Winter is dreary. I don’t care for it much. Last year I got in a winter funk for a while, and the thing that helped me come out of it was realizing that I needed to pray to love what the Lord loves. Doing that helped to to recognize the previously unrecognizable joy that can be found in what may be otherwise considered boring drudgery. I did not start dancing around on tiptoes and whistling happy tunes all the time, but it really did help.
Today I realized that in addition to loving what the Lord loves, I need to do a better job of loving what I love. It’s easy to focus too much on things that bug me, especially the things that repeat themselves over and over again. I found today that I could distract myself from that kind of annoyed-out-of-my-brain-zone by thinking about stuff I really love and then intentionally reaching out for it. This afternoon it was as simple as putting on some of my favorite tunes and singing along while I cleaned the kitchen. When I realized what a positive effect that had on me, I started listing in my mind as many things as I could think of that I LOVE, and then I started planning out how to make those things a bigger part of my days. So, for my own record-keeping purposes, and for your reading (or time-wasting) pleasure, I give you . . .
THE LIST OF THINGS I LOVE:
1. Music I love: Latin music. My Contemporary Latin channel on Pandora.com. Alejandro Fernandez, Enrique Iglesias, Luis Miguel, Juanes, Soraya, Shakira. I love it. And on Sundays, I love having peaceful, inspirational music playing in the kitchen. English is fine.
2. Books I love: As I wrote about recently, I’ve rediscovered my love for reading. I love a good book. I always love Jane Austen, and I’ve reread her books a couple times this last year. I just finished Man’s Search for Meaning yesterday, and I started The Shadow of the Wind today. Yay.
3. Shows I love: Right now, I’m into watching Masterpiece Classics on Netflix after the kids go to bed. Last night I watched a couple episodes of Jane Eyre. I love watching House Hunters International on HGTV and pretending I’m house shopping throughout the world while I fold laundry. One day Matt’s going to wake up and find out I accidentally bought a beach house in Nicaragua while he was sleeping. I kind of like American Idol and shows like Top Chef or Project Runway.
4. Things I love to look forward to: I love planning fantasy vacations, even though I rarely end up taking them. My favorite travel site is travelzoo.com. I find some kickin’ deals on there. Last week I booked 4 nights in Cancun, all-inclusive, for all five of us, for $306. !!! I probably won’t end up going because I can’t find affordable airfare, but still. (Never fear, I called and checked on the cancellation policy before I booked.) Travel agent is high on my list of Jobs I Know I’d Be Awesome At (along with children’s librarian, restaurant critic, and real estate agent). I also love to plan parties or group dates or girls’ nights or other get-togethers… not necessarily all the details of parties– I’m pretty simple, but I like to come up with reasons to have parties and have something to look forward to.
5. Things I love to feel: Sunshine. Sunshine and breeze are even better. A warm fireplace. My cozy bed. Holding hands. Soft, comfy clothes. Warm socks. The sound of wind blowing through leaves on the trees. Hot cocoa in my hands. Love. Contentment. The Holy Ghost.
6. Things I love to eat. Lately I’ve been really craving baked sweets, like cupcakes or cookies– not healthy, I know, but it’s fun to bake something occasionally. My favorite things to cook in the winter are crock pot comfort foods. I make a really yummy chili, and I have a favorite soup, Salsa Chicken and Black Bean Soup, that I make a lot. I love restaurants. I don’t hate cooking, but I love to eat anything that other people make.
7. Things I love to do with my children: There are plenty of things that I don’t like to do with my children. I’m not a great play mom; I confess it and embrace it. I do, however, love to read with my children. I love to cuddle and read them stories, even better if it’s by a fire. I love to play music and dance with them. When it’s warmer, I like to camp with them and go on walks and hikes with them. Lately we’ve been playing a card game called Monopoly Deal, and I actually like that better than most games. (I’d rather stick forks in my eyes than play Candyland, but I digress. This is about things I love.) I love to laugh with my children. I love to take them to places that I love. I especially love to take them to plays and theater productions. I took Natalie to an Irish Dance show last week and I’m taking the boys to see a Broadway production of Peter Pan tonight. I like family movie night. I love one-on-one time with them.
10. Things I love about Natalie (4): Her enthusiastic eyes. She’s my brave food taster. She remembers where everything is and always helps me find stuff. She asks lots of questions and always understands the answers. She loves her brothers and she ADORES her dad. Her decided determination and positive confidence. I can’t wait to see what a beautiful and good woman she will be.
11. Things I love about Clark (6): His smile. He really wants to do the right thing (sometimes it’s deep down). He has a burning independent testimony of the gospel. He is a quick learner and an avid reader. He has always been a “bouncer”– he gets so excited about things that he can NOT sit still. He is a great sharer. Clark has feelings to the extreme: when he is happy, it is joy. When he is sad or angry, it’s all the way. No one in the world loves good food as much as Clark. I think he will surprise us with how much he can do and do well.
12. Things I love about Grant (8): He is a sensitive soul and feels things deeply. He is fiercely independent, and yet, doesn’t like to be alone. He is a self-appointed leader. He is smart and intuitive. He is my cuddliest child; he loves and craves human touch. He is generous and likes to heal people’s sadness. He says the best prayers. He’s going to be a great man, I can tell.
13. Things I love about Matt: He is the best dad ever. He gets me and likes me anyway. He is a master apologizer and never criticizes (even when he should). He has no idea how good he is. My favorite part of my future.
14. Things I love about myself: I am principle-driven and try to do what’s right. I’m a pretty good problem solver and a peacemaker (if a determined conflict-avoider can be called thus). I think I’m a good friend; I try hard to keep in touch with people I love, and I try to make them feel remembered and appreciated. I try to give good advice. I love to teach.
These are the things that I’m going to turn to when I start to forget how much there is to love, even on bad days. There’s truly so much to be thankful for and to enjoy.
There are occasionally hard days for each of us. Do not despair. Do not give up. Look for the sunlight through the clouds. . . . Cultivate an attitude of happiness. Cultivate a spirit of optimism. . . . Let us not partake of the negative spirit so rife in our times. There is so much of the sweet and the decent and the beautiful to build upon. . . . I am asking that we stop seeking out the storms and enjoy more fully the sunlight. I am suggesting that as we go through life we “accentuate the positive.” I am asking that we look a little deeper for the good . . . What I am suggesting is that each of us turn from the negativism that so permeates our society and look for the remarkable good among those with whom we associate, that we speak of one another’s virtues more than we speak of one another’s faults, that optimism replace pessimism, that our faith exceed our fears. “ — Gordon B. Hinckley
(Thanks to Erika who took these pictures of my family. She was fantastic and even brought us cookies. Blogging has introduced me to such wonderful people.)