Monday, November 26, 2007

The Joy of AGING....REALLY!!

Like millions of people last Friday, I too braved the stores for "Black Friday"......yet instead of discovering the perfect gift for a loved one, I discovered something about myself!!

While visiting with relatives for Thanksgiving, my sister and I decided to see what we could find in the stores on Friday. As neither of us had our "lists" or any real desire for particular items, it was more of an opportunity to spend some time together than it was to get some "real deals" for the holidays.

We headed out to the local stores and wandered......literally wandered through the stores looking at the piles and mountains of products and the throngs of people clamoring for the items that were "one day sale specials". Not having participated on the Black Friday Frenzy for years, I was amazed. It reminded me of a sad remake of the movie "Night of the Living Dead"..........people wandering, as if in a daze..........tired, cranky, moving from store to store......simply with the goal of filling their carts. I'm certain many of these people simply wanted to be at home enjoying a well-deserved and long-overdue day off with their families, eating left-over turkey and stuffing, yet here they were......

While it amazed me at how the stores had all geared up for this day so far in advance, how the buying public was participating in the hoopla, and of course at the sheer volume of things to be purchased, I was amazed at something else.....something inside of me. I felt so removed from the process of it all......I had no desire to purchase anything! My thoughts wandered to some of the decorations and how I wanted to create a special holiday atmosphere and mood in our home, but I wasn't processing what items the kids or I "needed" to be happy this holiday season.

My wish list became populated by other things that morning. Here are the first several items:
1. Time to make holiday cookies with the kids
2. Remember to get that family recipe for my grandmother's applesauce cake
3. Find the kids' favorite holiday music CD that got put away with last year's decorations....the one they knew all the words to so we could sing along
4. Cut the construction paper so we could make paper chains for the tree
5. Clear the afternoon after-school schedule so we could go ice-skating
6. Stop by the library for a stock-pile of holiday stories to read in front of the fireplace

My list grew as I wandered along. The true JOY of the holidays for me was not to be about finding the perfect gift. My list didn't cost much money either! My list was about making the TIME with those who are most important to me in my was about making MEMORIES of an unhurried holiday was about creating TRADITIONS for my children that hopefully would carry over to their adulthood and they would not become one of the wandering zombies at the mall on Black Friday!

I see this as a true joy of aging.....sure I have a few more aches and pains with each passing year.....but I also have a greater sense of the real me and what is important in my life! I'm embracing the wisdom that the aging process brings! Realizing what is truly important is a joy of aging!! I have the courage, wisdom and capability to make the holiday season what I WANT it to be......not what I've been told it should be!What is it you wish your holiday season to be? What is important to you? What brings you JOY?

Glenna Sanford
Choose Joy, Inc.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Joyful Inspiration comes from all Angles!

"My wife... died Wednesday, November 7th after a nearly eight year long battle with breast cancer, she was 46." So started the email I received from Joe*, a fellow co-worker ,last Friday. Although I know the person who sent it (we'd taken a class together and I see him in the hallways occasionally), the email wasn't sent to me directly but to a distribution list including the 700 hundred or so people where I work. As we are not close friends and I knew nothing about this person outside of work, it caught me completely off-guard.....

I found myself initially sobered by his sharing of something so personal, and so tragic. As I continued to read his heartfelt note however, I found myself inspired:

"Her small five foot two frame belied her giant personality and presence. She had a strong moral compass, strong will, and a passion for the things she loved and believed in. She lived with a good quality of life despite the huge price she paid for every day, she looked forward to each one and used it the best she could. Those that knew Diane*, knew that she had a wonderful smile that she shared freely, she was intelligent and engaged.... She wouldn't be beaten by cancer, she would beat it despite constant pain and nausea. It came as a surprise to me the day she died because even the day before she was strong, bright, and ready to fight. She was by far the strongest person I have ever met. Her will and lust for life and the daily price she paid for that life was terrific."

Though I'd never met her, because of her husband's words I felt like I knew Diane somewhat. I loved Joe's descriptions of her attitude, her enthusiasm, and how she chose to live her life. Here was a person who had been dealt a pretty bad hand - "In the last eight years she was in remission for only about 12 - 18 months, the rest of the time she was on one chemo-therapy or another. She had 6 major surgeries, horrific amounts of radiation, dozens of minor surgeries and countless CAT and MRI scans." - and yet, through it all, she made the best of it, made a difference, and made her life count for more. I wish I had REALLY known her. What a strong and inspiring woman she was and continues to be to all those who actually had the privilege to know her.

The other inspiring part to me in this story is Joe. It is simply amazing to me that at a time like this he could actually think to write such a powerful letter! Perhaps writing it simply helped him with the mourning process, but I'm confident his choice - whether active or subconscious - to share his thoughts and memories of his wife's life with a larger audience was meant to move and motivate others ----- to make decisions and take actions to lead a joyful life. Each day. Every day. No matter what your circumstance.

So, in the end, I found the email I received that morning uplifting. In the process of relating the amazing life of someone I'd never met, it served to remind me - as it should all of us - of how precious each day in life is, and how we can make the choices to make it a joyful celebration!

(* Not their real names.)

Bill May
VP and Co-Founder
ChooseJoy, Inc.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The To-Do List

A few weeks ago, my friend, Kathy came over to give me her opinion on one the scents Choose Joy will carry in our candle line. After she gave me a thumbs up on the scent, we settled into our easy-friend-type conversation. I love Kathy and love the times we can just talk as girlfriends. Kathy told me that this year for the first time, her two teenage children would not be going trick-or-treating. “And,” she sadly said, “We didn’t even carve a pumpkin this year.” But suddenly, her eyes lit up and she said, “Maybe I’ll carve one by myself tonight. That would be fun! But I’ll see how my day goes. If it seems like a joyful thing to do, I’ll do it. I don’t want it to become a to-do thing.”

A “to-do thing”. Definition: something that’s on your list of things to do that you really don’t want to do, but you have to do it because it’s on your list; something that causes you stress (which is certainly not a joyful feeling!) just by having it on your list and knowing that you have to do it.

A “to-do thing”. How many to-do things are on your list? How many of your to-do things are there because you think you have to do them and how many things are there because you want to do them?

My calendar probably looks like yours – lots of places to go and things to do. Children’s activities, volunteering commitments, social gatherings. But how many of those things are things we really want to do – things that add real value to our lives – and how many are on our calendar because we think we have to do them, either because of the expectations we have for ourselves or even because of what others expect from us?

On Halloween, how many of you could allow yourself to not have had a carved pumpkin greeting the neighborhood trick-or-treaters? Kathy, my wise friend, could. Carving a pumpkin is supposed to be fun, not a chore. If it becomes a chore for her, she knows that it’s not worth doing. Doing it when it’s a chore defeats the entire purpose of doing it in the first place!

As parents, we want nothing more than to build the self-esteem of our children. So we sign them up for activity after activity where they can explore their talents and hopefully gain some good feelings about themselves. But how often, in the rush to get out of the door and to the activity on time, do you find yourself raising your voice or even yelling at your children, telling them to hurry up? How many disagreements and arguments do you have with your children over some aspect of their activity? If your kids’ activities cause you to yell at your children or in any other way cause you to be less than emotionally supportive of them, you’ve defeated the purpose of taking them to the activity in the first place! The purpose of the activity is to help your kids feel good about themselves. If the activity feeds their negative self-esteem, then you’ve defeated the purpose of signing them up for the activity in the first place!

Many things compete for your time and energy. Choose wisely how you spend your time and energy and choose wisely for your children as well. If something that is supposed to be a positive experience becomes a negative one, then you need to find some new ways to spend your precious commodities of time and energy. This is your life and you only get one – choose to make it a positive experience!

Sonya May
President, Choose Joy, Inc