Whatever Happened to Thanksgiving?

Whatever Happened to Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving is the holiday that’s just too good for its own good. This unassuming holiday is sandwiched between holidays that are the two biggest bullies of the year. Okay, perhaps that is a little harsh, but think about it.

Halloween has become the little giant of commercialism. Whole retail stores pop up a few months before Halloween and then disappear as quickly as they came. I never owned a store-bought Halloween costume. Come to think of it, I don’t remember ever having dressed up for Halloween or going trick or treating! We did live in a very rural setting, and people just didn’t go trick or treating on Halloween.

But now, children are asked what they want to be for Halloween just like they are asked what they want to be when they grow up! And adults are even worse. The retail stores are really for adults. At least I think they are; I’ve never been in one. As you can tell, Halloween is not among my favorite holidays.

And what about Christmas? I’ve seen homes decorated for Christmas in early November. It’s like people are going straight from Halloween into Christmas! I’ve even seen homes that leave up their Christmas decorations until almost spring! Well, maybe not that long, but when 25% of the year is about Christmas, I’m thinking that’s a little too much. And we won’t even talk about the excessive shopping for Christmas, something that some people do year-round.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against Christmas. I love giving gifts, especially for my grandchildren. And I try especially hard to give gifts that my family members actually want, need and use. I love Christmas music. It lifts the spirits and brings back wonderful childhood memories.

But, let’s get back to Thanksgiving, the introvert of holidays.  It doesn’t stand a chance. I believe celebrating the true spirit of Thanksgiving helps ease you into the spirit of Christmas. By being thankful for your blessings, you can then approach Christmas with the joy of sharing. It’s so easy to get caught up in the frenzy of Christmas decorating and shopping that we sometimes forget the real reason for the season.

I’ve been keeping a gratitude journal for some time now, and it’s been a spiritually rewarding experience. Every evening, I write five things for which I’m grateful. I write them in complete sentences, starting with “I am grateful for”.  This practice has made me more aware of the little things I encounter every day that are a blessing to me in some way.

Of course, I find myself often being grateful for family members. But I have grown from just saying I’m grateful for them to seeing qualities, character traits or good deeds that fill my heart with thankfulness.

I’m also more aware of little things I previously overlooked that enrich my life. Now, I often pause to be thankful in the moment when I see a beautiful cardinal at the bird feeder or watch two squirrels playfully scampering up a pine tree.

All I’m saying is that if we give Thanksgiving a chance to be more than a turkey feast with family, it can enrich our lives throughout the year.

WHIF Your Way to Happiness

WHIF Your Way to Happiness

While the dictionary defines happiness as “the state of being happy”, that gives you very little information about what the state of happiness feels like. I used to think happiness was about having things, but then I got older and hopefully wiser. Happiness is more about being. And it is a choice.

I taught Child Care Services several years to high school students. One of the discussion strategies I used was WHIFs. A WHIF is WHat IF a specific scenario existed and you had to respond to it. In the course, scenarios were usually around dealing with preschool children and their behavior. In other words, WHat IF a child (or children) were doing something that required a caregiver to take action. What would you do in that situation? How would you respond that would provide a teachable moment for the children or model a more appropriate behavior or even apply disciplinary action?

I think applying a WHIF to situations in your life is often an appropriate decision-making process for adults. In terms of happiness, as in most life situations, the response you choose can either add to your overall happiness or detract from it. It is especially helpful in potentially negative situations to ask yourself this question: What if I choose to _________? (Fill in the blank with a choice you could make in a situation.) Would that choice fulfill my needs or add to my peace and contentment? Or what if I choose to _________? (Fill in the blank with another choice you could make in the same situation.) What would be the
likely outcome of that choice?

Your response to your WHIF has the potential to either add to your happiness and move you further toward your goals and dreams in life or move you further away from those goals and dreams and possibly the people you love the most.

Do any of these attributes or feelings apply to you? Do any of them define or contribute to your happiness? Consider how your choices impact your happiness level by applying your own WHIF.

  • Your Needs are Met – When a person is happy, their needs are usually being met at the level they want them to be met. It doesn’t mean that someone is not having a hard time, it’s more about how you make what you have fill your needs.

  • You Feel Satisfied – When you are happy, you tend to feel simply satisfied with your life. You think about your life and feel good about it.

  • You Feel Content – A happy person tends to feel content about their life in general. They are not in a constant state of stress. But remember happy people do have stress, they’re just better at feeling content even when things aren’t perfect.

  • You Are at Peace – Peace tends to go with contentment. Happy people tend to know that everything will turn out okay and are good at turning negativity into positivity.

The truth is, happiness is how you define it personally for you. It’s not about getting tons of stuff unless you want that. It’s not about finding a spouse unless you want that. It’s not about having kids unless you want that. It’s all up to you how you define happiness.

Happiness is not a destination that you get to one day and stay at. It’s a lifelong journey that will have many ups and downs and struggles. But, you get to decide how those ups and downs of life affect you. You have it in your power to be happy where you are in your life right now.

So, the next time you’re faced with a potentially negative situation, apply a WHIF to consider the impact of your actions. While you do have to do more than think positively to really and truly feel happy, it does start with your thoughts. Make your choices manifest happiness through your actions.

5 Lessons From a Jigsaw Puzzle

5 Lessons From a Jigsaw Puzzle

 

I know – sounds crazy, right? What can a jigsaw puzzle teach anybody? But it did, so stay with me and I'll share everything.

I love puzzles, but haven't put one together in quite a while. That's because I know myself, and I know that once I open the box and start spreading out the pieces, I won't do anything else – no working on my business, no housecleaning, no cooking, nothing! So, I've been avoiding the cabinet that houses at least five or six unopened puzzles. (I love Charles Wysocki Americana-style puzzles!)

But, one recent, rainy Sunday afternoon, I just couldn't resist any longer. I opened a 1000-piece puzzle. And then it began to unfold its magic for me.

Lesson #1: Puzzles are therapeutic.

As soon as I opened the box, I started to feel more relaxed. I forgot about everything else that had been on my mind. I just focused on the puzzle and all stress and worries melted away.

Lesson #2: Devising and implementing a system solves many problems.

Spreading out 1000 puzzle pieces is a daunting task. So, I had previously made puzzle boards. You can buy some on Amazon, but I cut large cardboard boxes into manageable sizes (less than 2′ x 3′) and hot-glued felt to them. Voila! I now had room to spread out the puzzle pieces so they would not slip off the surface, and they could be stacked as well for ease in accessing.

The next part of my system was to sort individual pieces by placing them on the puzzle board evenly in rows, while separating the edge pieces. This immediately felt so satisfying, like there was truly order in my life!

Next step was to complete the border of the puzzle, followed by starting on small sections for which the colors were clearly defined and could be easily seen and selected from the puzzle boards. As I began to look for puzzle pieces that fit, I referred often to the picture of the puzzle, always orienting it the same way as the puzzle frame. (I work on all sides of the puzzle, so I can see things from a different, and closer angle.)

Lesson #3: When you are faced with a problem that seemingly has no applicable solution, leave it alone for a while and come back to it later with a fresh view of the situation.

For instance, many times I was sure that a certain puzzle piece would be so easy to find, either by it's distinctive color or shape. But having scanned those puzzle boards several times, it still didn't show up. So – I just moved on to another section of the puzzle and later that specific puzzle piece happened to be right there in front of me! Perhaps, one could call me a procrastinator sometimes, but I prefer to say that I'm “waiting for a vision”!

Lesson #4: When you've exhausted all options to solve a problem, regroup.

After about one-third of the way to puzzle completion, I noticed puzzle pieces were getting harder to find. So, I took a few minutes to re-organize each puzzle board. I put like puzzle pieces together – such as dark green leafy pieces, white sand ones, buildings and animals. Then I could focus on the specific attribute of the puzzle piece for which I was looking. Worked like a charm! I started seeing the pieces easily. Then, I started consolidating the pieces onto fewer boards to make the search easier.

Lesson #5: Finishing a project is a joy in and of itself!

One (among many) of my shortfalls is excitedly starting many things, only to fizzle out before they are finished. But putting that last piece into the puzzle “sparks joy”, as Marie Kondo would say!

So – the final lesson to my puzzle story is this: when you find yourself stressed out and unable to see the next steps you need to take, stop and complete a jigsaw puzzle. It will make everything clearer!