Find the Joy – Everywhere and Anywhere

IMG_1040For over a year now, I’ve been ending my tweets and posts on Instagram and Facebook with #findthejoy. Whenever something makes me smile or makes me happy, I snap a pic and tag it #findthejoy. This stemmed from my desire to bring more joy to my social media posts, in an effort to combat the never-ending stream of negativity and sniping that is everywhere today. I also wanted to approach life from a more positive viewpoint, and to just be thankful for the things I have, rather than whining about the things I don’t have.

IMG_1140On April 28, I posted five photos I took while walking my dog after school. They were all taken either in my yard or on my street within a half a block away. I got quite a few comments on the photos on my various social media platforms. I’m far from a professional at photography and these were just quick snaps with my iPhone, holding as steady as possible while my 16-pound Maltipoo jerked my other hand repeatedly to continue walking. IMG_1041

This abnormally high level of traffic to my social media sites made me think about what was so intriguing to my friends about these photos. One possibility is that we had a miserable winter and spring seemed to be taking a leave of absence, so was it that things were blooming and sprouting finally? Was it the #findthejoy caption? Or, is it a sign that others feel similarly about social media: there is too much negativity out there.

IMG_1044My life is not perfect but I am in a very good place right now. I would love to lose some weight, but I weigh less than I have weighed in the past. My knees bother me, especially Mr. Lefty, with his torn ACL, but I don’t think about them that much except when I have to climb a few flights of stairs. I wish I had more free time to read and cook and craft, but I still love teaching and I love my students and the people I work with. I miss my younger daughter terribly (she lives in LA), but my older daughter is back living at home and we are really enjoying her. My aunt, who is also my godmother, is very ill far away in Louisiana, but my father-in-law at the age of 91-1/2 is recovering very well from a heart attack and subsequent treatment for that. I would love to travel overseas again, but I am so very happy at home with my dear hubby cooking a good meal in my new kitchen. So, for me it is very beneficial for me to try to remember to look at the positives in my life.IMG_1042

My conclusion is that we need to find the joy – everywhere and anywhere we can. We need to look for joy, and we need to not focus on our problems. I don’t think it is Pollyanna-ish to say that being in a bad mood breeds dark and melancholy feelings. Being thankful each and every day for the small pleasures of life can help push those negative thoughts aside.

chapelFor me, prayer is a big part of that. I pray frequently throughout the day. Granted, it’s not that difficult when you teach in a Catholic school and the whole school pauses three times a day to pray over the PA system. But I squeeze in other times in my day as well. There’s a lot of talk about mindfulness these days, and it seems to be tied to meditation and Buddhist teachings, things I am not well-schooled on. I do know, however, that when I pray, whether it is for an hour in Mass or during the Angelus at noon at school, I am focused like a laser beam on that prayer, as mindful as I can be that I am in the holy presence of God.

IMG_1045I’ve made a conscious effort to avoid the news, except for a quick glance at headlines on my phone. When driving, I listen to a podcast (What Should I Read Next by Ann Bogel is my favorite, along with Milk Street Kitchen and Bon Appetit) or the PBS classical music station. At home, I watch PBS, Food Network, or HGTV, and if all else fails, I watch a Columbo rerun. I read more now (thanks again to Ann Bogel) and even though I sometimes read things that are dark and gloomy, I am swept away into someone else’s dark and gloomy life, not my own.

Earlier this week, I went back out with dog and phone and snapped a few things that don’t scream out “beautiful”, however, I find them beautiful all the same. Definitely #findthejoy material. What do you think?

So, go on. Go out and find the joy – everywhere and anywhere. The more you look, the more you will find. Use #findthejoy and tag me on one of my social media platforms. Share your joy!

Floating Like a Social Butterfly Can Sting Like a Bee

real butterfly on astorMy dad was a handful, a real character. His classic repertoire of stories was filled with his escapades and shenanigans from a very young age, up until the day he married my mother, November 20, 1954. He settled down in a big way to woo her into first dating him, and then marrying him. Even after they were married, and parents to the three of us, he occasionally returned to his bad boy self, often as a result of scotch, a drink he loved but could not handle very well. Eventually, he gave up scotch altogether, and drank beer or wine, which still had the ability to loosen his tongue a bit but did not wreak havoc entirely on his behavior. Up until the day he died, May 8, 2015, he was a social butterfly and every bit the extrovert.

slow downMy mother, on the other hand, was very much an introvert. They say “opposites attract” and I guess in their case it really did. Her parents raised her as they themselves had been raised, with traditional Scottish values—don’t laugh or cry in front of others, don’t talk too loudly, don’t talk too much. This is not to say she was a pushover or weak in any way; to the contrary, she was the strongest person I have ever known. She weathered all the trials and tribulations of her life, including serious and severe health issues, with grace and dignity, no complaints or whining. In a short two-year period, she underwent surgeries for heart bypass, cervical cancer, renal vascular bypass, and finally, after two years of dialysis three days a week, a kidney transplant, a generous and selfless gift from her older sister and only remaining family member.

nine months photoEarly on it was clear that I had inherited my father’s gregarious and outgoing personality. Being the first-born, my mother took copious notes of my early childhood development and documented them in my baby book, something I treasure even more dearly now that she is gone. I was an early talker and from a very young age always wanted to go somewhere. baby book entry travelerMy mother documented this, too, noting that whenever a visitor to our home was ready to leave, I would grab the nearest thing to clothing, wrap it around my head, and lift up my arms to be carried away with the visitor. A reoccurring phrase in my baby book is “you had so much fun”, which was applied to birthday parties, trips to the zoo, school functions, vacation bible school, swimming lessons, and more.

DHA senior pageIn high school, I participated in everything the school had to offer except sports, marching band, library club, yearbook staff, and the oratorical competitions. College was no different. Even though no one from my high school went to SLU with me, it wasn’t long before I felt as though I knew everyone on the campus. Pi Kappa Delta sweetheart photoI joined a sorority, Phi Mu, participated in student government, the English club, speech competitions. I loved being in clubs and groups because it meant I always had somewhere to go, whether it was meetings or parties or setting up for an activity. The more clubs I joined, the more people I met, the happier I was. Of course, my college GPA would have been healthier had I focused a bit more on academics and a bit less on my social life.

social media sitesThis continued in my adult life. When our daughters were in grade school, I was very active in the home and school association, as well as serving on the parish council for our church. Currently I lector at Mass and serve as a substitute for the extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist. I belong to the parish’s sodality, an organization for the ladies of the parish, and once again, I am serving on the parish council. I’m also very active in the life of the school where I teach, directing the school plays, and helping with other school functions like graduation, Confirmation, and more. While social media sites like Facebook and Twitter can sometimes isolate people and draw them away from activities outside of the home, for me, staying active online is just another aspect of staying socially active, connecting with others from all other the world even when I can’t go out to do so.

burning candle at both endsEven at an age where some of my friends are retiring from work, giving up teaching, slowing down and having more free time, my calendar is still always full. Frequently this results in late nights of binge-grading papers to get caught up, or an entire Sunday afternoon being spent in my classroom doing lesson plans and making copies. Even though “sleep more” tops my list of resolutions each January, this night owl still burns the candle at both ends far too often.

Public domain image, royalty free stock photo from www.public-domain-image.com

Remember, though, that opposites attract. So, when it came down to dating and getting married and having a family, did I end up with someone who loves to go and loves to participate and loves to join stuff, someone who loves to be around people? No, I did not, much like my parents. My husband does not have all the characteristics of an introvert, mainly because he is a trained vocalist and enjoys performing for others.  But, he likes to pace out his social functions, and by pace, I mean, one a month at most.

SJ gala

Us at SJ Gala, 3/12/16

Last week, while we were watching TV after dinner, I casually reminded him that this weekend was my school’s big fundraising gala. And, then, I squinted, waiting for the response.

“WHAT? We went to a gala last weekend! This is, like, the FOURTH THING THIS MONTH!”

HR gala

Us at HR Gala, 3/19/16

Actually, it wasn’t. Yes, there were four recent social events we attended but two were in February and two were in March. And, there was an entire weekend in between the two months where he didn’t go to anything…which I reminded him. That weekend I had gone to two different high school plays to see former students perform, but I had gone with a friend from school. I didn’t even try to talk him to coming along, fully knowing we were reaching maximum overload on his social calendar.

homebodyYes, I married a homebody—me, who started life wrapping a dishtowel around her 13-month old head to signify that she was ready to go, ready to travel, anywhere and with anyone. I’m not complaining about his lifetime membership in the stay-at-home club, though, because that is one of the qualities that I love about him. He loves being at home with his family. He doesn’t feel the need to go out drinking, hang out at bars with guys from work, spend the weekend golfing or shooting baskets, or even at his desk working. He loves being at home with us. My daughters and I have always come first in his life, both in his calendar and in his heart.

butterfly on rockSo, while I continue to over-schedule and triple-book myself crazy, he is there, at home, reminding me to slow down and find time to rest and relax. He is the one who considers all possible consequences of joining something, of volunteering for something, of saying yes too many times. He is the one who took care of me during a case of shingles in 2006, after overextending myself into exhaustion planning five major events to commemorate our church parish’s 50th anniversary. He is the rock that this social butterfly lands on when she is too tired to flit about anymore. Opposites attract, indeed. Thank God.