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What Brings You Joy?

“From the mountains, to the prairies, to the oceans, white with foam;

God Bless America, my home, sweet, home.”

Autumn has always been my most favorite time of the year. I look forward to putting out my Fall decorations, and it is so exciting when grocery stores display their bins of gourds and pumpkins for purchase. Sweaters and boots replace sandals and sundresses, and each Sunday I make a large batch of homemade soup, a new variety each week. Thanksgiving is also a very special occasion, and I enjoy spending the days before the holiday in the kitchen baking pies, and getting up early on Thanksgiving morning to make stuffing and put the turkey in the oven. My daughter has been a great help over the years, and I think she is ready to continue the tradition of mixing ancestral recipes with newer (healthier) concoctions for future generations.

Material aspects aside, one of the most valuable practices during this time of year is reflecting on and being grateful for what really matters most to us. Priorities certainly change as we age, and while family and friends likely top most of our lists, the things that bring me joy – put a smile on my face – today, did not necessarily carry the same emotional weight in my younger years. I share with you my current top 10 joy-making, peace-infusing catalysts.

10. The Mountains: The first, most striking impression when we were stationed in Twenty-Nine Palms, California in the early 1990s were the majestic mountains. Over 30 years later, I am still in awe of their beauty.

9. The Ocean: As a young child, my family visited relatives on the East Coast, and my fondest memories were from beach visits to Wildwood NJ. The Pacific coastline, by far, offers some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.

8. San Diego Weather: I’m originally from Wisconsin, where we would experience months of sub-zero temperatures. We are living in Heaven on Earth.

7. Flowers: I spent this past weekend weeding and replacing summer flowers with pansies and cyclamen. There is nothing better than digging in the dirt!

6. Music: Playing the piano and singing have always played an important role in my story. Today, music evokes fond memories from the past, makes scripture meaningful, and provides me with an outlet for expression and solitude.

5. Careers: I am most grateful that I was called to be a teacher and a principal – a more meaningful and fulfilling profession I cannot imagine. I hope that my contributions have made a difference among students, teachers, and parents, and that my interactions provided some support and direction. Equally, I am grateful that my husband was called to serve in the United States Armed Forces as a Marine. To all the Veterans in our school community, thank you for your service.

4. Country: While it may seem that the United States is experiencing some monumental issues at present, we still live in the greatest county in the world. Our forefathers certainly worked through many extreme differences of opinion, and as our borders expanded, tensions were palpable. We must be grateful for our American citizenship, knowing the struggles we experience today are no more insurmountable than in previous generations, and that through disagreements we become stronger.

3. Friends: My husband and I had lunch with an old friend on Friday. It has been a while since we had connected, and it was wonderful to catch up. It is important to keep in touch with people who have played a significant role in our lives, because one day we may not have that opportunity. We happened to dine at a Chinese restaurant, and my fortune cookie could not have been more fitting: “Some people come into our lives and quickly go some stay for a while and leave footprints on our hearts. And we are never, ever the same.” 

2. Family: Our families know us better than anyone, and it is with our families that we probably experience the greatest joy and the greatest grief. But, at the end of the day, our families connect us with our heritage, and those ties are extremely strong. Through thick and thin, our families truly are one of our greatest blessings.

1. Faith: Faith is a gift from God, and while everyone is extended this great gift, not everyone accepts it in the same way. Faith is also a struggle, but we grow in our faith, if we choose, over our lifetime. Whether we are on top of the world, or the world is crumbling around us, it is faith that will sustain us and give us peace. 

On Thanksgiving, it is common for families to share the things for which they are thankful at the dining room table before the meal. This year, perhaps ask each family member to put their thoughts on paper ahead of time, describe each item, and explain why it is meaningful. We can also extend this practice into the Advent Season, and into the New Year. A Season of Thanksgiving need not only be confined to the Season of Autumn.

On behalf of the faculty and staff at St. Michael’s School, I wish each of you a blessed, joyous, and peace-filled holiday.

In Mission,



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