I love how the New Year brings with it a turn of the page. You get a clean slate, and a chance to do better in life. I think more often than not, we are glad to say farewell to the previous year, hoping that the coming year must surely be better than the last! But when you really think about it, that isn’t the best mentality to take with you throughout life. Do you really want to feel relieved when each year is “finally” over? I’ve come to realize that life is too short to see things this way. Each year, no matter how terrible it may be on the whole, is surely filled with many simple and beautiful moments that continue to make life worth living.
And this is what I want to teach my children. I want them to know that happiness, really, is a choice.
As we say in our house: Every day may not be good… but there is good in every day.
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In many ways, 2013 was one crappy year for us. Without telling you our whole life story, suffice it to say that the outside world threw a major curve ball our way this year, and in an instant, life as we knew it was completely derailed.
But that’s life.
You never know what tomorrow will bring, so you need to find a way to be content with the here and now. While sometimes we find ourselves going in a direction we weren’t expecting, eventually we come to realize that path suddenly seems meaningful, that we were pulled that way for a reason. I think that’s the only way you can look at things. There’s no direction to go but forward anyhow.
2013 was also our best year yet, hands-down. First and foremost, we are all healthy. We shared our first year as a family of six. Our children are thriving. Our marriage is solid. There were countless laughs shared and memories created.
You get the picture. Happiness is about perspective. And you can teach your children to focus on the good.
In 2013 we started a new tradition to help us remember the best moments of our year, and I can’t even begin to tell you how great it’s been. Our Little Jar of Happiness quickly became known as our Happy Jar, and whenever the mood would strike us, we would drop a note into the jar. There were times when we entered things often, and there were stretches (maybe even months) when we would forget about it. But at the end of the year, we had at least 50 happy moments that we could reflect on to help us remember the positives. So even though our family had reason to label 2013 as one difficult year, we were able to remind our girls about all the great moments we had shared, and suddenly the year as a whole seemed like the wonderful gift that it truly was. It’s human nature to focus on the bad stuff (we can all receive countless compliments, yet the one criticism is what we’ll remember most), but you can learn to flip your viewpoint around if you work at it.
Starting a Happy Jar is an amazing way to teach your children to choose happiness. As we read through our slips of paper at year’s end, we laughed so much. We were reminded of sweet moments that had already been forgotten. And we wrapped up 2013 with a nice little bow as we said goodbye to a year we were so grateful to have.
See below to get a sense of how to start this tradition in your own home. I hope you love it as much as we do!
LAST YEAR’S JAR
Here’s a glimpse of our Happy Jar just before we opened it. It had lost the cute ribbon it started with, and eventually I took the inner piece out of the lid so we could insert our notes more easily (why didn’t I do that in the first place?!) We had written on every scrap of paper we could find, and our jar was overflowing with life moments… we couldn’t wait to open it after 365 days of waiting!
EMPTY YOUR JAR
To make it easier to choose a variety of slips from across the entire year, I dumped everything into the bin that was empty now that we had finished reading our 24 books leading up to Christmas. (That is another favorite tradition!!! You unwrap a book each night from December 1-24 and read it as a family. It is such a great way to slow down during the busiest time of the year. In fact, we pulled out a slip in our Happy Jar about that!) :)
SOME OF OUR FAVORITE ENTRIES
We passed the bin around the table at dinner on New Year’s Day (we aimed for New Year’s Eve, but that didn’t happen!), and this just happened to be the first slip that was pulled out. It was so fun for all of us to remember that special first birthday when our youngest started to walk.
Our third daughter was still five when she wrote this. We couldn’t believe how much her handwriting and her spelling (see the last slip below!) had improved over the year. She was giggling at herself, too, as if she couldn’t believe she was so silly back then to make those mistakes! :)
This was apparently our first entry, judging by the 1/1 date. So sweet.
This entry gave us one of our biggest laughs. The spelling is priceless, and the memories of that day came flooding back as well. On a whim, we had spontaneously created an “Obstacle Course” in the front yard one day. We had to jump over lacrosse and hockey sticks, run through cones, and so on. Our girls were literally on the ground laughing at my husband and me as we tried to “spice up” our turns for their entertainment. Such a great memory!
SAVE THE SLIPS AS A KEEPSAKE
I tucked my slips into an extra envelope I had lying around and saved them as a keepsake. (The envelope is a leftover from the holiday cards we ordered from Minted, my favorite card place!! I really love their brown kraft paper envelopes. That’s what you see below, even though it looks less brown that it really is. See this post for a glimpse of our family’s card from 2012 and more reasons I love Minted. I am a big fan!) :)
One happy year in the books, and one year ahead with nothing but potential!
GET YOUR NEW JAR READY
I love to use jars like these for anything and everything. I always buy mason jars in bulk and use them for various crafts, food, gifts (fill with candy, nuts, baked goods, etc. and tie with a ribbon)… they are also great to hold candles (you can fill the bottom under the candle with sand or even items from your pantry like popcorn seeds!) and use them to decorate. The options are truly endless. Very handy to have around! So last year I had a jar to use right at my fingertips, and this year I just used the same jar again. I pulled off the 2013 sticker I had made and tied on a new tag… I just wrote on it with markers. Easy enough!
There’s our new jar, all ready to go! It feels symbolic of our year ahead. It’s like it’s just asking to be filled up with good things!
MAKE IT EASY TO WRITE ENTRIES SO YOU DON’T FORGET
I keep our jar right next to our kitchen table all year long. I also try to keep some scraps of paper and something to write with nearby so we all can quickly jot down our entry when we think of it. I’ve learned that we are more likely to drop in a slip when the lid insert is removed from the top so it’s always open and inviting those happy memories.
Update: Here’s a glimpse of our 2015 Happy Jar. I can’t say enough good things about this tradition! We love it so much!!! Three years in the books now… we just started our 2016 Happy Jar!
I know it can be so hard to find the good around you sometimes, but it really is there if you look hard enough. I believe that being positive is something that can be learned. Don’t get me wrong; I know life is not all sunshine and roses, trust me. I know there is tragedy and sickness and loss. But my husband and I are simply trying to show our four daughters that life is too short to let the downs overshadow the ups.
We are going to choose to be happy this year… I hope this post inspires you to do the same!
P.S. The sign below hangs in our kitchen. I absolutely love it! I had it made here. They were kind enough to take their original sign and change the text to “Choose to Be Happy” for me… I could even choose my colors. As you’ll read in my About Me page, this is the motto I try to live by, and I’m hoping to instill the same view on life in my girls. When they get whiny about something insignificant, I just point to the sign. :)