomes new after many years. Sort of magical how that can happen, if you ask me.

Some songs are old yet undiscovered by you, making old things new. There's charm in that.

So what does all this have to do with my joy quest? I was introduced to an older song (2000) that is absolutely charming to me. The softness of its melody wraps itself around me like a warm embrace; its words are like a wish I dream of coming true; it is lovely. While it does pinch at me because I don't have anyone to be my person right now, it is a sweet song that whispers of future joy to my heart. It tells a story that I thought I had and still want.

And it's just so charming that I can't help but smile.

joy quest: taking a rest

One thing that I've embraced is listening to my body and laying down to rest when needed. It can't always happen, but if I can squeeze in a little rest when I'm feeling raggedy, I do it. Most of the time.

I'm not feeling rested today or yesterday, raggedy is the watchword, and I haven't been able to take any time. Therefore, I'm not feeling very joyful right now. I allowed myself to think about the negative aspects of my life right now too, so I'm all over the place. There's just too much going on at once with little to no support. I don't see how to keep going let alone find the joy that's awaiting me.

So in order to find joy in this day, I will force myself to take a break to stop worrying and working, and try to rest a bit.

Joy will be found!


joy quest: mermaid island


I was hiking (more like walking out in nature) along the river in Zion National Park with my daughter with autism and my youngest son, and we came to this spot.

The picture hardly captures the vibrant color of greenish blue water mixing with the browns and greens even with a nice filter on the photo, but it does show you the gist of what we saw with our eyes. It was so beautiful. But that photo is here to give you the background to what gave me joy and will continue to give me joy as long as I can remember.

We came up to this section of the river from along the sandy beach pathway, and we stood there appreciating the gorgeous scene that you look at now plus more, and my little son said that it looked like mermaids lived there. Then he said a little more to that effect, and we stood there a little longer wishing we could jump in and swim over to the rock island where mermaids live.

It was a simple moment, yet I can hardly describe my joy. I thought about many things, but the thing that came to mind foremost was in having one last child to share in the wonder that our world is. I didn't count on having any more than two or three children, but he came along and has made my life so different and so good in ways only his personality could bring about. Next, I thought about how my older children were out hiking the real deal stuff on Angel's Landing and how happy it makes me that they get along now—mostly.

As I let myself enjoy that mermaid moment, I tasted simple and abiding joy. I'm thankful for this quest that has been helping me keep my heart open to finding it to taste.





joy quest: joy is . . .

Joy is found in family togetherness and friendship. Joy is in feeling safe. Joy comes when you stop wondering why when no one wants to explain. Joy steps in when all of your tears are gone and you don't know what to feel. Joy is what you hold onto when you want to do better than just keep breathing. And sometimes—joy can be found in each sliver of a breath as you realize you will make it through yet another difficult day. Joy and gratitude go together. Joy and grief are companions. Joy surrounds us. We merely need the courage to touch it, and its infectious nature takes care of the rest. Joy is beautiful. 

joy quest: volleyball


As you can tell, this meme is not mine, and I cannot read the tag to tell you who created it. But it is so perfect, so it had to be here. It begged for its day in the sun on my joy quest.

Volleyball has been something that helps me now. I've been going for well over a year now to a singles volleyball night, and it's been life-changing. First of all, it's because I'm not as crappy of a volleyball player anymore. My improvement level is debatable but definitely measurable. I was pretty terrible when I first began. I hadn't played in almost two decades. I'm competitive, so that's how this can bring joy. Improving my sporty skills makes me feel great. You should see my joy level when I get a hit right. I crack my own self up sometimes. I really should be embarrassed, but whatever.

Secondly, I've made friends that have changed me for good. They understand some of the unique circumstances I have been in simply because they are single too. Many of my volleyball friends live parallel lives with mine. And knowing that people just understand you a little can bring joy to a bad day. Some of them have helped to heal my heart actually; there's no better joy than that.

So, here's to volleyball and the joy it brings! 

joy quest: poetry

Loud Joy

The voices from the future
Calling to me
Beckoning and begging
Me to not give up—to not forget who I am

Pressing onward into the bleak unknown
Fervently finding flowers along the way
To keep me going as
Stones dig into the bottoms of my feet

Children watching my every action
As I feel around, tripping, falling
Getting up again and again and again
Tears washing away the screams trapped within

Always, in the distance, a soft weeping for
What was lost
Always, at the forefront, a fight for
What might be won

Dancing in the shadows and the sunlight
On fire with wishing
Squelched by reality
And though the heart knows

It can as swiftly become
Shattered to bits as was healed over time,
It keeps making a joyful noise

Drowning out sorrow regardless



joy quest: support

I was going to put a picture and write a little something, but then I decided to let my words speak for themselves.

There is absolutely nothing like being in the company of good people who have your back and want you to have theirs in return. The lovingkindness and respect emanating from their presence alone is heartening. When you feel supported and cared about, the problems of life are made smaller—even if it's only fractional. Sadness is swept away for a little while or a long while preferably. And joy is given a prominent place in our thoughts more easily.

Today, I had the blessing of spending time with someone who gave all of that to me. And my fervent hope is that they were able to get the respite I had hoped to offer but received instead!

So much to be joyful about today. Feeling respected and appreciated and loved. I have felt understood. It has filled some of the holes that have been left gaping for too long. Joy is at the helm!

joy quest: soap


It's pretty easy to please me. Stuff like purple dish soap gets me excited. So as I was searching out a joy treasure for today, I decided to keep it simple and go with the whole idea of even taking a picture of purple dish soap.

Rushing around is nothing new to me. Being a single mother now has kicked life into high gear where it never seems to stop; however, I never used to be able to stop rushing around in other ways—important for well-being ways. One of those ways for me is stopping to take pictures when I see something special in a mental capture.

I am so free now to stop and smell the roses (soap) and think about plans. I realize how much joy there is in such a small freedom. Photography of any level is fascinating to me, and it's wonderful to be able to take a minute here and there, to pull over to the side of the road or stand on stuff to get a better angle, etc. without argument. Well, my kids do get a tiny bit bugged sometimes, but for the most part, they just count this as a way of life now and wait. It's really great of them too. Sometimes they even point stuff out to me to capture with my camera.

So my joy is not entirely found in soap, but it's more about becoming clean from the shackles I had on me and being free to choose taking a picture or two of purple dish soap.

(And, no, I was not paid to advertise those dish soaps—they're just gorgeous!)


joy quest: lava



In the two years since seeing this short film at the drive-in for the first time, many things have changed. Life is so different from what I thought it could be like, so most of all its meaning to me has had to change. Hence a tinge of loss sneaks in as I watch this video; nevertheless, it still ignites hope and joy as I recognize that this could be my story.

There is joy in believing that there is someone being prepared for me. There is joy in the belief that I am becoming ready for him. I am always working to become my best self, so I pray that someone will turn and look one of these days and see I have been right there growing and becoming, filling the sea with my tears.

This song is just so beautiful. It tells such a real story of watching, waiting, hope, loneliness, but best of all, the joy that comes in the morning. Joyful is the thought that I am building a joyful life as I keep hope in what's in store. 

joy quest: farmers


Okay. I don't mean to sound completely city, but there's nothing like buying corn from a farmer. It all comes from farmers, I know, but to purchase it directly from them to help a small farm just feels extra American to me.

I've had a real long day with lots of work and garbage and joy, but I just want to give thanks right now that I live somewhere that I can find a farmer to give my money to for their hard work and sacrifice in having a life that provides such delicious food for my family and me.

My joy was so full handing over the cash. My joy was even fuller as we pulled the husks off and cooked the corn. And my joy was truly at overflowing as we had this nice corn to eat for dinner, seeing how much my children enjoyed and appreciated it.

I just want to say thank you to anyone who is a farmer or knows a farmer who is reading these words.  It's such a blessing to have farmers make life so good.



More thoughts about farmers:
Farmers and Paul Harvey

joy quest: father's gifts


Mesquite trees and St. Augustine lawn. Burnt peanuts, circus peanuts, Dr Pepper. Storytelling—both true and embellished. His love for his country: the old country, Texas, and this United States of America. He loved Johnny Cash's music, along with Neil Diamond, Willie Nelson, Elvis Presley, and many more of the very best musicians. The Dallas Cowboys.

A genuine love for providing for his family, making his West Texas hot sauce every summer, and talking about how to manage finances.

Taking his family on road trips all over the country, sharing in my mother's obsession for good movies, setting a guiding example of how to treat extended family.

These things are a fraction of the things I have loved about my dad. Many of his lessons have continued to help me grow as I teach my own children. My taste in music, sports, and nature's beauty were greatly shaped by his.

Today, I have joy reflecting on the several gifts he imparted while he worked at becoming the best father he could despite never having a father figure in his life.

My joy is full this day.




joy quest: more joy


I typically use only my very own photography and other graphic arts creations, but I saw this the other day, and it touched me deeply.

After reading it over a couple of times, I allowed myself to acknowledge how my actions keep me from joy. How I keep making excuses for allowing others to marginalize, disregard, and hurt me. Anyone who knows me knows that life has been almost constant struggle for more years than we should count. And if they actually care about me, they wouldn't make my life more difficult—at least not knowingly. This brings me to believe that if I know something is making life harder, responsibility lies with me to make sure others understand what is happening. And still—I have paid for this.

I have been through enough getting backstabbed and being unloved and under appreciated. I don't have anymore room for waiting on people to value me. I shouldn't need to be on the defensive all the time just for being alive.

Today's joy quest treasure brings with it a pure knowledge that I am worth more than how I've been treated, and I am making room for more joy to come my way. No more feeling like I don't belong. No more anything except watching for how I can improve myself and for the people who love me for who I am—imperfections and all—just like I do with everyone I love.




joy quest: worthy goals



Nearly ten years ago a joy seed was planted.

My son has loved being a cub scout and a boy scout. When he was in the thick of cub scouting things, there was nothing like getting another belt loop or having to create a third row of arrow points. The reward system helped him want to try things. It helped us bond with all the learning adventures we'd try. And he continued going strong on his goals for a couple of years into Boy Scouts, but life got to us, him, me. I couldn't give as much support as before with the divorce changing our lives so rapidly and permanently. And negatively.

So anyway. Long story short, my son overcame the odds against him because he has had some strong and motivated leaders who have challenged him, supported him, and helped me to help him, and yesterday he became an Eagle Scout. He reached his goal he set for himself when that scouting fire first got lit in his heart as a little boy.

To add another facet of this experience, the time leading up to this beautiful moment had been like being in a pressure cooker. Ask me just a year ago if this would be possible, and I would be doubtful. Ask me how I felt the past couple of months as deadlines for this doubled up with other deadlines for my other children, work, and other things. It has been a rough road.

The reason I tell you this is because I got to experience the healing power of raw joy. It just leaves zero room for anything but itself. The troubling issues as well as the entire day's problems fell completely away as I witnessed what joy filled my son's heart. He hasn't smiled that much since he was little—not even at graduation when he had first astonished me with his renewed countenance.

Witnessing his heart overflowing with joy filled my heart by it. The troubles and setbacks and roadblocks have become nothing but experiences to learn from now. They are transformed.

Setting worthy goals, goals that build you up and help you become your best self, are joy seeds when they are planted and taken care of.

joy quest: when joy finds you



Confession: I had a productive day, a good day, a weird day, a bad day, and a sad day all in one day, and I decided that I would not go to bed until I let myself choose a joyful part to focus on—because there were many good parts.

And so I couldn't sleep . . .

Until one of my hundreds of cousins messaged me and asked all the tough questions, drawing out my tears that had been overshadowing the joy.

She just listened and was supportive and everything I needed right now. Well, everything except a boyfriend. But according to her, "[she's] heard China has an abundance of men," so I guess she's shipping me off to China if they don't do mail order husbands.

And that's how I discovered that joy had found me. My looking was doing nothing, or at least not much. I needed her to come and get me, make me laugh, and show me that I am cared about.

You do need to be at least looking, but I promise you that joy finds you so long as you leave a light on.


joy quest: a rough day


I could write sheets and sheets about my bad day; however, this is a joy quest, so I need to find the joy.

So anyway, knowing I had a hard time getting through life today, I decided to take advantage of the discount seats at the local movie theater. I have learned that when things get messy and I just need a break—I need to take a break. And that usually entails me getting out of my house. There's just something about breathing different air even for a half an hour or so.

It was so relaxing to take my movie blanket and get a treat without anyone pushing on me to do this or do that. I got to just watch and breathe. The drive to and from the theater wasn't too hectic either. I got home mega fast actually. It was astonishing. And that is joy enough, right? But then I have so much more to be joyful about: Going to the movies, it was an entertaining show (that King Arthur one), I was safe, and so much more. So many good and joyful things happening for my benefit to help me.

I want to give thanks for my friend who was so kind to put up with my rough mood today too. Patience is something to rejoice in especially when meted out to yourself. It's humbling to know that only a few select people will accept you and help you even on one of your worst days. I'm humbled and grateful—and have joy in my heart.






joy quest: affection


There are many ways to find affection. Some are better than others. Some are more appropriate than others. Some are perfect. We won't even discuss the perfect ones like hugs from your children, family, and friends. Those are perfect. What I will address is the type of affection that can only come from someone choosing you to be vulnerable with even if it's just for a one-time moment.

The past several years have been devoid of affection for me. I'd venture to say that genuine, generous affection—affection without high cost—has been absent from my life for nearly fifteen years.

And what do such depressing statistics have to do with a joy quest, you might ask. It has a whole lot to do with it! Like how I've realized how valuable affection is that I know I won't take it for granted ever again. I've been rejected so much by so many in so many ways. Not all bad ways, just matter-of-fact ways mostly. So when I get small tastes of this rare delight, a day here and a day there, I cherish it. I do want to add how affection as a single adult is playing in the big leagues though. Holy crap. I can hardly even open my mouth to say anything for fear of saying something that might mean something I don't mean thus causing trouble. It's sort of funny when you're not in the moment. Maybe.

The best thing about even a day's worth of affection is when your children recognize you deserve this special type of happiness and affection and are glad for you.

There's my bit of joy. Morsels of affection and approval. You know, that's actually a whole lot of joy. And I'm so thankful for it right now.


More about my joy quest: Joy Academy: My Quest for Joy




joy quest: music

I love music. That's a broad statement, but it's true. People will ask me what's my favorite type of music, and I answer them: "Good." And I truly mean it. 

When I was thinking about what brings me joy, I knew that music needed to have a spot early on in this quest because I'll need the chance to bring it up again later if I want. Discovering new music and music I'd forgotten became a hobby as I worked through my grief during my divorce. Music helped me through many times when I couldn't see an end. It still helps me now. 

With all of my excitement about trying to find joy in my daily life, I decided to poll people on Twitter for their favorite song that makes them smile/feel happy no matter what. It was inspiring. And I made a playlist for you to enjoy. 

The thing about this playlist is how nerdy and eclectic it is. So many show tunes. Well, soundtrack songs are on there too. I dig movie musicals like so much though! The best memories are wrapped up in many of the songs on my joy playlist. I love it so much, having something to listen to that speaks for joyful memories, that helps me hold onto joy right now. 

I've been wanting for joy this weekend, and building this playlist helped me so much. I hope it gives you a smile at least and maybe even increases your joy as you listen to it. 

Let me know if you like any of the songs! 


joy quest: no dead ends


It might sound weird, but when I saw these DEAD END signs, I thought of joy. I thought about how joy seems to have so many road blocks, but it overcomes every single one—every single time—when we open our hearts to it.

Just a few short years ago, I believed that I'd never love again. I believed that there would be no way I'd ever recover from the terrible destructive forces of divorce. And since then, I have loved more than I ever thought I could. I have had more joyful experiences than I can count. The hard times have been counteracted and overcome because of the tender mercies God has sent my way—because of the joy I have allowed myself to see, touch, and taste.

There is no such thing as a dead end to joy. Joy is everywhere.


joy academy: my quest for joy


I have been given the honor of being the very first participant in the Joy Academy's challenge to do a 30-day joy quest. There will be more explanation at a later date and the opportunity to sign up for it as well, so just keep reading each day, and I'll let you know when, where, and what in better detail. Until I have links to share, I'll quickly explain what my friend, Julie/Julie Clawson/Julianne Clawson, the fabulous author of Edenbrooke and Blackmoore presently known as Julianne Donaldson, has offered me—this Joy Quest gift.

In beginning my Joy Quest, I have agreed to post something every day for thirty days that brings me joy or thoughts and resources on joy, which inherent in their sharing will emanate joy to all within my reach. And this has been my quest for several years now, so I very much look forward to giving joy a very focused approach at a time when I know I need to cultivate more joy. Some days, my words will be long—like today—but other days might just be a short thought and a photograph prompt. We shall see how it all turns out. What a gift this is to reach for something that surrounds me every day.

The fact of the matter is I need to let go of some grief I have picked up like pebbles in my pocket as of late. Grief is not something to cherish and hold onto as if it's some romantic pleasure. It eats you alive if you let it. It is necessary, but it should be used as a vehicle to find our way back to happiness and joy—a lesson learned on why we seek joy.

And now to get to the heart of my joy quest for today. Do you see that origami crane? It tells so many stories: one of love and marriage, one of healing, one of peace, one of war, one of family, history, illness, and even more.

For now, today, it tells my story of understanding. I do not know all the answers, and I certainly know I am not the solution to everyone's woes, yet I know that all my trials and suffered abuses and struggles in this life seem to transform into a means for me to be a guide and comfort to others. To realize over the years how I have been an instrument in other's finding their way a little easier, a little quicker because I have shared my experiences and knowledge has been humbling and a source of joy to me.

I've felt like I don't make a difference too many times in my life. Coming to understand that my ability to open up about my pain actually helps others has improved my ability to see that I do make a difference. I now look around me to comprehend why I am suffering, what can be learned, and begin watching for who I might help with what I've learned. Oftentimes, the ones I end up helping are strangers, passersby in this joy quest called life. Yet every once in awhile, people I hold dear surprise me with their struggles I could never have guessed but for the pull I feel toward them to reach out and help if I can and if they'll let me.

To be clear, I do not wish my trials on anyone, but life is such that people have trials. It is partly how we learn and grow into who we are to become—our best and eternal self realized.

Joy right now looks like becoming the helping hand I've always wished to be. Joy in this moment is a purple Japanese origami crane that teaches me how joy can be found in the intricate folds of the everyday experience. The painstaking effort it takes to create something so simple yet exquisite is part of the joy process. Each fold represents a change that gets us closer to becoming who we are meant to be. Let us see our folds and edges as a means to the joy waiting for us if we will reach for it.







downsizing

I've been looking around me and seeing so much excess. It's not like we really have extravagant things, but we have too much not serving any real purpose other than keeping us feeling like we have stuff.

Some neighbors are getting together for a block yard sale, so we will participate. I've begun ear marking all sorts of stuff for the event. I've had toys that I've saved of my children's for guests' little ones to play with and enjoy, but that's all going away. I've had a whole lot of books packed away because I don't have the shelf space anymore for all of my classroom library, and those are getting sold off.

I'm even selling a couple of our bed frames. We have had the same ones forever, and to be honest, I think they are holding a negative energy in our home since the divorce. That might sound weird, but I have this feeling about it all and need to get rid of anything that feels too heavy to stay.

One thing I'm concerned about is that I might regret this extraordinarily deep cleaning of the house six months from now. I doubt it, but you just never know. I'm trying not to overthink it though. If I have something that hasn't been used in over a year or since the last time I said, I might use that someday, it's gone. No more holding onto loads of stuff that's only keeping me weighed down.

I think I need to apply this to more areas of my life. It might make all the difference.




down river

I heard about a mother, a bystander, and the mother's toddler being drowned in a horrible river incident yesterday, and I just haven't been myself since.

These individuals are strangers to me, and yet I have felt so much heartache for their loved ones and even the mother as she saw her little girl get swept away. I thought about how I'd have jumped straight into the raging water too no matter the odds. I can't imagine not jumping in after my child.

Maybe that's romanticizing it, but that's what I think I'd do in a split second decision.

That said, I was doing a search to learn more about it, and I realized that there was another river drowning with a little boy not too long ago, and the mother didn't even have the chance to make that choice. She just saw the river and knew she'd never see her son again.

As I ponder these two scenarios, I realize that we are given what we are given, and we just do what we can with what we've got. Sometimes giving our life is giving our all. And sometimes—our heart goes down river never to be seen again.

We just keep going until we can't anymore and find the joy in life. We give our whole hearts in all we do.

But even still—life can be such a heart wrenching affair, can't it? 

natural affection


I hear your song, darling. 
It came across the fields of corn and grass
As the sun shone brightly above.
It found its way into my heart
Without a second thought.

My adoration comes as second nature
As my nature is to love you—
Yet you cannot find your way to me
As we dance in tune without music playing
Because you were afraid.

I won't stop listening; 
I can't let go.
You are what fills me;
You are the hole that won't be filled.
Let your natural affection open up.



a tiny rant about singleness

sunflower fields



This week is graduation for my senior and a handful of my Digital Journalism students, and I am waxing emotional.

There are so many words and feelings welling up that I don't know which ones to tell you. I have my heart so full right now of anxiousness for my son to finish up his coursework on time. I have a heart full of pride that he is finally getting through this chapter of his life—it has been challenging. And this heart is overflowing with wanting things to slow down, so we can savor the success for awhile. 

My students. Oh there are some of them who have really taught me so much, and a few of them who I would be privileged to become their friends. There are memories of learning from and with my students that make it difficult to think about them not being in my class next year. It gets me a little teary actually. And I keep thinking about how I wish time could slow down a little with these seniors as well, so we can savor these final moments. 

As I contemplate the future for my son and students, I recall driving to the Dallas/Fort Worth airport in the backseat of my brother's car being amazed by the nearly endless fields of mammoth sunflowers. It was stunning. Such a radiant and glorious sight to see. I think what made it so memorable as well was how there were so many fields of them too. Not only were there so many flowers that they seemed to stretch on forever in a field, but more and more fields of sunflowers would come as we drove. It was cheerful and surprising. 

The radiance of the graduates is like those sunflowers. They are shining now, but the opportunities they will have to shine further will continue to pop up as they go along their paths. They will surprise us, and we will continually want to see how far they go with things. We will want to remember every success now and moving forward, so much so that we will eagerly watch the horizon until we can't. 

I will be watching for wonderful surprises from all of them. 


wrapping things up



It's almost the end of the school year, and I am astounded by the rate at which time flew. There have been some very long days and weeks; however, it all seemed to slip right through my fingers.

I'm feeling pretty nostalgic actually. This week will wrap up the last class for the Digital Journalism elective that I teach, so my teaching and grading is coming to a close faster than my social media directing, which never ends pretty much ever. But seriously, teaching this Digital Journalism course has been so good for me. I am good at it. Most of my students are glad to be in my class. The curriculum is student-driven to an extent. And we have a wonderful time learning.

When a class is really effective, the teacher learns more than the students, and I have certainly learned a great deal. I have seen in myself a good teacher, someone who cares, knows what they're doing (most of the time), and teaches by example. This year has helped me grow in confidence, and it is due to the caliber of students that I have in my class. Such good people. Such kind and ready to learn people. I couldn't be happier with how the year went.

And we just won't even get me started on how gorgeous the yearbook turned out. Seriously, that thing is so clean, so fresh, and so wonderfully perfect. My students gave of their talents and worked so hard. And then I went in and proofed it to perfection. What a fulfilling experience!

Next week, when the last day of school happens and we have our end of year party, I will be sure to tell my students about what they gave me. What a gift I've unwrapped.


National Poetry Month 2017 Top Ten



All thirty of my poems for this most recent National Poetry Month were hard won in the writing of them. I cried and laughed and let myself hope. I wrote as real as I could without exposing myself to more hurt. So here are the top ten reader's choice and a few poet's picks to honor my hard work of growing as a writer and person because of it: 

it's a good thing

closed windows

I must admit that I am glad National Poetry Month is over. I love it generally speaking, yet I hated it this year.

To write poetry—true poetry from my heart—when I wasn't feeling ready was truly the challenge. It wasn't the every day for thirty days part; it was the write about things you hope and wish for and don't like and don't want. Writing so much truth takes a lot of pondering and choosing, and it was so hard for me.

As I was thinking about what to even slice about today, I wanted to stop myself. I have cried so much in this space. I don't want that anymore, but you know, it just keeps on flowing. People talk about how it matters which garden you tend—gratitude or ingratitude—joy or sadness—that determines what you see around you. And I believe it. However, I do know that dandelions and Russian thistle like to take over no matter what you do. So I can tend my joy garden every day with all my heart, might, mind, and strength, but it won't keep away the invasion of the weeds on rainy days/weeks. That's just the facts. But I don't give up, and I guess that's the true positive in all this and maybe a small miracle.

Another thing, every time I talk about stopping writing the truth, I get an absolute tidal wave of support. And I thought about that too as I was pondering what to slice about today. It encouraged me actually. It made me want to write something happier than how I see things today. That's why I wanted to tell you about my gratitude, even if it's about being grateful for poetry writing being over for awhile.

I hadn't written anything substantial as far as poetry goes for a few months or so, as I explained before this past month's writing challenge began, making it a real feat. I'm truly amazed that I didn't give up because there were a couple of days in there (actually like three or four) when I almost didn't write anything. The sense of abandonment and isolation that I have pricking at my heels all the time kept demanding to be heard. It kept spilling onto the page. And I just hate that. It's all normal feelings. So many justifications for all of it, so I know I'm not some insane person or something. But it just feels bad.

All of this said, I think it's like a miracle to not be writing poetry today. It feels like a breath of less toxic air. I am not sure if/when I will write more poetry. My heart just hurts, and I don't know if I can write about it like that anymore. I guess we shall see. Right?