Blessings, Parenting

A Jar, Paper and Memories: Celebrating the Passing Year

I emptied the large glass mason jar onto the table during lunch. Everyone was home (which is rare these days) and all were in or around the kitchen. It was now or never.

Colored slips of paper folded into tiny squares spilled out. My girls delivered the obligatory, “Oh mom!” sighing comment followed by a half-hearted eye roll. They’ve done this a few times before. But I was not dissuaded.

The “Good Things” jar sits on the living room shelf all year. It’s meant as a place to collect some of the good little things that fill our lives. When a moment catches my attention, I reach for paper, write it down, fold it tightly, and put it in the jar. It becomes a ‘Year in Review’ sort of exercise, but not of achievements or trips or major events. These are moments. Tiny, blink-of-an-eye, every day, moments stitch together our lives.

Like any New Year’s goal, the momentum for writing the “good things” dwindles. During January, I’m pretty steadfast; February I begin forgetting; March – December mostly documents the moments I remember when I’m dusting, notice the jar, and scratch something out quickly. (Hey, I’m being honest…!)  

Anyone is welcome to put a note in the jar. Mostly they just humor me and my crusade to commemorate the little things. That’s okay. I’ve learned teenagers rarely tell you how much they appreciate the everyday stuff, yet underneath their indifference lie tender hearts. (And by the way, we ALL have tender hearts. Everyone. It’s how God created us, whether we choose to ignore, pretend we’re above it, embrace and identify with our tenderness or not.)

“Sledding on the snow day!” one daughter reads.

“I forgot about that,” I answer.

“Trash Can Pick-up!” reads the other. We burst out laughing at the memory of one daughter towing the trash cans while the other drove down our driveway. 

Many of them are funny, like my husband’s freakish trivia knowledge displayed during a game night with friends. Or when our dog wore a post-surgery cone and tipped over everything he passed. Or the night we attempted a new yoga position only to end up on the floor laughing uncontrollably, tears sliding down our cheeks.

Some are sweet, like sharing a cup of tea, a thoughtful conversation, or a comforting hug with my girls. The elation of spending 25 years married to the same wonderful man. Some slips recalled moments in nature: the stars on a clear winter night, an unusual bird at the feeder, a brilliant sunrise over the lake.  

Listen. I’m no Pollyanna. Life dishes out fresh challenge every day to each of us. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, anxious, dissatisfied, angry, discouraged…. 

Yet the “Good Things” jar reminds me of how much wonder, love, kindness, and joy encircles me every day. I simply need to pay attention to it. Wouldn’t you rather put energy toward the good stuff, too? When added up, little moments grow into quite a pile of pleasant memories. 

It’s a little thing, yes, but in an uncertain world, focusing on gratitude feels so much better to my tender heart. My wish is it will feel just as good to yours.

5 thoughts on “A Jar, Paper and Memories: Celebrating the Passing Year”

  1. Maureen says:

    Beautiful! Thanks for reminding me we all have tender hearts. May your good things jar overflow in the new year!

    1. Katie O'Connell says:

      Thank you, Maureen! Cheers to the new year ahead.

  2. nancy simpson says:

    It is so true that the little moments in our lives are some of the best ones.

  3. Thomas Palmersheim says:

    You can’t imagine how grateful we are to be alive and part of this wonderful world. Love to all of you.

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