HappyHolidaysChallenge December 01 2014 4 Comments

Our Happy Holidays Challenge - What Makes You Smile This Season?

There is a lot of hustle and bustle scheduled for December.  From gearing up for the holiday rush and wrapping up the end of this year, I get a tad lost on my own 'daily focus' list.  I know I am hardly alone in solving this priority puzzle. But, what can be done to give each of us a meaningful moment of "me time" each day?

I came up with this idea, last year, while running from store-to-store while Black Friday shopping.  While finding gifts I think will make my loved ones smile makes me smile, I realized I got as much, if not more, happiness from the moments that were happening around me.  So, I stopped looking at that t-shirt as a well-priced gift and took a second to laugh at the funny saying; I stopped stressing that traffic was moving too slow and took a second to laugh at my mom who sings Taylor Swift off-key in the passenger seat (for the record, I cringed at both the traffic and the singing); and I stopped checking my "to do" list and took time to visit longer with friends-turned-family.

I plan to make time, each day, for those moments and hope you'll join me on my quest for happiness.


Day #1: December 1, 2015

Thank you all for joining our #HappyHolidaysChallenge!  That along brings me great joy!  Today's merry moment is watching "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" on TV!

Day #2: December 2, 2015

My godmother Ollie is old fashioned and loves sending letters in the mail.  I received a beautiful note from her today, making it a wonderful day!

Day #3: December 3, 2015 

Today is about the little things that make us smile - I laughed my way through the greeting card section at Target and sang in the car.  How about you?

Day #4: December 4, 2015 

After 9 months of classes, I graduated from the Rutgers University Business School 'Entrepreneur Pioneer Institute'!  I am excited to implement all my plans for JWalking Designs and cannot wait to hear suggestions from all of you!



Day #1: December 1, 2014

What is making me happy on this first day of our #HappyHolidaysChallenge?  It is hearing about the amazing moments you have taken time to make!  From precious puppy pictures and pixie-dusted family portraits from the most magical place on Earth, to reaching fitness milestones in unseasonably temperate winter weather, you've made my December 1st a great one.

I wanted to share a smile-inducing moment from my day - I don't usually pay attention to commercials on TV, but, each holiday season, one grabs my attention.  It is one from, I believe the US Post Office, where a child is singing the Woody Guthrie song, "Mail Myself to You".  The song is one of my mom's favorites - so much so that about 10 years ago, she gave me a Christmas ornament on which she recorded herself singing, "I'm gonna wrap myself in paper; I'm gonna daub myself with glue.  Stick some stamps on top of my head; I'm gonna mail myself to you."

Hearing the commercial made me smile.


Day #2: December 2, 2014

I woke up this morning hopeful that day two of our #HappyHolidaysChallenge would be as inspiring and smile-inducing as was day one.  And I am thrilled that every time I look at our social media sites and blog, I find more and more moments being shared!  I love that I am getting to know you through your posts - learning that I'm not the only one who enjoys both rocking out in the car and feasting on homemade turkey noodle soup; to being a person who signs up for a road race more for the camaraderie than the challenge of the course. 

I look very forward to celebrating each and every day with you!


Day #3: December 3, 2014

It's #HappyHolidaysChallenge Day 3 and I am so excited that we have new friends joining our merry band of moment-takers!!!  You are making my day bright!!

I don't know about you, but I'm finding more than a few 'because I'm happy' occurrences each day - they may have been there all along, but maybe I've not taken the time to notice them.  Today, I spent my train commute cleaning out photos on my camera and literally watched my niece, Athena, grow from 7 months to 7 years.  I saw near-forgotten funny moments from jobs, graduate school and world travels.  Besides reminding of how rich my life is, it's also reminding me to clean out my camera more often!!

In between the photo purge, I took time to take a new one.  After 6 months of scheduling snafus, my look-a-like cousin, Missy, and I finally made it to dinner.  The only thing more amazing than the braised short rib was the time spent catching up.

Have a wonderful night and I look forward to sharing in more smiles tomorrow.


Day #4: December 4, 2014

There is much to be happy about today - and your posts are definitely at the top! Not every day is going to be the best, but I am thrilled there is comfort and support to be found in sharing. In four days, this is already more than I could have imagined - thank you!

My day started with an early flight to Memphis with great friends for Saturday's St. Jude's Half Marathon, a charity we greatly admire. My 70-year-old dad flew from Boston to meet us, and we spent dinner with new friends, with whom I met at the finish line Mobile, AL Half Marathon this past January. Our photo may be dark, but our smiles were bright as tonight reminded me that a simple "hello" can bring great reward.

Have a wonderful Friday!





Day #5: December 5, 2014

TGIF, Happy Folk! Hope you've enjoyed your workweek and are gearing up for a great weekend of family, friends and festivities!

Today, I had the honor of taking part in my friend Laura's bucket list item - going to Elvis Presley's Graceland.  Laura has the happiest of memories learning about and listening to The King with her Nana, who passed years before.  Touring Graceland - every nook, cranny and shag carpet - made her happy, and made us happy too!

And, we learned Elvis made others happy with his generosity - giving to many, including St, Jude Children's Research Hospital, who we'll be racing for tomorrow!


Day #6: December 6, 2014

"If you ain't givin' back, you ain't livin' life" - that's what the hotel shuttle driver said to us today, upon seeing our medals from finishing the St. Jude Half Marathon.  The race day - which included a 5K, Half Marathon and Full Marathon distance - raised $800,000 for the children's research hospital that is run solely by charitable donations.  

Today was my 49th Half Marathon, since I started racing in 2006, and it was one of my favorites.  From the start, where a teenage cancer survivor sang the national anthem, to the St. Jude children and family cheering on the sidelines, and the lawn signs that introduced us to Jake, a smiling toddler who lost his battle, but whose family wanted us to know they appreciate the support - every step was a worthwhile one.

For 13.1 miles, before and after, I did something I haven't done in a while - I stopped looking down at my pace watch and looked up at the day, taking everything in.  I lived in the moment.  I high-fived every spectator I saw; hugged a woman who held a sign reading, "Because you're a runner, I'm a survivor"; and took photos with everyone from a panda and a family dressed in banana and monkey costumes, to an Elf who was filling water cups at a fluid station.  There may also have been a dance number or two when a cheer stop played a three-play of "Greased Lightning", "YMCA" and "Apache / Jump On It"...  

We may have given back to St. Jude today, but today, St. Jude gave back so much to us.


Day #7: December 7, 2014

Happy Sunday, merrymakers and moment takers! Hope everyone's weekend was wonderful!  My #HappyHolidaysChallenge moment of today revolves around reflection - remembering those who served, some of whom gave their life for our country, at Pearl Harbor. 

It is also a day of personal reflection - thinking of how much my life has changed from this date, both 12 years and 8 years ago.  And, with looking back comes the excitement of looking forward at all life has to offer.

Thank you for being part of my journey.  


Day #8: December 8, 2014

Week 2 of our #HappyHolidaysChallenge begins and the sharing continues! I look so forward to your posts, which are helping me get into the holiday spirit!

Today, my merry moments surround the calendar I create as a year-end gift for my wacky band of marathon friends. I take photos throughout the entire year - from races, trips and general goings-on - and really enjoy crafting them into a cohesive story. I don't remember why and when I began this yearly gift, but I am quite glad I did.

In just organizing the photos, I found wonderful memories - smiles and laughter - with people who, just a few years ago, were strangers, and quickly became family. A quote I found summed it up perfectly:

“When destiny forgets to tie some people in blood relations, it corrects its mistake by making them true friends.”

Have a wonderful night!


Day #9: December 9, 2014

It's #HappyHolidaysChallenge Day 9 and things are just divine!  I apparently am in a rhyming mood :)

My moment came in the form of laundry today when, out of the basket of just cleaned clothing, I grabbed two socks.  Yes, the socks did not match, but they delivered a message I knew I needed hear.  

They also reminded me of my amazing sister-in-law, who bought me a pair of both "I Am Strong" and "I Am Blessed" socks for Christmas, last year, and who would appreciate that I wore mismatched socks :)





Day #10: December 10, 2014

Happy Wednesday, moment makers! I'm thrilled to see new members of our group posting - welcome!

Tonight, I had the pleasure of attending a holiday event, held by a Women Entrepreneurs' group to which I belong called Savor the Success. There were as many laughs heard as there were lessons learned. It was refreshing to meet women business owners who not only support each other, but who have gone, or are going through the same challenges I face each day.

The Savor message is really similar to ours here - finding something to savor in our lives each day, and making the time to savor it. Pretty cool, eh?



Day #11: December 11, 2014

Happy Thursday!!  I love all the sharing and caring - it is just plain awesome!!

My merry moments tonight came in the form of my youngest nieces, 3-year-old Maggie and nearly 10-month-old Emma.  They, along with my beautiful and kind older nieces and nephews, are the source for many a merry moment. 

Maggie-Pie and Emma-Dimples had been told there would be a 'surprise' waiting for them at home when school was over.  When they saw the surprise was 'Auntie', they lit up like Christmas trees; their smiles lighting up the night :)

We read stories, ate noodles (my traditional dinner offering), and played "This Little Piggie" until it was bedtime.  

In the past, I haven't had, or always taken, the time to make these memories.  I am making a point not to miss out these moments anymore. 


Day #12: December 12, 2014

Happy Friday!! Hope you had a wonderful workweek and are gearing up for an even more wonderful weekend!

My happiness moments are brought to you by the letter "F" - food, folks and friends!  I had the chance to have lunch with my dear friend, Gail, and dinner with Willy and Chris, who are a comedy act just missing a stage and microphone.

The day reminded me what this #HappyHolidaysChallenge is all about - making time to laugh.  


Day #13: December 13, 2014

Happy Saturday!!  It's definitely chilly in the northeast, but the sun is shining bright - happiness moment #1!

I wanted to share my moments early, because most of my Saturdays start as such. As a longtime volunteer marathon coach for Team In Training, the endurance arm of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, I have the honor of training with an amazing gang of warriors fighting to fund and find a cure for cancer.  

Today, I strode alongside Anne Bertasso, a retired cancer researcher who has lost too many family members and friends to this blasted disease.  Anne is putting her heart, soul and soles towards the Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge - a two-day, 39.3 mile January journey at Walt Disney World Marathon weekend.  She runs in memory of those who lost their battles because, as one once told her, "As long as you are remembered in life, you never truly die."

Thank you, Anne, for all you do. http://www.cancermiles.com/anne


Day #14: December 14, 2014

Hope everyone had a wonderful Sunday Funday! I am truly loving the holiday spirit being built here - it is an amazing gift for which I cannot thank you enough.

Today was Cookie Day - a tradition I've had the pleasure of being part of for the past dozen or so years. This year, however, was different because, this past May, we suddenly lost our Cookie Day leader and beloved family member.

Not wanting to lose the tradition that has been so much fun, Cookie Day was put on the calendar - with a modification or two. Instead of baking today - smashing bags of walnuts and pecans with a hammer is my specialty - we had a Cookie Exchange, and new friends were invited to share in the sweets.

The desserts were only outnumbered by the smiles, and I think we did our loved one proud.













Day #15: December 15, 2014

I can't believe it is December 15th already! Time is flying by so fast, and I am so grateful that we are still taking the time to celebrate the little moments. I hope to do this throughout 2015 - who's with me?!

Tonight, for the first time in too long, I got a real Christmas tree!! For the past 7 years, having a tree - real or artificial - has been hit or miss. 

For most of my pre-JWalking Designs' professional life, I have traveled so extensively for work that I'd find myself finally home a day or two before Christmas Eve. At that point, a tree just became another project to tackle, so no matter how much I love hanging my ornaments and putting out my nativity, given to me by a dear friend who we lost too suddenly, I couldn't get it done.

But, not this year! I am happy to report that the smell of pine permeates my home. It may take me a day or two to actually do more than admire the smell and endlessly spin the tree to find its 'best side', but I'm on my way :)





Day #16: December 16, 2014

I was about to write "Happy Hump Day", then realized it's Tuesday... Either Tuesday needs a catchy name or I need a calendar (maybe both!) Regardless, Happy December 16th!

Thank you all for continuing to share! Hope that Sharyn's day in court, and Frances day at with the doctors, went extremely well, as did all of yours.

Today, I am happy that I have wonderful friends, both new and old, who make my life rich. Over dinner - with my now-tested and tasty pumpkin soup - I got to watch great people in my life laugh and get to know each other. That makes me smile. 











Day #17
: December 17, 2014

Happy Wednesday! I cannot believe we are 8 days from Christmas - trying not to panic about what still needs to get done and enjoy the moments that make up the days.

Tonight is a work still in-progress - my goal is to get the tree decorated. After not finding the box of white lights I swear I had packed away, I decided that red lights look lovely - and represent my beloved Boston Red Sox (positive spin!).

Then, I moved on to unpacking ornaments - this is what will take the longest tonight as each has a story. From the ones I search for on each trip I take, including my newest from the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital marathon, and the Boston Strong ornament to remember The Boston Marathon tragedy which forever changed my life, to a fluffy white angel my grandmother made in the last years of her life - each has a memory attached.

Have a great night. Look forward to showing off the final product tomorrow!


Day #18: December 18, 2014

It's a week before Christmas and strewn on my table,
Are presents unwrapped and Seinfeld on cable.
With cards left to make;
And pies still to bake;
I'm hoping to finish by New Years, if able!

My mom is always quick with the rhymes, and I'm not 100% sure my poem above will be up to par... But hoping it will make her smile if she reads it.

You see, my mom left me a rather stressed-out voicemail today. As a former teacher, she is now a private tutor, and today, she received very thoughtful, beautiful gifts from the family of one of her students. Amid her appreciation, she said she felt overwhelmed by their generosity - hoping she gave them enough in return.

"You're the bright side person", she said. "Where's my '#HappyHolidays moment in this?"

When I reached her later today, I said my feeling was that she gave so much throughout the year - her effort, her expertise and caring - that this was their way of showing their gratitude.

Sometimes it's not always what you give to others, in a material sense, on a specific day, but it's what you do every day that makes a difference.


Day #19: December 19, 2014 

Hope everyone is enjoying the last work week before Christmas.  Holiday time is certainly a hectic time, but I am happy we are all taking time to be happy!  

Today's merry moments came in the form of 'puppy play dates'.  Roxie, the dog, had time with two of her favorite puppy pals - Hudson and Milo.  I can't tell you how much I have to do - between work, shopping, baking and general life stuff - but I couldn't help but smile as the dogs ran around like crazy, with their ears flapping in exuberance.  

Having a dog has introduced to me many of my neighbors - few of whom I knew before Roxie arrived on the scene.  It's a nice gift.


Day #20: December 20, 2014

Twenty days into our #HappyHolidaysChallenge and the merriment continues to mount. Might I say, this is pretty cool!

Today, I did something that made me happy and, hopefully, made a random stranger happy, as well. While running never-ending errands, I stopped to pick up a gift for a beloved Aunt and Uncle pair who love the sandwich chain Subway.

While buying their gift card, the cashier told me that, with this purchase, I get a free 6" sub... a sub that needs to be bought right then. Instead of placing an order for myself, I think I surprised the cashier by pointing to the girl behind me who was just starting to build her sandwich - and told the cashier to use the coupon for her food.

I reiterated my wish to the cashier, and left before the girl reached the register. I hope it made this girl's day to have her lunch for free, and the cashier's day for delivering happy news - it made mine to do something for others.

Day #21: December 21, 2014

Today, I had the chance to be part of someone's "first". After 15 years in the United States from Cuba, Jose went to his first NFL football game! He not only saw his favorite team, the New England Patriots, play, he saw them win!  As a Boston native, I am a proud Pats' fan myself - a fact that is not lost on many of my New York Jets' fan friends. And no matter the team rivalry, everyone was welcoming and warm (in heart, not speaking of the cold temps). It made the day fun, and gave Jose a story to share with his son.

Day #22: December 22, 2014


















Day #23: December 23, 2014

Author and management maven, Stephen Covey, says that it takes 21 days to form a habit. So, at Day 23 of our #HappyHolidaysChallenge, we have surpassed my expectations! Thank you so much for being a source of happiness for me!

Today has been quite busy - guessing I am not alone in this whirlwind of activity! In the midst of running around, I met one of the owners of a personal training/gym facility called No Body Denied. She, like me, was knee-deep in holiday hectic mode, but we both took the time to do more than exchange pleasantries.

We were total strangers until that moment, but we had no problem sharing our hopes, plans and frustrations. We left with the understanding that we were not alone.


Day #24: December 24, 2014

May you have the most joyous of days - whether you celebrate Christmas or not. Merry All to All!

My happiness moments were many today, as I spent Christmas Eve with family and friends-turned-family - laughing, eating and singing off-key to every song my 3-year-old niece learned in school. My niece also cast me in her dance show, which consisted of me spinning her around for song after song. We'd bow, I'd try to not fall over from dizziness and we'd start again. It's nearly impossible not to be happy when a 3-year-old's laughter fills the house.

Day #25: December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!!

Day #26: December 26, 2014

It's our final Friday of 2014 and hope you relished every merry moment!

Yesterday, we celebrated a wonderful Christmas holiday with wonderful family - both old and new. My youngest nieces continue to amaze me with their wit and wisdom; energy and exuberance. I have to say that the words, "C'mon Auntie!", are among my favorite phrases I'll ever hear.

Today, I spent with time with my equally amazing older nephews and nieces, who have grown to be unbelievably cool people in the world. I snapped a #selfie with my nephew Shawn, who is a senior in high school. Smiling alongside him, I had to wonder just where the time has gone.

I always say that if being "Auntie" was a job that paid the mortgage, I'd do it full-time. The most amazing part of it all is that not one of my 9 nieces and nephews and I are related by blood - just bonded by love.


Day #27: December 27, 2014

I can't believe that January is fast approaching and our 31-day #HappyHolidaysChallenge is nearing its end.  I'm going to miss this immensely.

I am thinking of issuing a new challenge for the new year - and I'd like to ask our merry gang for suggestions.  It does not have to be for every day, or for a set time, but I'd love to hear your thoughts!


Day #28: December 28, 2014

Happy Sunday! Hope the final workweek of the year begins well!

I had a great weekend - getting in miles with my Team In Training Marathon TEAMmates and visiting family; food and fun with friends; a quick visit with my nieces; a much needed haircut (!); and watching Roxie, the dog, enjoy her new dog toys.

Last night, she was so overwhelmed by her gifts from Santa that she skidded back and forth between a neon green squeaking bone and a pink pig with true excitement. Her greatest joy was to dismantle the pink pig into tiny pink pieces - for the record, it was not as joyful for the pig.

What I've loved about this challenge - and what excites me about our challenge for 2015 - is that it has really forced me to take a second to enjoy the joy. Instead of being frustrated by finding pink pig pieces scattered throughout the upstairs, I stopped to laugh at the happiness it brought Roxie.


Day #29: December 29, 2014

Merry Monday - the last of this year! I am very excited to soon start our new challenge, which we'll talk about tomorrow... How's that for a tease?!

Something you may not know about me, but... creating and running JWalking Designs is not my only career. I also produce television documentaries, a field in which I've worked for nearly two decades.

Today, I began a new project - an hour-long program that is slated to air this spring. It took me a few minutes to get back into the rigors of the commute, but once I starting digging into my story, I felt right at home.

After years of being a staff long form/documentary producer on the network level, I began freelancing in the summer of 2013 - actually the same day I launched the JWalking Designs website! Freelancing - working on a project-by-project basis - gives me the freedom to work in both worlds, which I greatly appreciate. It is also giving me the time I never-before had (or took) to be more present with my family and friends.

Day #30: December 30, 2014

Are you ready for our 2015 Challenge?  I know I am!  

In 2015, we are instituting the #MakeItCount Challenge - inspired by the words of one of our JWalkers, Khanh, and the life of a friend's young husband, who lost his battle with cancer the week of Christmas.  In his all-too-short 37 years, Dan made his mark on the world.  At their home tonight, his aunt said he made his time count, and inspired others to do the same.

In our #HappyHolidaysChallenge post last week, Khanh said she resolved to challenge herself, and step outside her comfort zone in 2015.  “To live with no regrets”, she said, “If you inspire others, it’s all worth it.”

So, let’s make this year count – try something new, expand our boundaries, demand more out of life and ourselves.  #MakeItCount 


Day #31: December 31, 2014

Happiness is... celebrating the New Year with all of you!  Here's to 2015!