Friday is here, and I’m finally getting back to my Oh Happy Day! Gratitude Project posting series. I started it as a way to remind myself to make gratitude part of every day, every week. Thornton Wilder wrote that “we can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures,” and beginning with gratitude is the best way I know to live aware of how blessed we are.
I’ve been thinking a lot about that blessing over the last few weeks as we’ve been finishing up the school year and getting ready for summer. This spring, I devoted some time to thinking through the direction of this blog, and by extension, my business. And, I guess, by further extension, my approach to work and how it integrates with the rest of life. As an artist, so much of creating and exploring new ideas is an on-going process that isn’t necessarily confined by the typical workday. As a single mom, dealing with the loss of my husband and the changes that has brought to our lives, I’ve also grown to understand that for me, it’s very important that what I “do” in my work and how I spend my days creatively be meaningful and inspiring.
As I was thinking through some of my blogging topics and inspiration-focus back in March, I wrote a “creative map” and lots of notes about various aspects of the creative life. For my “living” category, I wanted my thinking, writing and creating to reflect a “quiet, authentic and conscious life” — there is that word “conscious” again. My goals for some of the writing and sharing settled on three things…
- to talk and “be” about real things
- to be a good steward of time and blessings
- to infuse daily life with beauty, creativity and celebration
The concept of being deliberate and conscious in what we’re doing isn’t easy sometimes. Being that “good steward” can be difficult when faced with all the mundane activities required in working, mothering and home-keeping. And, of course, busy-ness can be our enemy as we get stretched and pulled in lots of different directions. We often start to lose the joy in whatever we’re doing and begin checking items off our calendars and to-do lists.
I want to stop that cycle in my life. I want, as Emerson said, to “finish the moment” — each moment — and to make the most of each opportunity represented in that moment. I think I’m particularly more motivated in that commitment as I see my children growing at what seems like an exponential pace at times. As they become more and more independent (and just physically bigger), I find the desire to grab onto each fleeting moment with more of a white-knuckle grip! And, I suppose, summer offers it’s own impetus to slow down. Our schedule slows down, and we have fewer commitments as a family, but how will we use that freedom? I don’t want to get to August and say “where has the summer gone?” We’ve had an unprecedented build-up of excitement anticipating the start of summer, and I’ve been determined to put every effort into taking full advantage of it.
Enter the Summer Jar.
The children and I decided to create a list of things we wanted to do this summer — experiences big and small that would help us have memories and joy to show for the time spent this summer. We decided to put them in a jar that we could pull from to plan for activities or to surprise ourselves with fun experiences. Baby Girl decorated the jar with her special brand of summery illustrations, and we have it front and center on our dining table with a pen and sticky pad ready to add more experience suggestions. We’ve included things like our normal trips to the farm and to the beach, but also things like building our train set and a lego city, getting yogurt or ice cream, going to the library, eating outside on the picnic table, swimming, game nights and more.
None of the activities are earth-shattering, not all of them require “going” somewhere, and most aren’t new experiences. But, the power comes in the intention — the conscious choice of experiencing and “finishing” each moment. I want to recognize the joy and to take time to celebrate it in my heart at the end of each day. I suppose that’s the essence of gratitude. And, I want our summer jar to encourage us to embrace the beauty and wonder in some of those mundane activities that weave our lives together between the other fun experiences. I hope we can have a healthy mix of going and simply being together in those moments of someone sitting in my lap, working together to cook dinner, reading together at bedtime, playing games and sharing the same space.
We started some of our “summer jar” experiences yesterday with a trip to Denny’s for pancakes for breakfast and a visit to the MSU Library to see the Kinsey Collection on exhibit there. I’ll share more about this remarkable collection of African American art, literature and historical documents in a later post, but today, I’m so thankful we had the opportunity to enjoy it together and have it as one of our memories of the summer of 2015. It is open in Starkville through June 20 at the John Grisham Room of Mitchell Memorial Library, and it’s well worth the time in experiencing some little-seen aspects of our own history.
On this “Oh Happy Day,” I’m also so, so grateful for the opportunity to build my work life on my own terms with the freedom to organize my days so that these types of experiences with my children are possible. It’s never easy to balance family and work responsibilities, and I’ve become more and more mindful of the blessing I have as freelancer to set my own schedules. It’s a true gift I don’t want to squander or take for granted in these seasons when all my loves are together under the same roof.
Oh Happy Day!