Saturday, July 31, 2010

Pandora's Landscaping

To most, mowing the yard is probably a chore, but to me it is a welcomed activity I look forward to each week. As people drive by, they might wonder why my husband isn't mowing for me. Tim and I actually work on the yard together and it is something we've always done. I mow, he weed eats. (Yes, I got the better job!)

I like the time that mowing gives me to enjoy some of my favorite things. For one, mowing reminds me of Austin and how much he liked to mow, or rather get paid for mowing. Some days I spend just reminiscing about him and remembering the first time I saw him mow on his own.

Mowing also allows me to enjoy nature. I love looking at the flowers, the trees, feeling a cool breeze on the back of my neck, the smell of freshly cut grass, and most of all cloud watching. I've enjoyed cloud watching since I was a child. Even today, having my back on a blanket and eyes toward the beautiful blue sky, is a great way to spend the afternoon. Noah and I often do this together, as we race to see who can invent the most creative cloud picture. Cloud watching on a lawnmower however is not always a good idea...when I start to swerve, I know it is time to do something else.

One of my favorite activities to do while mowing though is listen to Pandora on my IPhone. I love Pandora because you can create the stations YOU want to listen to, based on your favorite artist(s) or song. Anyone who has ever looked through my CD collection has commented on how eclectic it is. There really isn't a form of music I don't like or appreciate. If you pop in a mix CD of mine, you might be surprised to find a selection from the sweet melodies of Patsy Cline, to an old school rap by RUN-DMC, to a hair thrashing tune from the 80s, to a current hit.

I love how music can change a mood, bring back a memory, or frame the perfect moment. And although I wasn't blessed with the vocal skills to have anyone asking for my autograph, I like to belt out my favorite tunes. I don't care who's listening, especially when I'm cocooned in my headphones and partially covered by the sound of the lawnmower.

I'm sure my neighbors get a laugh though when they see me mowing. As Tim will joke, they probably hear me before they see me. They're just lucky the yard needs mowing just once a week, or it would be the "Heather Variety Show" every afternoon!

Friday, July 30, 2010

An Unexpected Call

There is a saying that goes something like, "Real friends can go for ten years without talking or seeing one another, yet when they do reunite, their conversation starts off where they left it."

I'm blessed to have a few true friends like this. We don't see each other regularly and sometimes can go months, or even years, without talking. Yet, I'm always amazed that when we do, there is no pause. We can catch up within moments, as if we just talked the day before.

I have to admit, I'm much better at keeping in touch with people through the internet. I've always been the best at communicating through written form. It is just natural for me to send an email, or a message on Facebook, to check in on those I care about. I'm not a regular chatter on the phone, but it isn't because I don't enjoy it. In fact, it is those unexpected calls, those surprise breaks in your day, that sometimes mean the most.

It takes less than a minute to send something electronically but calling someone takes actual time out of your day. That someone thought about you and took the effort to make a call, makes you feel special.

It brought me joy that a dear friend did just that today. She had a brief question, that could just as easily be answered through Facebook or in an email, but she chose to call and ask. Doing so, led to a fun-filled talk that lasted close to an hour. My spirits were lifted and I was actually smiling upon hanging up the phone. An unexpected call that snuck joy into my day, because it was a chance to reconnect with a treasured friend in this busy world we all live in.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The RC Matinee

I'm not sure how I missed this, as we are frequent customers to our local movie theatre (also known as "Sticky Floors"), but I did not know they still did RC matinees.

Last week, I noticed the old sign in their lobby, with duct tape covering dates/locations/etc, and was excited to find there would be one final showing before school started. I began collecting wrappers in anticipation of Thursday.

Nowadays, anything free could bring joy to just about anyone. Nostalgic memories aside, it did bring a smile to my face to watch a current movie and not pay a dime. (Well, I did break down and buy popcorn and a coke because there is an unwritten rule that you can't watch a movie in a theatre without them both!)

When I was younger, I remember going to the RC Matinee. In fact, I can picture myself standing outside in line, clinking with every movement from my bag of RC caps. I don't remember much else about those days, other than it was fun to see a movie and spend the day with my mom.

I guess, in a way, I can recall some movies with mom because we didn't go a lot when I was a child. I grew up in a different time. No instant gratification. Going out to eat was a special treat, not a daily occurrence. Going to the movies, even rarer. I'm sure mom looked forward to the RC Matinee too because it was a way for her to spoil us, without breaking the bank. I grew up appreciating what I was given, probably because I knew how mom struggled. Or maybe I appreciate it more now that I'm a working mom.

One of the movies I can recall seeing in the theatre was 'Bambi'. I remember going with my mom, my Aunt Faye (her sister), and my cousin, Jennye. It was maybe my first "awe moment" at the movies. I can still envision the excitement, the fear, the happiness, and the laughter, from those stand out scenes in my head. I've loved movies ever since!

It doesn't matter to me if I'm surrounded in the darkness at a theatre, sitting in a lawn chair at the drive-in, or snuggled on my couch at home, I greatly enjoy watching movies. It's fun to lose yourself, if only for a couple hours, into whatever story line there is. A movie is always a great mood lifter for me.

What brought me the most joy though yesterday was that I was reliving a bit of my childhood, with my child, and with my mom sitting next to me. It was a step back in time for mom and me, and replayed so many memories for us both. And hopefully, it started a new set of memories for Noah. Maybe, if we're lucky, Sticky Floors will still be around when he is grown and he can continue the tradition with his children.

What is Joy?


So before I can dive fully into to this project, and what I hope to become my new way of viewing life, I need to ask some questions.  If my challenge is to find, or rather realize, the joy in every day…I have to ask myself, what is joy?

When I say the word JOY I think of happiness, laughter, enjoying the moment.   Webster defines joy as:

1 a : the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires : delight b : the expression or exhibition of such emotion : gaiety
2 : a state of happiness or felicity : bliss
3 : a source or cause of delight

The first definition sounds greedy to me.  It is the feeling that results from getting what we want.  That is not what I want this challenge to be for me.  I’m more of a #2 girl, I guess.  I want to capture those moments, big or small, that cause me unexpected joy.  Unplanned Joy.  Surprise Joy.  …That is my goal.

The word joy often takes me back to a story from my past.  I see my grandfather’s sweet face.  It instantly makes me smile, and as such, brings me joy.

My grandpa was a preacher.  He held other jobs through the years to help support his family but preaching was his passion.  Grandpa Henry also loved to sing, especially in church.  One Christmas, the choir (and Grandpa) shared a collection of favorite holiday hymns with the congregation.  Even though they were songs most of us know by heart, they had music sheets for each one.  Grandpa had them in order and was ready to go, or so he thought. 

Now, I don’t know why he didn’t listen to the intro of the song, maybe he was caught up in the moment.  The pianist, most likely my Aunt Becky, played the beginning of “Silent Night”.  As the choir took a deep breath as a group, one member began to belt out the song.  Well, it was A song, at least.

My Grandpa, full of spirit, loudly and passionately began to sing “Joy to the World”.  About one line into it, he realized he was giving a solo and looked around.  Laughter soon filled the air, in an unplanned moment, one which everyone expected to be sweet and silent.

That story followed Grandpa for years to come.  In fact, it was nothing unusual to hear the beginning tune of “Silent Night” followed by a loud, “Joy to the world!” from anyone who knew the story.

We could never hear either song without thinking of that funny moment that Grandpa unexpectedly gave us.  It still makes me chuckle – and brings me JOY even today.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Joy in Every Day

Losing a child has been the most difficult and dark journey I've ever faced. For so long, I feared that we'd remain in a fog of sadness and depression for the rest of our lives. Those first few months were so painful, I thought I might never laugh with my family again.

I don't remember the first time I smiled after losing Austin, let alone laughed, but I'm sure on some level I felt guilty. Sometimes I still do. More than anything now though, I just wish he was here to experience whatever joy has showered our day.

It's been a little less than two years since Austin's passing. Sadly, the pain never really goes away, you just learn to function better with each day. There are still dark days, like rain clouds hovering over your head; but, there is sunshine now too. I smile. I laugh. I enjoy life, most of the time. It is hard. I can't sugar-coat that. But giving up and not experiencing all life has to offer would be harder.

If I had to pick a top lesson from this experience, it is to Live Every Moment.
Life - is short. Life - is a gift. It is a lesson Austin knew from the start, and looking back over his life, one of the things I am most proud of. He lived and he lived well. In his fourteen years on Earth, he lived more than most people do "in a lifetime". It is his legacy...and what has kept me going since losing him.

I couldn't sleep tonight and writing is often a way for me to release, relax, let go. This idea came to me and just wouldn't leave. It insisted, pleaded, urged me to the computer. It challenged me. It reminded me of how Austin would get his way, for whatever it was he wanted at the time. And I have to think he has something to do this project, if nothing else he is the inspiration for it.

So, here is my challenge. A challenge that I hope most days won't be so difficult to find. I'm searching for the JOY in every day. I'm seeking it with open arms. And I hope you'll join me!
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