Saturday, June 30, 2018

My Favorite Photos of the Month - June 2018

During June, there were many photos that stood out for me...not because they are high-quality photos, but rather because they remind me of something fun or meaningful that we did; or were examples of beauty in chaos.

We are still recovering from the fire at our farm that happened on May 5th. In fact, there wasn't too much done with that project except the fill that was brought in to build up the area where the garage will be.

Just when we thought we had enough challenges this year, our walls leading to the cellar began to cave in more and let mud slide in and fill the drain tiling in one spot. Needless to say, that project had to be undertaken in order to protect our drain tiling and provide a safe entrance to the cellar. More on that later.

The month started out well. On June 1st, the girls and I went to Osceola, Wisconsin, for the annual Rhubarb Days picnic at the local bank. Afterwards, we stopped at Dairy Queen and got a treat, and then went for a walk to Cascade Falls. There's over 100 steps down and then back up to reach the waterfall.

On June 7th, I went around the farm to see what was blooming. The chives were doing well. They come up each year.

The bearded irises that were from my mom and dad's home bloomed this year! I'm so happy that I dug them up and transplanted them here after they died and we had to sell the house. The new owners wouldn't have appreciated their meaning as much as we do.

On June 8th, Sophia played the harp at the humane society. There were two puppies that we all had a great time playing with while Sophia was playing music and afterwards.

On June 13th, Sophia and I packaged up five boxes of items we collected through her organization, Give Life...Give Hope; and shipped them to Pine Ridge Reservation. The items will be given to the foster care system there for children who have been removed from their homes and are living with foster families.

On June 15th, the hibiscus tree that Olivia and I got at an Amish greenhouse was blooming again. Almost every day there is at least one, if not multiple, flowers of different colors.

On June 16th, the girls and I went to St. Cloud to see a quilt show. While we were there, we went to the rose gardens. Below is a rose that stood out among the other roses. It's name is Fruity Petals.

It was raining while we walked around the rose garden. Sophia carried an umbrella and we held it over the head of whoever was taking photos so the camera wouldn't get wet.

We spent two days looking at the quilts at the quilt show. Sophia entered her quilt in the youth category and received a big, colorful ribbon. Both the girls want to enter quilts in next year's show.

On June 18th, work on the garage began. Fourteen dump trucks brought in fill that built up the area where the garage will be. It's packed down now and is waiting for concrete to be poured.

On June 20th, while Sophia was at First Step Institute at St. Kate's, Olivia and I did a mini-One Stop Donation Drop at the farmers market. Below, she and Mary are looking at a broad-winged hawk from the Wildlife Science Center. We collected a variety of items to donate to organizations and people around town; throughout Minnesota and the U.S.; and globally.

On June 21st, we attended the graduation ceremony for the First Step Institute. All the girls are in 10th or 11th grade, interested in attending college, and are young women of color. It was clearly an empowering and fun week for the young ladies.

On June 28th, both Sophia and Olivia gave presentations through 4-H. The county is doing the demonstrations, informational presentations, and performing arts presentations a few weeks before the county fair. In that way, youth don't have to bring instruments and computers to the fair and have them sit outdoors in the heat and humidity.

Both the girls did very well with their presentation; enjoyed meeting with the judge; and received a blue ribbon. That means that they both get to take their informational presentation to the State Fair in late-August.

On June 29th, my 52nd birthday, my sister brought over a slide projector and many slides that my parents took. We set up a little area to watch the slides and projected them on the wall.

I saw photos that I don't ever remember seeing. The photo below shows my mom (in the pink dress) and dad (in the white shirt) with my godmother and godfather on my baptism day.

We saw photos of my mom and me by a rose bush that I ate roses from when we visited my grandparents. Actually, it may have been just my grandpa at the time because my grandma had died six weeks after I was born and I don't think he remarried quite yet when this photo was taken.

There's my dad and grandpa with me. My dad is holding a rose and my grandpa is holding a painted wooden duck. They knew what I liked - or helped shape what I liked - flowers, nature, and wildlife!

There were photos from past Christmases. The stocking I'm holding is one that my grandma (who died) had made for me even before I was born.

The fire at our farm destroyed the stocking. I didn't know if a photo had ever been taken of the stocking. Sure enough, there was! It was a bittersweet birthday gift; and I am so grateful that there is at least a photo of it.

On June 30th, the work commenced on the steps and walls leading to the cellar. This is the view from kitchen....Olivia is looking out the window as the excavator was breaking the concrete and destroying the steps. He took the concrete and dirt and piled it up to the side of the excavator. It looks like we have a miniature volcano in the backyard.

Also on the 30th, Sophia's half birthday, she donated platelets through the American Red Cross. She done that now five times.

In the afternoon, we visited Paige's stepfather and had dinner at the restaurant at his assisted living facility. Needless to say, it's a rather upscale facility. The food is phenomenal and changes every couple of weeks.

We had a nice conversation before, during, and after dinner. We learned that he was the one who did the research on the logo for Minnegasco many decades ago. This was before the internet, so he had to search in other ways to make sure that the logo infringe on any other logos throughout the United States.

The month closed out with a trip to a local greenhouse that was having a 50% sale on perennials. I bought quite a few to plant in our backyard in a garden that has been neglected for many years. I have wanted to get it back to the way it used to be in the early 2000s when I had a farm and art camp right here at our farm.

The camp counselors and volunteers would come in and do the weeding, garden maintenance, and mow the lawn. It looked beautiful then. When the camp ended, I wasn't able to maintain everything - it was just too much. Weeds took over.

This year, is the second-to-the-last summer that Sophia will be here before she heads off to college. I want the yard and home to look the way it once did...though even better. Some of the flowers I'm picking have special significance - like the purple lupines pictured above.

When we used to take the girls up north to Grand Marais we would see colorful lupines in the ditches along the road. They were so beautiful! Then, we found a book called Miss Rumphius that told the story of a lady who traveled the world, and wherever she traveled she spread lupine seeds. The seeds would grow into beautiful flowers that changed the landscape thanks to Miss Rumphius.

Anyway...I found a Pasque flower - a unique and rare wildflower that grows in Minnesota. This is a flower we studied about when doing the 4-H Wildlife Project Bowl. There was Yarrow, which was a favorite plant of Paige's mother; and Blue Phlox that was something that my grandma grew in her backyard.

So, in some ways, I'm creating a memory garden with flowers that represent people we have loved - and love - in our life.

There were quite a few photos this month that were my favorites. It's too difficult for me to choose just one since there are memories and experiences I want to remember by doing this monthly posts.

Outdoor Mom's Journal - June 2018

During our outdoor time this week we Cascade Falls in Osceola, Wisconsin. Olivia crossed the stream and climbed behind the waterfall.

Sophia, Olivia, and I enjoyed watching the water fall down and hit the rocks in the stream. 

On June 17th, we went on a hike at Lake Maria State Park. None of us had been there before, so it was one more state park we could mark off on our list that we saw.

Later in the month, on June 20th, we went to the farmers market. We coordinated a mini-One Stop Donation Drop that included a visit from the Wildlife Science Center. Bob, from the WSC, brought a broad-winged hawk as well as many pelts from a variety of animals.

Olivia enjoyed talking with Bob and learning more about the hawk.

The most inspiring thing we experienced was...visiting the rose garden in St. Cloud. There were so many different types of roses - all beautiful. I particularly liked one called "Fruity Petals" that had a subtle blend of colors on each layer of petals.

It was a bit rainy at the rose garden, but that didn't deter Olivia, Sophia, and I from enjoying the flowers.

It made for some interesting photos with the raindrops on the flowers' petals.

Our outdoor time made us ask (or wonder about)...
what type of animal or bird made the huge holes in a tree at Lake Maria State Park?

I'm thinking it was a pileated woodpecker by the size and shape, but I'm not sure.

In the garden, we are planning/planting/harvesting...
we're not harvesting anything except herbs yet since we just planted vegetables late last month.

The chives are doing well and attracting lots of bees.

We are enjoying the flowers that are blooming around the farm. We have a tri-color hibiscus tree. Below is one of the colors of the flowers.

Our peony bed is in full bloom. 

I am SO happy to see that one of the roses from my parents that burned in the May 5th fire is starting to grow again! I thought I lost all nine roses. However, three have since come back. Even though it isn't all of them, at least there are a few survivors.

The wild columbine is blooming. These were transplanted from someone who lived down the road from us who was moving. She asked if we wanted any hostas, ferns, or wild comlumbines. We took some of all three. They all are growing under our big pine trees that are right by the driveway and road.

I purchased quite a few perennials from a greenhouse that does short-season sales. They wrap up their business on June 30th with 50% off all perennials. I waited until June 30th so I could purchase perennials to plant in our butterfly garden in the backyard and under one of the pine trees by the driveway.

Below is a plant called Coral Bells which likes shade. So, it is under the pine trees in the front yard.

I also bought two blueberry plants; and am excited to see quite a few blueberries growing on the plants already.

I added nature journal pages about...
nothing yet. I'm still thinking about what I want to focus on for June.

I am reading...
nothing related to nature at this point. I've been focused a lot on the construction projects that are happening here at the farm. There have been 14 loads of fill brought in so far for the base of the concrete pad that the garage will be built upon.

Another project - unrelated to the fire - happened to the house when excessive rain caused a mudslide into the basement. That huge pile of dirt - "the volcano" as we termed it because it looked like one from the other side - came from the excavated area where the steps led to the cellar. 

The amount of time needed to deal with the contractors, sub-contractors, and insurance adjuster has been rather overwhelming. It's like having a part-time job dealing with the reconstruction and building of different elements of the house and outbuildings.

I am dreaming about…
going on walks on the back part of the property again.

I forgot how beautiful and open it is out there. Now that the evergreens have grown in, the houses in the development are - for the most part - blocked from view which is nice. It's much more secluded like it used to be. The view above is looking south.

Two photos I would like to share...
one is of a blue flag iris that is a wildflower that is doing exceptionally well in our wetland. We didn't have these when we first moved here, so it's been interesting watching them spread and multiply throughout the years.

The other photo is of a yellow iris that is from my parents' home. I dug up and transplanted many of these before we sold the house so that we could enjoy them here at the farm. 

I'm so happy that I did that because they did so well this year - all bloomed and provided such cheerful color along the driveway and outside the dining room window.

Thank you to Barb the Outdoor Hour Challenge for the idea of doing an Outdoor Mom's Journal.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Something That Made Me Happy - June (Dandelion Cottage)

Although there were many things that made me happy during June, one of the things that didn't have to do with family was reading the  book Dandelion Cottage by Carroll Watson Rankin.

Originally, I heard about this book in a homeschooling magazine. The focus of the article was on reading it aloud to one's children and then discussing the character qualities of the main characters and bringing elements of the book alive.

It ended up that by the time the local library was able to order it from another library in Minnesota, it was June. Sophia was heading into three weeks of back-to-back camp programs and Olivia was deep into preparing her 4-H projects for the fair.

So, I read the book myself. As I got into it, I realized that it would have been a delightful book to read to the girls when they were much younger. At 17 and 15 years old now, they are a bit too "old" for the book.

Olivia and Sophia at the Lions Community Breakfast.
(Taken in December 2017 when the girls were 14 and 16 year old.)

That being said, as I read the book and got deeper into the story, I found myself wishing to go back in time when things were much simpler and families were significantly more resourceful.

The book was published in 1904; and the author originally wrote it for her own children. The book focuses on four young girls who negotiate the use of a derelict cottage that belongs to a church for use as a playhouse. They are able to use the cottage because they pulled dandelions for the senior warden of the church, Mr. Black.

Sophia and Olivia with Gretel in a dandelion field.
(Taken on May 21, 2008 when the girls were 7 and 5 years old.)

They promise Mr. Black a home-cooked meal, and the girls find ways to earn money to pay for a proper meal. They sell lemonade made with a lemon, sugar, and water (not a powdered mix or frozen juice like nowadays); and take in a young female boarder who stays at the cottage for three weeks.

The girls, their siblings, and the border (Miss Blossom) all do things to improve the house and make it more sound and cozy. One of their brothers used tin from a can that was snipped and unrolled to make shingles and keep the rain out. The girls placed pictures all of the walls to hide damaged areas and holes.

This book made me happy in that for a period of time each day I treated myself to reading a story written more than 100 years ago. It was clear that - although things were financially challenging for families - there also were a lot of positive things about life back then.

As I read the book and thought about the playhouse the girls created from a shabby cottage that wasn't suitable to be rented, I thought of my sister and I playing as children in the nearby woods. We would make "houses" from sticks and limbs that had fallen to the ground. We created bedrooms and kitchens for our homes. There was so much imaginative play that we did...and we could lose track of time because we were having so much fun.

My sister and I sitting on the couch that 
was covered with a sheet.
(Taken in 1969.)

Thinking about these types of things makes me happy. My childhood was one that mirrored some aspects of the girls portrayed in Dandelion Cottage. They, too, played with dolls; enjoyed decorating their rooms and play space; did gardening; enjoyed cooking; and had tea parties.

Sophia and Olivia having a tea party with 
Hungarian food we made.
(Taken on October 29, 2008.)

These are all things I did as a child, so as I read the book it brought back happy memories of my childhood.

After reading the book, I found out that Mr. Black is based on a real-life person: Peter White. The original Dandelion Cottage still exists and is at 440 East Arch in Marquette, Michigan. It makes me want to visit there some day to see what the story was based upon.

Dandelion Cottage.

So, Dandelion Cottage was something that made me very happy this month. It brought back so many wonderful memories of my childhood...and of my sister, brother, and parents; and of a time when things were infinitely more simple - yet meaningful.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Spiritual Practices A to Z: Joy

In 2015, I began "Spiritual Practices from A to Z" in which I explored for two weeks a different spiritual practice. I made it from A to H (January through April) and then stopped.

I began working with Olivia on the Washington County Barn Quilt Trail along with having more projects with 4-H and homeschooling Sophia and Olivia.

Then my mother died in August 2015; and my sister, brother, and I had to go through the home and possessions that belonged to she and my father (who died in January 2012). Between dividing them among ourselves, donating a lot, and inevitably having to throw a lot away - that was my focus from mid-August 2015 to February 2016.

So, I picked off where I left off and did one more spiritual practice: Imagination in February 2016. I didn't do anything beyond that.

So, now I'm picking up where I left off: with the spiritual practice of Joy. The ideas come from the website Spirituality and Practice. I've noted what I've done and what I would liked to do below.

Spiritual Practices:Joy
Enhances: Happiness
Balances/Counters: Sadness, Sorrow

The Basic Practice

Joy is an essential spiritual practice growing out of faith, grace, gratitude, hope, and love. It is the pure and simple delight in being alive. Joy is the elated response to feelings of happiness, experiences of pleasure, and awareness of abundance. It is also the deep satisfaction we know when we are able to serve others and be glad for their good fortune.

Invite joy into your life by staging celebrations. Host festivities to mark transitions and changes in your life. Toast moments of happiness you notice as you go through your day. Dance — jump for joy — as often as possible. Life is not meant to be endured; it is to be enjoyed.

One of my favorite photos representing joy is of Olivia on the swingset.
She has her head back laughing with pure joy. 
(Taken September 29, 2007.)

Why This Practice May Be For You

We often talk about this spiritual practice in the same breath with its companions. We say joy and sorrow, happiness and sadness, smiles and tears, the ecstasy and the agony. The experience of one intensifies our awareness of the other. Sorrow, for example, may be the price we pay for joy; when we have known great happiness in a relationship, we feel its loss more deeply. Or think of those times when you laugh so hard you cry.

Joy will usually be part of a set of symptoms presenting in your life. The best protocol is to be thankful for the intensity of these feelings. When you are experiencing sorrow and sadness, when the tears are flowing, remember they can be stepping stones to joy.

Top photo: Sorrow and sadness. Mom receiving the flag that covered Dad's casket.
Bottom photo: Mom and Dad together...joyfully celebrating Mom's 80th birthday 
after a delicious lunch at a Chinese restaurant.


To find joy in another's joy
that is the secret of happiness.
— George Bernanos quoted in Joy by Beverly Elaine Eanes

A life of joy is not in seeking happiness.
But in experiencing and simply being
the circumstances of our life as they are.
— Charlotte Joko Beck quoted in Open Mind by Diane Mariechild

I have merged, like the bird, with the bright air,
And my thought flies to the place by the bo-tree.
Being, not doing, is my first joy.
— Theodore Roethke quoted in Finding Deep Joy by Robert Ellwood

Pelican we saw flying overhead at Lake Shetek State Park.
(Taken on June 9, 2012)


I read Finding Deep Joy by Robert Elwood. Some things that I found interesting were:
- Joy lies hidden deep down at the heart of all things...dolphins, zebras, and ourselves.
- In some people and places it may be near the surface, in others deeply buried.
- Joy is not only your right, your heritage; joy is you at the deepest level....Yet so often we block deep joy. We get caught up in our routines, our little fears and goals. We merely skim the surface of little puddles of joy as we run by.
- After going through a great personal joy or come to a point where you just don't feel it so strongly anymore. You may even feel emotionally numb.
- Ways that others have experienced deep joy: when I am in nature and feel at one with a leaf or blade of grass; listening to the  birds or the laughter of my children; sitting outside and watching the sunset.
***Think aback over your life and record the moments when you have felt the most joy. Perhaps they have to do with the smell of autumn or the satisfaction of having helped someone. Consider keeping a journal for this purpose.***

I remember seeing these bleeding hearts in May,
not too long after the fire at our farm.
It brought such joy to see them blooming.
I needed to spend some time taking a close look at them, and 
noticing their form and color.

***Pain, disappointment, suffering, and death are realities in everyone's life. Think about your own greatest heartaches and hardships. What can you affirm of value beyond these painful experiences? What can you affirm of value in them? Whatever your present circumstances, list ten things for which you are grateful today.***
- Joy represents a state of equilibrium, one that is tension free.
- In spring, hundreds of flowers; in autumn, a harvest moon; in summer, a refreshing breeze; in winter, snow will accompany you. If useless things do not hang in your mind, any season is a good season for you. The Gateless Gate (Zen text)
- Find an image of your favorite saint. Look deeply into his or her eyes until you catch a little of that saint's joy - real sanctity is caught, not taught!
- What the joyous person has is a radiance, a smiling serenity accented by a twinkle. That person may be of any religion or none.
- You should abstain from harming others, falsehood, theft, and greed; you should observe purity, contentment, study, and religious devotion.
- When you set foot on the spiritual path to deep joy, you must give up all that is untrue to yourself and all that harms others, all that caters to the self-centered appetites of passions, and all forms of excess, while taking on a simple lifestyle, an even-tempered frame of mind, and emphasizing higher things.
- Live in a manner that is congruent with your spiritual practice.
- Your lifestyle and surroundings should be calming, tend toward joy, and foster a sense of living.
- Everything should support the deep unity of life. Work and leisure, friendships and family relations, spiritual and secular activities ought not be split off from each other with different values operative in each; rather, they should blend together as much as possible.
- If you want to find and keep joy, it helps to live in reasonable simplicity, neither in abject poverty nor choked with material goods.
- If you move toward simplicity - living in a clean and neat but unostentatious home, earning an honest living and spending within your means, eating wholesome food and keeping regular hours, you will set the physical conditions for joy.
- Cultivate creativity in your own way. If you enjoy cooking, prepare your wholesome food as creatively as possible. Ornament your house with art or furnishings made by yourself or your friends. Spend part of your free time writing or painting. It doesn't matter so much what you do, but find something creative that you like and feel good at, and spend time with it.

Scrambled egg bake in croissants 
that I baked for Easter 2018.

- Have a collection of books, tapes, and videos on topics consonant with your spiritual quest. Related pictures and symbols might be on the walls.
- You must not try to push anyone else in the household into a lifestyle they have not freely chosen. If they choose to live around different values, you must accept this cheerfully and not let it become a source of contention, just as they must accept your way. All this is part of the love and wise moderation of the path to joy.
- Bad things do happen to good people.
- We must make time to find deep joy no matter what. In times of great suffering, poverty, sorrow, or anxiety - above all, of sadness - it is even more important.
- No obligations imposed by troubles are so great that they preclude all recourse to deep joy, even if for only a few minutes saved for prayer or meditation.
- In real engagement with life, the seeds of joy are always there, for engagement means looking outward rather than toward the self.
- Live here and now, in the present moment. Remember that dep joy is now; pain is mostly past and future.
- Difficulties are opportunities. A stormy passage with another person, a parent, or spouse, may be a chance to build a new and deeper relationship based on better understanding. Or, if this relationship is genuinely may be an occasion for you to grow by realizing that you do not have to b e bound forever to a hopeless relationship. You can make the decision to take charge of your life, cut what chains have to be cut, and open yourself up to new relationships and new centers of meaning.
- The bad times can aid you in learning compassion.

Sophia playing the piano for a resident at the nursing home.
We began volunteering at the nursing home 
shortly after my dad died in January 2012.

- It is the nature of compassion and caring to do all that is humanly possible to  change the situation so that happiness rather than suffering is what is shared.
- We can look at life's ordeals as initiations moving us ahead, teaching us, opening us to wisdom and compassion, helping us explore unexplored worlds, inner and outer. Then we will engage life as it must be engaged, with joy.
*** Think about the major transitions in your life (adolescence, marriage, children, loss of a job, loss of a friend, loved one's death). At each stage, what part of you had to "die" in order for you to become a new person? Beyond the loss, what have you gained? Can you, in retrospect, see an opportunity in the ordeal that was not apparent at the time? Are you in a difficult transition now? If so, what might the opportunity be in it?

Looking at one of the many books that was 
lost in the fire at our farm on May 5, 2018.

I skimmed through Happiness - How to Find It and Keep It by Joan Duncan Oliver since I didn't have enough time to read it before it had to be returned to the library. Some key ideas that I liked:
- Express appreciation, love, and gratitude, even for simple things.
- True wealth isn't measured in assets or cash flower but in how abundant we feel.
- Make sure you're really living now so that later in your life you can say, "I regret nothing."
- Life is nothing but memory. We only know our experience in recollection. What we think, say, and do become the memories that make up our ongoing life story.
- Our life is frittered away by detail...simplify, simplify! (Henry David Thoreau)

Olivia and Sophia at the rest area overlooking Duluth.
Our floors were being redone because of 
water damage from the bathroom on the second level.
So, we got to take a family vacation together which insurance monies paid for 
since we had to be out of the house. 
How quickly these almost-ten years have gone.
(Taken on September 1, 2008.)

I read Jesus Laughed an Other Reflections on Being Human by Jean Maalaouf. Some points that I found interesting were:
- Jesus was fully human - he laughed; and was a radical and rebel.
- He was a catalysis.
- He practiced the art of letting go.
- He enjoyed life: he ate, rested, and celebrated with friends. He must have loved life. He lived with all his heart and out of his depth of being. He enjoyed all the things in life - even the smallest.
- He extended love to the poor, the rich, his friends, foreigners, strangers, "enemies" everyone.
- He wasn't well-connected. He didn't have wealth, fame, respect, or anything that the world finds impressive. He was simple and free.

Colorful edge of a quilt that was at a quilt show 
in St. Cloud in June 2018.
Looks like the shape of a cross in this photo.


I've watched both of these films in the past and enjoyed both:

Patch Adams - an unconventional healer dares to raise up joy as a way of life. He demonstrates that often the best medicine for patients is laughter, love, compassion, and play.

Awakenings - a doctor and his patient discover the deep down joy of life when caring rather than curing is the main emphasis in treatment.


One of the best ways to feel in your heart and soul the spiritual dimensions of joy is to listen to the finale of Beethoven's masterful Symphony No. 9, in D Minor, Op. 125. This choral piece is based on Schiller's poem "Ode to Joy."

This piece celebrates freedom by incorporating different musical elements — fugue, march, choral, and recitative — to create an unconventional whole. According to Spirituality and Practice website, "To ride wave after wave of this surging sound is to experience the exhilaration of true spiritual joy and freedom!"

I enjoyed listening to this piece one day, and it did, indeed, make me very happy as I listened to different parts of it. It's worth taking the time to listen to it...even if it is used as background music.


An image of abundant joy is Henri Matisse's Dance. In the first, a girl leans backwards, arms outstretched, as if to embrace the moonlight around her; her blissful look conveys her surrendering to joy. And in Matisse's famous painting, according to Spirituality and Practice website, "...five female nudes dance in a circle on a green mound set into a rich blue sky. Hands joined and limbs fully stretched, they are exemplars of exuberant joy."

I'm not sure I'm seeing exuberant joy in this picture, but maybe others do.

Daily Cue, Reminder, Vow, Blessing

• Passing a smiling person on the street is my cue to practice joy.

• Knowing how much pleasure there is in making others happy, I vow to practice joy.

Practice of the Day

Laughter is the jam on the toast of life. It adds flavor, keeps it from being too dry, and makes it easier to swallow.
— Diane Johnson quoted in Zen Soup by Laurence G. Boldt

To Practice This Thought: Make sure laughter is part of your breakfast menu.

Sophia laughing on Christmas 2010.
Both she and Olivia said it was the best Christmas.

Journal Exercises

• Some of your most pleasurable times with your journal will be when you are re-reading entries about joys. So don't let special events pass without recording what happened and how you felt. Every party deserves a journal entry; even if you only capture one happy moment.

• Occasionally, perhaps quarterly on the solstices and equinoxes, make a list of "What Brings Me Joy." Notice when the sources of your joy change, and add reflections on what this tells you.

Discussion Questions, Storytelling, Sharing

• When in your life have you been filled with great joy? Were you alone or with others?

• Who has been the patron saint of joy in your life? Who has stifled or spoiled your joy?

• Share the story of a time when an act of service gave you great joy.

• What can be done to create a greater atmosphere of joy in your home and community? What will be your legacy of joy to the next generations?

Household, Group, and Community Projects

• Come up with a strategy which will help you "dance the day" rather than succumb to a "been there/done that" attitude. For example, play bouncy music while you scrub the bathroom floor.

• Add a happiness ritual to your celebration of one of the annual holidays. Have members of your group recall three of the most joyous moments you have experienced together during the past year. Write brief descriptions of some of them in a "Moments of Happiness" book that you review as part of this ritual next year.