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Stuffing the Good News Jar

Have you heard of a Good News Jar? On January 1st you place a jar, a pad of paper, and a pen in a spot that the whole family can access. Each time something good happens to someone over the course of the year, that person scribbles a note and sticks it in the jar. On New Year’s Eve, the family gathers and reads the notes one by one, reliving and celebrating the year’s highlights.

I can’t remember where I stumbled across the idea. But I tend towards the glass-half-empty perspective—cough cough clinical depression—so having a tangible reminder that things don’t really suck, well, it seemed smart.

This time last year the jar took pride of place on a bookshelf at the confluence of our bedrooms, the bathroom, and the kitchen. You couldn’t walk past without noticing the multi-colored scraps of paper, in three different handwritings, marking various milestones. I smiled whenever it caught my eye. And sure enough, New Year’s Eve 2014 was filled with happy memories.

For the last twelve months the jar has claimed the same spot, but sometime in the spring it stopped catching our eyes. Detritus from other parts of our lives crowded in front of it—an overdue library book here, a growing pile of snatched-from-the-kittens miscellany there. Around that time, I fell into a funk from which I haven’t fully emerged (I’m working on it). Even my husband, who throughout 2013 had diligently noted the good times, stopped participating.*

With New Year’s Eve 2015 looming, I pulled the jar back into the spotlight and looked inside. Six scraps of good news lurked at the bottom. Six notes to represent an entire year.

I may be depressed, but I know we’ve had more than six good times in 2014. I called my son into the room, and together we examined the meager collection. Armed with paper and pens, we got to work beefing it up. He’s only eight, so I didn’t set his bar too high: Before I let him resume Minecrafting, he had to record three "Good News" items. Luckily, when you’re eight thinking of good stuff isn’t too hard.

1. Adopted really cute kittens

2. Hosted a slumber party

3. Got two Minecraft Lego sets

Done.

My notes took a little longer to write. I scrolled through my calendar to jog my memory, and came up with nine noteworthy happenings. Three in particular stand out for me:

· For the first time ever, we took legitimate vacations this year, including our first plane trip as a family.

· I broke into a couple of new publications with my writing.

· Both my marriage and my blog clocked tenth anniversaries.

Thinking about those events, even as I struggled to see them through my fog of melancholy, helped me to recognize 2014 for what it really was: A pretty good year. Better than most, in fact.

What New Year’s ritual does your family follow?

* Clarification: After I suggested he write some "Good News" in time for NYE, my husband texted, “I've maintained a Word doc with entries, but I'll need to write them down tonight or tomorrow.” Guess he’s not depressed.

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