Category Archives: 40 Days of Joy

Unique Idea For First Christmas

Author’s Note: It’s 6/25 which means Christmas is only 6 months away, better get started on your Christmas shopping! Here’s an oldie but a goodie post that will give you some ideas to start working on. HoHoHo!





Be my rock of refuge,
to which I can always go;
give the command to save me,
for you are my rock and my fortress.

Psalm 71:3 (NIV)

I wanted to do something special and unique for Joe’s brother’s, niece’s and nephew the first Christmas after he passed.   I thought about it and just could not come up with anything and even asked God for help.  (You can go to God for help with anything from the serious to the mundane – that is why he is there.)

Well Duh!

Then one day it hit me…Joe was a movie fanatic so I did gift bags containing some of his favorite movies.  They liked the gifts a lot and it gave them a sense their brother and uncle’s personality.

“Welcome to the Rock”

They knew he liked bang-bang shoot ‘em up movies (“The Rock”), action-adventure movies (“Pirates of the Caribbean”), and science fiction movies (“Serenity”).  However, his family was unaware of his love for movies such as:

  • “Cats and Dogs” – Family Movie
  • “Miss Congeniality” – Chick Flick
  • “Shawshank Redemption” – “Drama”
  •  “The Quiet Man” with John Wayne and Maureen O’ Hara (his all-time favorite) 

Other Idea

I thought of this again tonight while out with friends, only this time I thought of different items but same idea.

A gift bag of:

  • CD’s
  • Books
  • Pictures

Also include a list of more cd and book titles enjoyed by your spouse or other loved one. This way they can purchase more once they finish reading or listening to their gift bag contents.

Still Another Idea

Make a list of favorite:

  • Poems
  • Bible Verses
  • Quotes – Inspirational or Movie Lines

You could pick out a particular quote or verse and frame it to give along with the list.  Do a different quote or verse for each recipient.

Hopefully this gives you some ideas.   If you are unable to do this for Christmas, do this for each family member’s birthday.


“Christmas is not as much about opening our presents as opening our hearts.”

Janice Maeditere

Holiday Post: The Effects of Elvis’ Resurrection

It twas’ the night before Thanksgiving when all through the house Michele was spinning like the Tazmanian Devil.

How It All Began

It started when I went to the basement looking for more artificial snow. There were several trash bags filled with various decorations.

The first bag was Halloween decorations.

The second bag was stuffed animals. I pulled out one of the animals and it was a Christmas duck Joe bought when we were first married. He thought it was cute and he knew I was a sucker for stuffed animals.

You would think I would name the duck Donald but upon looking at him I said “That’s Elvis because of his curled lip.”

"Can you curl your lip like this?"

“Can you curl your lip like this?”

Pressing either Elvis’ hand or his hat resulted in him quacking We Wish You A Merry Christmas followed by Jingle Bells and ending with Santa Claus Is Coming To Town. Both Joe and I enjoyed Elvis’ concerts until he started serenading us in the middle of the night.

Elvis has a short in him that causes him to start singing whenever he feels like it. At first we thought he would settle down but Elvis kept up the middle of the night concerts. Joe then started taking out one battery before bed and we would sleep peacefully through the night.

Gone And Forgotten

When we moved from our apartment to our house, Elvis got packed away and forgotten about until last Wednesday. I was tickled pink to find him and located 2 double A batteries. Elvis started singing again once I pressed his left hand.


All of a sudden it was as if I was injected with the spirit of the Tazmanian Devil. I tore through this house decorating for Christmas. During the next 5 hours I ran up and down the steps about 20 times bringing various decorations up from the basement. Then I climbed up and down the step stool about 20 times making sure everything was just right as I decorated the top of the corner cupboard.

Ideas for what I could do kept flashing in and out of my head faster than the speed of these twinkling lights. 


It has been 10 years since I decorated this much. Even before Joe’s passing our philosophy was “Why bother decorating? No one is going to come see us.” So the events of last Wednesday took me completely by surprise.

More Than Normal

My house is not completely decorated but there are more Christmas decorations out than normal and all because of Elvis the Christmas duck. He is sitting in the living room chair which is decorated with a throw with angels, stars, harps and reindeer my sister sent Joe and me about 18 years ago.

Elvis sleeps during the night now but he randomly quacks during the day.

Thank You, Thank You Very Much

Thank you God, Jesus, Holy Spirit and Elvis for injecting me with the energy of Taz and bringing some of the spirit of Christmas back into this house.

"Thank You for reading this blog post - You've been a fantastic audience."

“Thank You for reading this blog post – You’ve been a fantastic audience.”

Stay tuned as there will be more posts about what I did to decorate this year as well as thoughts on thriving through the holidays and more updates about the Faithful Finish Lines program.

P.S. – Your eyes are not deceiving you, it is snowing on JoyReturns.  Wordpress activates the snow machine every year for about one month.  I LOVE this type of snow.  Enjoy!

HAPPY 2014!!!!!!!!!!!


I had to tear myself away from watching the cardinals in the woods behind my house. They are so pretty against the 4 inches of snow we have received, so far.  By tomorrow morning Rommie and I could see another 4 inches.  

This post marks the end of the 2013 edition of “40 Days of Joy.” Hopefully you found some joy and/or encouragement here during the past 40 days.

Publishing Schedule

As of January 7th, I will return to publishing an original post weekly.  This Saturday will mark the return of “Weekend Wisdom.” For those of you new here, “Weekend Wisdom” consists of quotes, poems, or scripture to help lift up your spirit.

One Goal

I have one goal for 2014 involving JoyReturns and that is to improve the quality of my writing. There are other items I want to implement but those will take a backseat for now.


Thank you to the following people who contributed quotes or recipes for this series:

Lisa Ryan, Jennifer Chernisky, Katherine Miracle, Jeff Nischwitz, J.T. O’Donnell, Ann Marie (Amy) Kocias, and Sharon Reuder.

Our friendship is precious to me.

A Wish For My Readers

May God bless you with health, wealth and joy in 2014. 

May you be surrounded by people who support, encourage and help you achieve your dreams in 2014 and beyond.


May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

2nd Corinthians 13:14 (NIV)

It Is Still NOT Just Another New Year’s Eve (2013 Edition)


“It’s just another New Year’s Eve, 
Another night like all the rest.”

New Years Eve – 2008 was not like all the rest and yes it was the worst I had experienced.  I did manage to get through it but it was tough.

Normally Joe and I would have a glass or two of champagne at midnight, drinking out of monogrammed glasses I bought for our first Christmas.

Not this year.

There would be no popping the cork outside on the deck, no clinking the glasses, wishing each other a Happy New Year, and no kiss.

I felt so lonely and there was no joy in the house that night.

Dick Clark and I are usually together on New Year’s Eve.  It was even tradition for Joe and I to watch him.  However, there was no Dick Clark in 2008 as Rommie and I were in bed by 10 p.m.


 “It’s just another New Year’s Eve, 
Let’s make it the best.”

It still is not just another New Year’s Eve and never will be again.  Because tonight is another reminder that the world is made for couples and I am no longer part of a couple.  Thank God this night only comes once a year.  That fact brings me great joy.

However, Rommie and I will enjoy tonight and then be in bed by 10 p.m.


If you are grieving the loss of a spouse this year, hang in there.

You will get through it.

Go to bed early if you want. I know it is painful but you have made it this far, it is just a couple more days till January 2nd when the world will be back to normal.  Then you can breathe a sigh of relief that the holidays are over.

Remember, just as the song says:

“But when we’re through this New Year 
You’ll see, WE’LL be just fine.”

You and I will be just fine.  Let that fact bring you joy tonight and tomorrow.

“It’s Just Another New Year’s Eve”

Don’t look so sad, it’s not so bad you know.
It’s just another night, that’s all it is,
It’s not the first, it’s not the worst you know,
We’ve come through all the rest, we’ll get through this.

We’ve made mistakes, but we’ve made good friends too.
Remember all the nights we spent with them?
And all our plans, who says they can’t come true?
Tonight’s another chance to start again.

It’s just another New Year’s Eve,
Another night like all the rest.
It’s just another New Year’s Eve,
Let’s make it the best.
It’s just another New Year’s Eve,
It’s just another Auld Lang Syne,
But when we’re through this New Year
You’ll see, WE’LL be just fine.

We’re not alone, we’ve got the world you know.
And it won’t let us down, just wait and see.
And we’ll grow old, but think how wise we’ll grow.
There’s more you know, it’s only New Year’s Eve.


Barry Manilow/Marty Panzer

Weekly Photo Challenge: JOY

Today I am taking part in the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge.  Every Friday a new theme is revealed and bloggers are encouraged to post a photograph whether or not they have a photography blog. How could I not participate when this weeks theme is “Joy.”

This picture of Rommie making a snow angel was taken a few weeks ago. It is by far the best snow angel picture I have taken over the years.  Rolling around not only brings her joy but brings joy to my heart as well. Whenever I see her making snow angels, (or practicing her technique in the spring, summer or fall), I stop what I am doing and just watch her. Doing so brings back joyful childhood memories.

Those were the carefree days, my friend.


How Michele Makes Nacho’s

It was difficult transitioning from cooking for 2 to cooking for 1 after Joe passed. One of the easy dishes I discovered was Nacho’s.

In order to make cheese nacho’s put some tortilla chips on a plate, top with as much Mexican cheese as you like and then nuke until the cheese melts. Voila – Cheese Nachos!

You can then top with salsa and/or sour cream.


Then one day after cooking chicken in my crock-pot, it dawned on me all I had to do was put shredded chicken on the chips, top with cheese and nuke until the cheese melted and Voila – Chicken Nacho’s!

Yes, these are not the fancy nacho’s you find a restaurants but they are easy and quick – except for the crock-pot part.


Check back between 7-8 p.m. Eastern and I will show you today’s version of chicken nacho’s. The chicken is cooking in crock-pot.

Chicken Nacho's B.C. (Before Cheese)

Chicken Nacho’s B.C. (Before Cheese)

Chicken Nacho's after cheese, taco sauce and sour cream

Chicken Nacho’s after cheese, taco sauce and sour cream

5 napkins later - All Gone!

5 napkins later – All Gone!

Rommie got chicken nacho’s too.  I dropped a couple chips on the floor and then put some chicken in her food dish.  Needless to say she scarfed the chips and chicken down and is now one happy dog.

Britain’s Got Talent: Attraction

I stumbled upon this video on YouTube a couple weeks ago, entitled “Simon Cowell cry – Attraction Semi -Final.” Well, any video claiming to show Simon crying is worth a look.

I was speechless after watching Attraction and understand why they brought the house down.  By the way, Simon was not the only one reduced to tears. So get the Kleenex ready.

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