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Top 10 Things That Brought me Joy in 2023

Jody's Top 10 Things for 2023

I am not a New Year’s resolution kind of person. I do, however, spend time reflecting on the past year and setting goals for the upcoming year in all aspects of my life. In fact, I dedicate one weekend in early December for an annual personal planning session with myself, secluded at my dad’s lake house alone in Indiana. I have been doing this for a few years now, and it always brings me joy. I celebrate what I did well and reflect on what may not have gone as planned, and I decide on my areas of focus for the next year. For those new widows out there, I did not start doing as deep a dive as I do now until many years after Steve died.  

For my community, I wanted to wrap up this year on a positive note with a laid-back, David Letterman-esque countdown of the top 10 things that made me smile, nourished my soul, improved my health and made my life easier in 2023. From exploring functional medicine to organizing my digital photos and re-energizing my productivity, it’s been a year full of unexpected discoveries. So, grab a beverage of your choice and let’s reminisce about the simple joys that made this year one for the books. Here's to a laid-back and laugh-filled year-end review!

Top 10 Things That Brought Me Joy in 2023…

#10 My Local Library 

I don’t know why it took me this long to rediscover my local library. When my daughters were younger we were always at the library, but then Amazon came along and it was so easy to just order books and have them arrive the next day. The past couple of years I have prioritized reading. I love to read, but with raising small children and then the death of my husband, I was just too tired to read. I still get the immediate gratification of requesting a book that I would like via their app. I may have to wait a month to have a popular book come in, but that is okay by me. Additionally, my library offers free classes. I have taken a cooking class and an astrology class. So fun! For those of you who have not yet discovered Goodreads, I highly recommend it. You can connect with your friends to see what they are reading, see recommendations and reviews and keep a running list of books that you want to read. If someone suggests a book to me, I immediately put it in my Goodreads so I don’t forget. For those of you who want to give it a try, here is a YouTube tutorial on how to get started.  

#9 Pickleball

I have jumped on the pickleball bandwagon. It is great exercise, it’s fun and you can play without a partner. I was first introduced to the game by taking a lesson at my local park district. It only requires a paddle which is like a large ping pong paddle, and I purchased one on Amazon inexpensively. After my first lesson, I decided to join a league. You do need a partner to be in a league, so I just announced in class that I was looking for a partner, and that is how I met a new friend. I am still learning, but having fun and getting exercise. As a widow, finding a new hobby or activity introduces you to new people. I encourage all widows to try something new. You never know what connections you might make.  

#8 Cooking for One

This is challenging. I became an empty nester this fall. Shopping and healthy cooking for one take time to adjust to. For me, it also sucks to sit down to a table by myself to eat, so ‘fast and easy’ has been important to me now. I started following some people on Instagram for new recipe ideas, and I am a big fan of meal prepping for the week so I have a few lunches and dinners ready to go. Here are some the the IG accounts that I follow for recipe ideas:  

To make food prep easier, this vegetable chopper has been a game changer for me.  

#7 Digital Photo Organizing

I have 49K digital photos. I love to take pictures, and I used to make photo scrapbooks. Since Steve died, I have not picked up scrapbooking again but would like to one day. However, I have such a hard time finding photos, and I am an organizing junkie in general. My current method is to try to remember approximately when I took a photo and then go to that year and month to find it. It takes forever. I attempted to find some online digital photo organizing courses and had a tough time finding one that would work for me. I ended up hiring a digital photo organizing coach. Who would have known that there is a person that does that? She of course will do the whole thing for you, but I wanted to do it myself. I enjoy going through my photos. She is helping me with strategies and methodologies on how to organize what I have. This is not a quick process for me since I have so many photos, but one that I can do in front of the TV at night or on my phone if I am waiting for an appointment. I also have printed photos and videos that are not in iPhoto that I will tackle next. I am working with professional digital photo organizer extraordinaire Lida at Znimka Creations. Here is a video where she shares how she helped to transform a client's photo collection to get you inspired to perhaps tackle yours. Maybe next year, I will share my transformation. 😀

#6 Volunteering

I am very careful how and where I volunteer my time. It is important to me that the organizations that I serve are aligned with my core values. Two that I am actively involved in are the Legacy Guild and the Sheilah A. Doyle Foundation. The Legacy Guild supports children in my area who have lost a parent. They have recently expanded to also support the surviving parent through a bereavement group. Creating and leading this group has been incredibly rewarding. It is a joy for me to see the value that the widows receive and the connections that they make. Sheilah A. Doyle Foundation supports children that have been victims of homicide, which we experienced when Steve died. Losing a parent in this way is unique and not one that people that have not directly experienced it can understand. Being able to grow and expand programming and services to reach even more families is important to me. Volunteering provides me connection and purpose and feeds my soul.    


#5 Community 

It is lonely being a solopreneur. When I created my business, flexibility was important to me. Since I have three daughters located across the country, being able to work from any location is critical. However, it is also important to have your go-to people and groups who innovate, educate, motivate and inspire you. I have always been in the Young Presidents Organization (YPO), but now that my business is much smaller, having a network of small business owners is equally as important. I joined my local business association to have a close-to-home connection. I am involved in a professional women’s organization that was dissolved this year, but our core group has remained active. I created a small mastermind of women who are also building their businesses, and we meet virtually. I am a part of a widow-specific community that was created by a woman who also provides services to the widow community, and we meet virtually monthly. Each year, I evaluate what my ROI is for each group and adjust my involvement and participation if I have not actively contributed to creating value for myself and others in the group.    

#4 Reducing Alcohol Consumption 

This was a big one for me. I did not like the effects that alcohol was having on my body. It was causing brain fog, bloating, neuropathy, affecting my productivity, diet, weight… The list could go on. I wanted some help to do this, so I downloaded the Reframe app. This was a game changer. It is like Noom for alcohol reduction. It teaches and motivates you about the negative effects of alcohol. There are daily readings on the app, and they have daily calls if you want to participate, an online forum and challenges you can join. I even made a friend online. This has been so helpful. All of the symptoms that I was experiencing are gone, and I feel so great! I highly recommend it if you are interested in reducing or eliminating your alcohol consumption. 

#3 Functional Medicine 

Each year I am always trying to learn more to improve and boost my health. I have had breast cancer twice, which has created other impacting effects on my health. I was tired of taking a lot of medications and wanted to explore how diet, exercise and mental wellness could have a positive impact for me. For those who don’t know what a functional medicine doctor is, they work holistically, considering the full picture of your physical, mental, emotional and sometimes even spiritual health. Dr. Mark Hyman does a great job in this brief video explaining what functional medicine is. The best part: this is also covered by my insurance.    

#2 Personal Development Workshop

In September I attended a Brendon Burchard workshop in Austin, TX. At that time, I was feeling like my productivity needed a major boost. I left on a high and gained some new tools and insights into myself that have turbo-charged my work. One new habit that I have implemented because of this workshop is how I plan my days, weeks and months with intention, focus and present connection. He has a tool called The High Performance Planner. I follow the instructions for this to a T, and it has been a game changer. I have the hard-cover print version, but if that is not your jam, you can do it in his Growth Day app, which also includes other great mindset tools. I highly recommend that you attend one workshop for your personal development in 2024. There are plenty out there. Start by thinking about who you follow and admire, and see if they have a retreat.

And the #1 thing that has brought me joy in 2023 (drum roll):

#1 Trip to Paris with my Girls and Mom

Paris is my happy place. I am a Francophile. I was a French Literature major in college, I did an exchange in high school with a family that I am still close to, and I lived in Paris my third year of college. Steve and I brought the girls to France for a couple of weeks in the summer three times. Personally, I have been to Paris at least 15 times. After Steve died, it was important to me that I took Paris back for me. I wanted to grieve not being able to experience it with him anymore, and I wanted to do that alone, or partially alone. So three years after Steve died, I decided to attend a writing workshop in the cafes of Paris. I thought writing would be a great way to heal and process, which it was. This Christmas, my daughters, my mom and I will be in Paris. It is their first time going back in 10 years. We spent Christmas day with the French family that I met back in high school, which was extra special. We are all excited for our trip and looking forward to creating new memories together.  

Well, that’s it. The 10 top things that brought me joy during 2023. I hope you enjoyed this list as much as I enjoyed putting it together. And I really hope that you find some time to revel in the things that bring you joy this holiday season. 

I wish you all a happy and healthy new year.

Jody Hello Portrait2.jpg

Hi, I'm Jody!

I’m a widow, grief expert, widow coach, and mom. I hope that Widows in the Workplace is able to provide you with comfort, support and guidance while you find your way with your grief journey. 

It is possible to Rediscover, Reimagine and Relaunch your Life again. You do not need to do it alone. 

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