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Oh Happy Day: Mommy’s Office

May 18th, 2012

Oh Happy Day! It’s Friday, and that means celebration in my world (like it does in yours, I’m sure). The anticipation of the weekend was already in bloom as the kids were getting ready for their “it’s a school day” routine this morning. Friday mornings have become more relaxed for me lately. I often start the day with a photo field trip of some kind — the product of which usually ends up on my design blog — followed by a frappacino breakfast before settling into my office for real work. It’s a blessing and boost to creativity to take some time looking at something new or seeing something familiar in a new way every once and a while.

Now that I’m back in my office after this morning’s jaunt, looking at the piles through the lens of having shirked them for a few minutes, I’m actually relishing this place that has become my daily familiar. It’s been a full, but good week. I’ve been blessed with confirmation on a couple of new projects. We’ve celebrated Bug’s four-year-old kindergarten graduation. I joined Little Drummer Boy on his end-of-the-year field trip. Balls were miraculously caught in tee ball games. And, hallelujah, Baby Girl was able  to take her white fuzzy dog for show and tell today. It’s good to reflect on accomplishments, big and small. And my office is a good place to do it. It’s given me the opportunity to reflect already this week.

I’m in my office. Like I am a lot. And somehow they all end up here. The kids, I mean. This place of wonder where Mommy spends her days and keeps her computers and displays art treasures has become somewhat of a magnet for curiosity. Maybe it’s just a peaceful, but less-used place for them.
Maybe it’s the place that holds me during the days when I’ve assured them I miss them every minute. So, they feel compelled to fill it with reminders of themselves. Maybe it’s the small items sitting everywhere — quirky toys and objects I’ve picked up through the years that were introduced into their lives when I began working from home. Maybe it’s because sometimes they’re not allowed to play here. They just somehow all end up here.

I came down the five steps of our enclosed breezeway to my office one evening this week while they were playing outside, like I often do. A typical night. I was putting away some straggling parts of the work day, as my habits seem to dictate. One by one, they made their way in.

They know where the colored paper lives, and they pull it out to choose their pleasure. They know the skinny marker cup and the fat marker pot and the zigzag scissors holder and the way to drag the chairs so they all have a corner of the work table. And the tape. Baby Girl loves the tape.

They explored and created while I put things away. And, in the process, I found new places for their scribbled gifts and listened to their excitement as background noise.

“This smells nice.”
“What is this?”
“Mommy DON’T look at this!”
One shared letters and spelling secrets with another, coaching out some covert message. Scribbles spilled over from the red and purple paper onto the butcher block tabletop. I’m so glad washable markers don’t wash out completely from wood. I don’t know if I could work each day without the reminders of their slippage outside the lines.

I was thinking the other day how difficult it’s been to muster writing topics — how devoid of profundity I seem to have been lately in this season of ballgame schedules and end-of-school activities. How I’ve been searching for the will to compose meaningful thoughts in the face of busy project lists.

I read the phrase “joy of life” in an article this week. It was something a writer had recognized while paying attention to an unexpected walk through a London park. Just like what I find looking around my office on an evening like Wednesday evening. Not a birthday or a holiday, just a Wednesday evening. When I listened to the secret conversations and found places for the zigzagged hearts decorated with “I love Momy” and exclamation points and fives — lots of number fives.

Three test cases for joy and profundity staring me in the face. Their brilliance so blinding that I can scarcely believe I’m so fortunate to be able to see it.

Oh Happy Day.

© Haley Montgomery

Oh Happy Day: Hula Hoop Edition

September 16th, 2011

It’s Friday! Oh Happy Day! It has been quite a while since I’ve written for my Oh Happy Day gratitude project. You may recall that I started as a way of making the TGIF statement my own — as a way of consciously incorporating gratitude in my life so that the TG wasn’t just a silly acronym. In my experience, there is no better cure for stress, worries or a case of the down-in-the-dumps than heaping dose of gratitude. The joy that comes from taking stock of the blessings you have right in front of you is powerful.

I learned that lesson from my 6-year-old this morning. Again.

We were walking into school and discussing the day. I couldn’t remember what extra activities he had on Friday. Was it art or music? Little Drummer Boy was quick to confirm art with this commentary…

“I love art. And PE. Because we get to play with hula hoops.”
[insert Mommy smile here]
“I can do magic with the hula hoop. Do you want to hear about it?”

Who in the world could resist hearing about magic with a hula hoop. From MY spectacular first grader. So, of course, I gave him a resounding “yes!”

Little Drummer Boy proceeded to explain. [You’ll be happy to learn that his first grade teacher confirms he is indeed a drummer boy. In math.] He told me how he could roll the hula hoop and make it come back to him. I asked in amazement if he had a magic command to make this happen. He said “no,” that he could just do it. There’s my little magician, all happy and full of expectation about the possibilities of hula hoops and magic on Friday.

I couldn’t help but compare his enthusiasm to my own begrudging thoughts when I first woke up this morning… Ugh. It’s time to get up. I’m so tired today. I’m just not excited about anything today. Sigh. And a plethora of other dumpster attitudes.

Today is Friday. When I think of LDB and his PE tricks, I’m reminded of the magic to be found in each day. In THIS day. This day is another gift with the privilege of three little hearts in my house. Baby Girl dressed in pigtails and her brother’s torn jeans and plaid shirt for “farm day.” Bug all aglow with jets flying toward “vegetable soup” day with saltines in hand. And Little Drummer Boy. With the hula hoops. This day is another gift with the privilege of doing something I really enjoy. And getting paid for it. It’s a day with the privilege of choosing my steps, big and small. Of setting my own schedule from my own little office in my own blessed world. It’s another day with the opportunity to let my best self shine. To do my own bit of magic. To live according to what matters to me. For Friday is TODAY.  And at this moment, TODAY is the only day I have to live. The only day.

So, I think I’ll search down a hula hoop. And it’s magic.
Oh Happy Day!

© Haley Montgomery

Oh Happy Day: Turning Three

May 6th, 2011

I’ve been in a season of busy-ness. I feel it in every way — in my sleepiness and sleeplessness, my stretched schedule, my unkept home, my burgeoning to-do list, my perpetually delayed accomplishments. I always try to maintain gratitude for the wealth of opportunities busy-ness tends to signal and for the chance to help or serve my children in all their interests. But, I’m feeling it. There’s no question that we have a boundary line, a tipping point in the load of busy-ness that, once crossed, begins to hinder everything we do. And, it often seems those things we most enjoy (or most need) take the greatest hit.

I’ve been realizing this week just how much busy-ness robs me of a life aware. The sheer pace of activities numbs my senses toward experiencing each day, each place and each encounter fully. It numbs me to my own thinking and feelings and priorities.

Today marks the third birthday of EyeJunkie. I started it in May 2008 as an outlet–an outlet for creativity and for my centering my own thoughts about life and this world in a consistent stream. I sub-titled it “adventures in paying attention” because I found myself in this similar place. I found myself needing to curb the busy-ness of my own mind and my own schedule so that I could (as Thoreau said) live “deliberately.” So that I might re-claim a life of intention, at the mercy of my own priorities rather than at the mercies of everything else around me. I started EyeJunkie to articulate thoughts. My thoughts. The thoughts that had gotten lost in the din of activities and projects and needs surrounding me. I started EyeJunkie as a starting point. A place to begin and document an effort at paying attention to each day, and thereby elevating that day to the most important among days.

As I look at my stream of posts over the last few months, I see that what I’ve written above is true. One of the things I most enjoy (and most need) has taken a huge hit. And, I’m feeling it. It’s fitting that the anniversary of EyeJunkie’s beginnings falls on a Friday, the day I sometimes call “Oh Happy Day” and devote writing space to articulating gratitude. I am grateful for so many things in this writing experiment. Of course, I’m grateful for anyone who takes their own precious time to lay eyes on it. I’m mindful that this simple choice from a reader is an incredible compliment and gift since I’m assuming the realities of busy-ness aren’t just limited to me. I’m grateful for the experience of entering a non-traditional and growing medium. I’m thankful for the opportunity to experiment and learn in that medium. I’m thankful for the outlet it’s given me to express myself on whatever topics seem to rise to the surface at the moment. But, I think my greatest gratitude for EyeJunkie today is its ability to filter and center my thinking. That’s what I’ve sorely missed over these last few months of inconsistency.

Something about the act of articulating my thoughts into semi-coherent sentences and phrases helps to solidify them in my own mind. Somehow in the body of essays I produce for this space, I find the trends of my own heart. You would think those things would already be apparent to me, but it’s not so. Sometimes the process of understanding and recognizing my own place is so much harder from the inside out. To see it looking back at me in words and statements helps me recognize it more clearly.

Upon turning three, I’m ready for a renewed commitment to the founding theme of EyeJunkie. The adventure of paying close attention. Giving life the attention it so richly deserves. It seems to be a contradiction, but the reality of experience shows that we often have to cut back to experience more. We have to tune out to listen carefully. We have to speak more softly to be heard loud and clear. We have to look past some things to see the subtle blooming of life all around us. And, I want to see the blooms.

I want to get back to that pursuit that has brought me such gratitude and insight so far. I want to see May flowers, as the school rhyme goes. But, more pointedly, I want to see how May flowers. I want to be hard on the trail of that life aware — the one where I actually notice how each day (even each moment) blooms. Be it the sweet-scented blooms of opportunity and joy, or the bitter-sweet flowering of change or struggle, I want to breathe it in. Fully.

And I want to write about it.

[I hope you enjoy this week’s destop wallpaper (a little late). Feel free to point-click the desktop version above or grab these for your iphone or ipad.]

© Haley Montgomery

Oh Happy Day! Red #40

December 17th, 2010

It’s Friday, folks. Happy Day! For me this Friday means there are only eight more shopping days for Christmas.  Only twelve more boxes from Amazon.com to arrive (give or take a few). Only four or five more stops at Starkville gift shops to support my local economy during the shopping season. Only two more kid parties to attend. Only one more Christmas tree to trim. Only six more hours until Little Drummer Boy is out on his first “Christmas break.” Only 6,754 more times to read Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer–this year. And about 500 words or so to move myself from “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” to “Silent Night, Holy Night”.

Yep, about this time every year, somewhere in the intersection of mommyhood and Christmas craziness, I reach a saturation point of how much can be done in preparation for the “perfect” and most meaningful holiday experience. That elusive quest for perfection and profundity gets me all crazy with ideas for what I want my babies to do, receive, experience, learn, know, enjoy about Christmas. At this saturation point, I realize that ALL of the things I imagined are simply not going to get done. You would think that since Christmas comes at the same time every single year and I’ve lived with myself for about 41 years now, I would be a little better at predicting what I’m actually able to accomplish and still get sleep and avoid grumpiness. But, no. It didn’t happen this year. Again.

So, the saturation point arrived on Tuesday evening as I was looking at the colossal failure of a pan of peanut butter cookies gone awry. I needed to make them for Little Drummer Boy’s Christmas party #2. I had made one small batch with the help distraction of both Bug and Baby Girl sitting on the counter along with the eggs, peanut butter, sugar and about 17 different spice bottles they had pulled from the shelf to experiment with. I’ll admit, I was feeling the frazzle. This is the kind of thing that makes me say, “yeah, I could DECK me some halls right now.” The experience was a blast for them and somewhat harried for me. After the kids moved on to other things, I attempted to catch up on my time with the next batch. Unfortunately, I made the balls too big and put too many on the pan at one time. Something I never would have done if not for the influence of Christmas craziness. Ok, maybe I would have, but you get the idea. When the buzzer sounded, I had all the unwrapped Hershey’s kisses ready to pop into the center of each scrumptious cookie. The red, green and white sprinkles were standing ready to be tossed as the chocolate softened for just the right amount of Christmas cheer. Only, when I pulled the pan from the oven, it was one giant sheet of just-a-bit-too-dark peanut butter cookie all melded together.

I scraped the pan off right into the garbage can. Saturation point.

This week required fourteen teacher gifts, two kid-friend gifts, a dozen cupcakes for Little Drummer Boy’s party #1, two dozen or so cookies for Little Drummer Boy’s party #2, two dozen or so cookies for Bug’s party and what are we going to have for Christmas cookies at OUR house?!

I love baking things for Christmas. I have a collection of recipes I’ve made in past years to create goodie boxes for all the preschool classrooms. I’ve enjoyed the kids helping with the mixing and the stirring and the dumping of ingredients–their direction with the icing and sprinkling of adornments. After all, I don’t EVER remember my mother buying Christmas cookies or cupcakes or whatever else was required for Ho Ho eating. No, I have clear and unblemished recollections of the fun of her baking so many things. And in my recollection, Mom’s were never just-a-bit-too-brown. They were certainly never 16 peanut butter cookies shockingly melded into one giant rectangular one.  Of course, she could probably tell a different tale. My mom’s advice this year…

Just. Go. Buy. Some.

Hello, saturation point. On Wednesday morning, I noticed that Bug’s party list already included sweets, so I quickly changed my offering to chips and dip. I wandered through the bakery aisle of WalMart and located one 12-pack of the most chocolate, icing-piled-up, high-falutin bakery magic cupcakes I could find. Check. I found a 24-pack of the roundest and just the right shade of pale unblemished dough with how-in-the-world-do-they-get-that-color smoothly iced-in-red cookies available in the joint. Check. I side-tracked to the chip aisle for Doritoes and Ruffles and [shock!] store-bought French Onion and Creamy Spinach dips. Check. I even found a giant plastic pack of cookie minis with the same amazingly round and smooth texture just for us to eat. No party required. I tossed those babies in the buggy and slapped my debit card on the counter. Ho. Ho. Ho.

Christmas baking is done! This week I’m thankful for the voice of reason. For Red #40. For little plastic containers that keep the icing from getting gooey. For the preservatives and cellulose gum and carnauba wax and corn syrup solids and all those other chemistry-sounding ingredients on the package. For the chance to sit on the couch and read to bright eyes instead of rushing through the kitchen. And for the sugar cookie dough in my refrigerator and the Christmas sprinkles in the cabinet we’ll use just for the fun of it next week.

Oh Happy Day!

© Haley Montgomery

Oh Happy Day: Exuberance

December 10th, 2010

The rush of holidays at the end of the year always feels like a whirlwind for me. The way Thanksgiving and Christmas meld together in the celebration machine sometimes leaves me no time for transition. I often feel like I need a way to cap off Thanksgiving. With this year’s kicking-and-screaming approach to the 12 Days series focused on giving thanks, it was nice to reacquaint myself with gratitude for those few weeks and to take time to savor some down time with my wonderful gifts before delving into Christmas fun. It encouraged me to look again at cultivating the discipline of thanksgiving week in and week out.

That’s really how the whole Oh Happy Day thing started. I envisioned it as a way of looking at the blessings of each week and acknowledging them on Friday in the tradition of “TGIF.” Only morphed into just “thank God.” It’s a worthy endeavor and I want to revisit it more regularly in the coming months. With that, Oh Happy Day!

Last night we had a time-honored rite of Christmas celebration everywhere. The Christmas Program. Yes, Baby Girl and Bug presented their annual daycare Christmas program slash musical — where musical is not really a musical, but more like an alternating display of stage frightened toddlers and over-exuberant preschoolers. It’s the exuberant part that caught my attention. Oddly enough, this week I’m thankful for The Christmas Program.

Now, I fully realize that the most obvious gratitude-inducers with The Christmas Program would be “Thank God it’s over,” or “Thank God it didn’t last too long,” or “Thank God noone threw up on the stage.” But, as I made my way through the week of fielding questions from Bug about the event, listening to brief and very cute impromptu promos, and hearing “are you going to come and see my Christmas Program?” from him approximately 137 times, his shear exuberance started to take root. I was really looking forward to seeing the result of his hard work and excitement.

Bug had warned me several days ago that he was planning to “sing loud.” Bug does very many things loudly, and having just experienced the Thankgiving luncheon program at the daycare, I knew he was dead serious in his plan. Sure enough, The Christmas Program was NOT a silent night kind of event when his class came to the stage.

Bug was one of the sheep on the hillside. From the moment my little showman took the stage, I could see by the barely contained grin on his face that he was primed for high volume vocals. He looked through the crowd and spotted me with a big smile and his stage presence took over from there. The all-too-brief nap the sheep took prior to the angelic visit was punctuated by Bug’s own stage direction encouraging the rest of his herd to stand up for the next song. His little body was fairly itching to start the hand-motions encouraging us to witness the birth of the Christ child slash baby doll. His face shown with anticipation as his teacher paused in the story narration to queue the songs. Never have I heard a more resounding series of NOELs in response to the angel’s message of good news. It was downright earth-shattering. It’s hard to believe everyone in the Bethlehem Hilton didn’t hear it and rush out to the stable for a bleary-eyed look. The emphatic “Merry Christmas” and wave goodbye at the end showed me that Bug was entirely pleased at his performance and he beamed when I told him I completely agreed.

Thank God for exuberance. It’s so contagious. I’m very grateful for the ability of my four-year-old to maintain exuberance in the silliest of circumstances. And in the most serious of endeavors. Exuberance is engaging. Exuberance is blind to self-consciousness and indecision. It elevates the ordinary into something extraordinary. Exuberance brings pride to something achieved. It acknowledges that a thing is important. Exuberance motivates laughter and tears. It makes me look anew at simple tales and simple truths. Exuberance makes me grateful for having reasons to rejoice.

Oh Happy Day!

© Haley Montgomery

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    Thank you for seven years of encouragement and sharing this story. You can find Haley's current essays and design work at smallpondgraphics.com

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