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Embracing Optimism

As we begin the new year, let’s count our blessings and look ahead with enthusiasm and optimism. Nearly a century ago, in 1912, Christian Larson wrote The Optimist’s Creed, as an expression of his beliefs in a positive approach to living. He pledged himself

To be so strong that nothing can disturb my peace of mind.

To talk health, happiness, and prosperity to every person I meet.

To make all my friends feel that there is something worthwhile in them.

To look at the sunny side of everything and make my optimism come true.

To think only of the best, to work only for the best and to expect only the best.

To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as I am about my own.

To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.

To wear a cheerful expression at all times and give a smile to every living creature I meet.

To give so much time to improving myself that I have no time to criticize others.

To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.

To think well of myself and to proclaim this to the world, not in loud words, but in great deeds.

To live in the faith that the whole world is on my side, so long as I am true to the best that is in me.

Being human, we cannot always live this way, yet striving to do so will enhance our lives and the lives of those around us. Let’s go for it!

PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play

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Saying Good-bye to 2010

As we approach the end of the year and of the first decade of the 21st century, let’s pause to reflect on all we’ve experienced. Certainly each of us has faced challenges galore yet found within ourselves resources to meet extraordinary demands. We’ve known love and support from family, friends, and acquaintances. Even strangers have surprised us with acts of kindness. We’ve experienced happiness, delight, and surprise.

So, before bidding farewell to 2010, and “straining our brains” to remember we’re in 2011, let’s ruminate on those events and experiences that affected us most. Write down whatever comes to mind. Invite the children to join in this exercise. You might be surprised by what you learn. The goal is to remember and celebrate that whatever happened, we’ve endured, overcome, known joy and happiness, and made a positive difference as we’ve made our way through the year.

We’ve all received holiday letters from family or friends that make us cringe. Definitely writing an engaging, even endearing, one takes talent. I delight in receiving ones that succeed at sharing the highlights of the past year as if we were sitting together chatting casually. My favorite one includes paragraphs written by each of the children. At first, throughout the year the mother would jot down highlights to jog the children’s memories. Then she’d sit down with the boys, have them decide what each wanted to share, and take dictation. Now that the boys are teenagers, they do their own remembering and sharing.

Each year-in-a-paragraph covers whatever seems most significant and brims with delight. Both boys are athletic, passionate about their sports, and of course, that leaps off the page. From “I broke no bones! That alone is enough to call it a good [year]” to “I am already looking forward to this coming year’s baseball season,” we share his relief, delight and enthusiasm. That not breaking a bone is enough to call the year good reminds us that life has not always gone as well. Yet the emphasis is on the positive. What lies ahead is relished. We could all learn from that.

PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play

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Intergenerational Crafting – Pomanders

Think Yuletide decorations from nature and handcrafted gifts to welcome the New Year, then gather family and friends, adults and children alike, around a table, sip hot cider, and make pomanders. These clove-studded fruits, dating from medieval times, came to Europe from the Middle East.

Traditionally the surface of the fruit is tightly covered in cloves, and once dry, the pomanders last for years. That said, I have seen contemporary arrangements using partially clove studded oranges and even grapefruits. These are short-lived but attractive variations on an ancient craft.

You can use apples, lemons, limes, oranges, even tangerines if the skin is smooth and thin. Select small fruit, and inspect to insure it’s intact, with no bruises or nicks. Use a sturdy toothpick, a bamboo skewer, a large embroidery needle or a thin knitting needle to punch holes in the fruit and insert a whole clove in each hole. As you go along, you can weave metallic thread among the cloves or use narrow ribbon or braid to embellish the pomander, either inserting the cloves through the ribbon or placing cloves along the edges. Tie a bow at the top or make a loop for hanging, if you like.

For best results, plan to finish what you start before moving on to something else. I speak from experience. Last year I started a lemon, divided its surface vertically into quarters with an open weave gold braid and filled in the spaces with cloves. Next I added a row of cloves between the original rows. That’s when I ran out of time and set the project aside, not realizing the fruit would begin to dry and harden immediately, making coming back later and adding more cloves out of the question. The exposed skin turned brown as the lemon dried but my first pomander remains fragrant and firm after a year.

 PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play