Beyond the Block: BE Joyful

It’s May, it’s May, it’s May!  And what does that mean?  Flowers and thunderstorms and picnics…and another month in the Sugar Block Club of course!  If you’re not part of the SBC yet, you can still join!  Monthly blocks patterns and yummy recipes emailed to you each month, in conjunction with this empowering Beyond the Block series.

This month’s block is “Joy”…a spinning, dancing star full of color and movement, which goes right along with our personal challenge, to BE Joyful.

Be Joyful

As much as I love Pixar and some of the newer family films, I can’t let my kid’s childhood pass them by without the chance to fall in love with some of the older classics that I so enjoyed as a child.  So I decided recently to invest in a few gems.  One of the movies I was most excited to share with them is the 1960 Disney film Pollyanna, starring Hayley Mills, and based on the book by Eleanor Porter.

In the story, Pollyanna is a joyful young girl who constantly chooses positivity over negativity, gladness over cynicism, joy over sadness, and manages to shift the paradigm of an entire town of people.  She’d been inspired by her father to start playing “the glad game”- always looking for the good in things- and allowed the game to truly become a lifestyle.  She reads from the locket around her neck, “When you look for the bad in mankind, expecting to find it, you surely will. –Abraham Lincoln.”

Well, one might say, it’s easy to be so glad when life’s easy.  But surely Pollyanna had her share of struggles.  She grew up the daughter of very poor missionary’s, and became an orphan when both of her parents died in service.  She was all alone in the world, penniless, had just lost everything precious to her, and was sent to live in a town full of strangers who were thoroughly unhappy about everything, all of the time.  It could have been easy for her to withdraw, to become bitter, to run away or rebel.  But what did she do?  She looked for the good, and she found it.

I want to inject a healthy dose of Pollyanna’s infectious gladness into my kids, my community, my country, our world…but I stop and remember- it starts with me.  I caught myself saying to my husband just last week, that “I hate Mondays.”  Monday’s are a particularly challenging day for me, with getting all 4 kids dressed, fed, packed up and dropped off to multiple schools by myself.  It’s an exhausting morning that always seems to result in me huffing around, yelling at my dawdling kids, angry at the horribly inconvenient parking, and bitter toward the seemingly endless stream of parents who feel the need to remind me that I’ve “got my hands full” as I carry both of my 20 lb toddlers in my arms through the parking lot.

But when I paused for just a fraction of a second to think about that statement, “I hate Mondays,” and why I said it, the irony of my blindness was astounding.  Wait a second…I HAVE 4 healthy children!  I HAVE good local schools available to me!  I HAVE a vehicle that runs, and 4 good car seats to keep my children safe.  And if we really want to go there, how about I HAVE working legs to walk with my children, I HAVE 2 working arms to carry them with??  Suddenly things get REAL when I realise the ridiculousness of my complaint.

I think the key to joy is gratefulness.  When we’re grateful for what we DO have, it’s harder to focus on and complain about the things that we don’t.  Pollyanna was glad to mistakenly receive crutches instead of a doll in the missionary barrel because her perspective was one of gratitude- she was grateful that she didn’t need to use the crutches.  And I don’t know about you, but this realisation lights a spark in me.  Gratitude and joy, or negativity and bitterness?  I can be overwhelmed that I have so many quilts to make right now, in such a short amount of time, or, I can choose to be elated that I get to do what I love to do everyday!  I can be upset at the laundry that’s taking over the foot of my bed, or I can rejoice that I have clothes for my family to fit every occasion and every season.  Dinner’s a hassle?  How about, I’m grateful to live in a country with an abundant grocery store on every corner, and I have the money to buy food.

When we open our eyes to the world around us, and the history behind us, it’s not tough to find perspective.  Travel the world, or just crack a book, and you’d be surprised at the people you’ll encounter who live, or have lived, with less than we have.  Imagine a place without running water, without abundant food, without the freedom to speak, to worship, to choose your children’s school or healthcare provider.  I just finished reading a book about life in Nazi Germany in the 1940s, and as I poured over the pages, immersing myself in the horrors of the concentration camps, of the fear and starvation and utter despair….of people dreaming of strawberry jam and a clean bed…it suddenly felt thoroughly disgusting to recall actually having complained that I have to drive 2 miles to get to the nearest Starbucks.

But take heart!  This challenge isn’t about guilt.  It isn’t about judging or criticizing or feeling bad.  It’s about joy.  It’s about looking up instead of down.  It’s about gratitude instead of complaining.  And admittedly, I’m the worst offender of them all.  How about today, right now, we make change.  Are you with me?  It might be tough at first, in a world full of negativity and entitlement, but stick with it and and soon we may just find that the positivity flowing from our mouths and hearts is impacting those around us in a real and noticeable way.  In our families, at our work, with our friends…let’s BE Pollyanna.

Want to add to the conversation?  Leave a comment, and share share about what this challenge means to you.  What helps you ward off negativity in your own life.  What brings you joy, and helps you stay joyful throughout your day?  I’m so grateful to be journeying through these monthly challenges with you!



  1. I totally agree with the Pollyanna approach to life. I often find myself yelling at the kids or getting cross over trivialities but I remind myself that I’m lucky to have the problems that I have. One thing I’ve learned is to never say ‘it can’t get any worse’ because it can ALWAYS be worse so we should be grateful for what we have!

  2. Dear Amy,
    thanks for this beautiful block…but…when will you come back to your wonderful pieced blocks that are so stressfree to sew? I’m longing for them ’cause I’m not so in love with PP ;-)
    Loved your thought for this month and I’ll try the banana muffins, they sound stressfree *LOL* Take care, Martina

  3. When I find myself slipping into a private pity party, I find gratefulness to be the best antidote. So often the difference between a good day and a bad day is our own self-imposed mindset. The simple act of thanking God, or the universe for my healthy and happy children, things I take for granted like clean water, or a hot shower (and fabric!) can be a surprisingly effective way of shifting my negative thinking and make the difference between a good day and a bad day. Sometimes I find that people around you are happy to encourage negativity – you whine about something and others are anxious to one-up you and keep feeding the negative mindset . In fact there have been times being openly positive has sometimes garnered the comment that I am being a “Polyanna” and it wasn’t meant as a compliment. I am going to strive this month to be openly positive about things in general, not send out any invitations for any pity parties and Be Joyful!

    • How utterly well said!!! Your comment really resonated with me…about people feeding of one another’s negativity, and how we are so prone to pity parties. So true, so true. So much to think and pray about.

  4. Diane Isabella says:

    I must have read the book Polyanna at least 10 times when I was a kid. The values in the book stuck with me and have gotten me through some tough times, but most of all, I can honestly say that I am a Joyful person. And what better way to express that joy than through the gift of quilting and following such a wonderful artist like you, Amy. You are so giving and gifted! Thank you!!!

  5. I keep a journal about all things I am gratefull for. I try to fix not less than three points each day to be full of joy about. This habit changed my life! I am more calm and patient with others and I am more mindful about my surroundings. It is making me cheerful and happy.

  6. I am grateful for your insight, Amy! You are quite an inspiration. I went through a divorce 20 years ago and depression followed. I was diagnosed in 2008 that my pituitary gland did not work correctly either; thus taking medication for both problems. In addition to that, I am also diabetic. As a result of my pituitary gland not working correctly, I can only work part time – I am disability. I have always disliked taking medication; however, today I can say, without a doubt, that I am grateful for the medical knowledge that the Lord has given to mankind. Again, thanks for sharing!

  7. Linda Finkelstein says:

    Gratitude is one of the hardest things to remember by most people. We are so wrapped up in the hustle/bustle of the world and all our electronics. My spouse and I are both retired and we usually go to the movies on Friday afternoon. We just love to see them on the big screen instead of waiting for them to be on TV or DVD. After we got into the theater and got settled, I looked at both of us and there we sat with our Kindles either reading or playing a game. When did we seniors become like the kids??? I think it happened since we have 6 grandchildren (all teenagers) that we liked their fancy phones and how much we can do with them. I track my meals for Weight Watchers on my phone, & my spouse takes notes on his kindle at the doctors office (which is important at our age) so that he doesn’t forget what the doctor told him. But, I do find we forget to take the time to be grateful for our wonderful family. Our children found great life partners, they gave us the 6 fantastic grandchildren, who we are both very proud of as they grow up, and God has blessed us with all of this. I do try to remember when I am feeling rusty and old, that there is someone out there who has it worse than I do. We try to do things for the veterans and donate to the local food banks. Thank you Amy for your wonderful BOM and for making us remember everything we need to be thankful for. (and not just at Thanksgiving) I do so enjoy your messages and watching your lovely family grow and flourish. May God bless and treasure life everyday.

  8. Dottie's Daughter says:

    I’m with you. I’m a glass half full kind of girl and, because of that attitude, I am pretty happy — or at the least content with what I have. We all forget so easily that all we need is “enough.”

  9. Love your blogs

  10. jenetamasson says:

    Oh we love Pollyanna too! I try and remember the phrase “Don’t sweat the small stuff”. It helps me to put things into perspective. Because I am truly blessed and life is great.

  11. The day you realise that all of your life up to that singlemoment WAS a Pollyanna life that you should have been bloody grateful for is the micro-second that you hear the words “I’m Sorry, it’s Cancer, Advanced & Secondary” when all the air in the room disappears, when you hear buzzing in your ears and nothing else. It’s very, very easy to become unaware of our blessings because we take them for granted, they’ll be there tomorrow after all, well No actually, they won’t. One day you’ll learn the lesson the hard way though don’t wish it on you. Pollyanna may be a film (and boy did I Cry buckets at that film) but she reminds us of a better way to be. And in the words of the GREAT Dolly Parton “Don’t sweat the small stuff, Keep your chin up, Just hang tough and if it gets too much Fall on your knees and pray” and do that every day and then you’ll get to living!

  12. Love this post! I agree with you and all the comments. I am a more positive person than most. I still have a long way to go, that is my challenge, but I often think that if we never had bad days, or challenges in our lives, how would we know the good days. You need a basis for comparison. It helps you to be grateful. Say thanks for the small things too, like the sunrise or a pretty day. Take a deep breath. Feels good, doesn’t it?

  13. Leslie says:

    Wonderful message, Amy. The power of positive thinking will get you through your busy days. At a particularly trying time in our lives, I advised my daughter to laugh something off. Her 12 year old reply to me was, “Mom, you laugh at everything!” My reply to her, “If I don’t laugh, I will spend a lot of time crying alone.” This attitude has helped me though years, not everyday, to be sure, but Joy will win out if given the opportunity. Thank you for responding so promptly to my SBC sign on problem.

  14. Toni Toth says:

    Amy, my husband is the Debbie Downer in our household. He stresses too much over things he can’t control and refuses to believe that he can’t control them..I have a habit of reminding him that he needs to pick his battles wisely, really think about whether of not something is worth getting all worked up over and to not sweat the small stuff. It is hard to get caught up in the day to day stuff isn’t it? Don’t beat yourself up too much for the slips in perspective though, we all have them. ;) I LOVE THAT BLOCK BTW!!!! gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous.

  15. Janet Green says:

    Brilliant. This week I have had the first real vacation my husband and I have ever had together. Ever. We went to the Grand Cayman island. 2 days before we left a very ragtag boat and group of people showed up on our dock. Hobbled together out of anything they could find a small group of about 25 Cubans set sail trying to escape Cuba. They were resupplied with food water fuel clothing and given showers. Then off they went. My joy, is stemmed from the thought that though we ALL complain( we have the right to). I am grateful and joyful to have never felt that kind of desolation, that I live somewhere safe, my children are safe. I will probably complain again but never will I forget the people who waved and smiled and set off in a tiny boat with a lawn mower motor dreaming of the USA and the promise of safety. I hope they make it.

  16. Amy, you are so right!!! I have been working hard on this outlook for a while. It is so easy to be caught up in the down side of a situation. I, like you, am trying to spread the good, sometimes we are hardest on ourselves. It’s good to know I’m not alone.


  17. Beverly Cotton says:

    I’ve seen lots of Disney movies but surprisingly, not Pollyanna. On my list now! I have a 9 year old granddaughter, & a 7 year old grandson. If they haven’t seen it, they will! When I was young like you, teaching art, and doing all the things that moms do to care for their family ( not with twins though!), days were really hectic. I didn’t really focus on dilemmas. Then, in the 90’s, Oprah introduced the “Gratitude Journal.” That was an eye opener and analyzing your life was on a roll. If my mother-in- law would hear someone being negative she would say they were on the “on the pity pot.” Lol. The fact that everyone in your life is healthy, is paramount. Enjoy your day, be appreciative and SMILE! Smiling is key to the types of people around you with positive energy. Quilting, of course!

  18. Susan K says:

    Beautifully said! I’ve been dealing with a back issue that makes it so I’m not as mobile as I’m used to. I’ve been trying to look at life in a positive manner and fight off depression that can make me miserable. The positives – I’m staying home more and getting more sewing done! I’ve found a cleaning lady so I don’t have to clean! I’m staying home and spending less time running useless errands! I don’t have to work! My husband is being super supportive! I can afford to find doctors to help me get better!
    I am very blessed in life and when I focus on the blessings I’m so much happier. I’m able to do what I absolutely have to do and have family and friends who love and support me.

  19. Wonderful post – please don’t stop – this enlightens and confirms – I’m 67 but I look up to young people like you. I remember the days you are living now, I too did those things and I worked. I never once regretted going out the door in the morning because I knew coming home at night was the reward. Thank you XO back at you!

  20. DeAnn Webb says:

    Beautiful post! Most negative things are hiding the positive gems of life. Sweep them away and find the real jewels. Happiness, Joy and Giving. Blessings to you sweet lady.

  21. Sigh. I just love you, friend!

  22. Christine G says:

    A wonderful post. Pollyanna is a family favourite with us. I must prefer a positive attitude to a negative one. A awesome book to read is the Last Train, it will leave you thankful for what you have. My family is more precious than any thing else in this world.

  23. I remind myself often to find the positives makes life so much better. Thanks for the reminder.

  24. Yes… Looking up and forward… Its one of the ways to find joy and happiness !

  25. Thank you for reminding me to look for the positive in my life. My goal is to begin applying this immediately!

  26. Thanks Amy for the reminder to find joy and gratefulness in each and every day. I also have twins and another and get tired of the “you have your hands full” comment but now I have a different way of hearing that comment. I will now hear it as a blessing and I will be grateful in that moment. I have never seen Pollyanna and now must seek it out because you made me want to see it and share it with my kiddos.

  27. “You’ve got your hands full.”
    “I sure do, full of love!!!”

  28. A beautiful blog post! We all need to remind ourselves how fortunate we are and look at the positive in our lives. Thanks for reminding us.

  29. Thank you for this blog! We have 5 kids, no twins :-) , and they are all grown up. When I read your Mondaystory I remember those days :-) Last week we spend the week with 4 kids and 3 grandchildren, such a blessing!!

  30. Charity says:

    Love, love, love this post. Couldn’t agree more!

  31. What a wonderful post Amy! I’ve always been an optimist myself and I pity those who see the glass half-empty. Life is what you make of what God gave you. He cannot save you from the human condition, but it’s up to you to make the most of the hand that you’ve been dealt.

    Now as to quilting, I must confess I’m lagging WAY behind. I’ve only done the January block, but I’m printing the instructions every month and they are on my to-do list. We purchased a small weekend home near the Texas Gulf coast and we’ve spent nearly every weekend in remodel-mode. One of the 4 bedrooms has already been dedicated as a sewing room (I have to give up one wall for a fishing rod rack – rats!) but that will be where I can catch up on my blocks as soon as the paint dries and the flooring is put in by my favorite general contractor husband and his handy assistant, yours truly!

  32. beautiful post! you are a wonderful person. let’s face it, life is good! i would recommend the british version of polyanna too. it is splendid. she is a red-head.

  33. Hi Amy, I love this post and your perspective on life. . I agree the best way to enjoy life is to be grateful. Every day I make the time to express my gratitude.

    Many, many years ago someone I love was in the hospital. I was spending every available minute at the hospital. I was stressed, sad, scared and angry. I went to a room where visitors could sit privately. I needed to be alone, to get my thoughts together. A lady came in. I didn’t want her there. I was wallowing. I glared at her. I wanted her to leave. We both sat there and somehow started talking. I told her what happened to my loved one. She was kind, loving, compassionate and took the time to give me her many words of wisdom and comfort me. Then I asked her why she was at the hospital. Her little boy had been hit by a car and the Dr’s didn’t know if he was going to make it. To this day I am awestruck (and grateful) by that lady and how she put herself aside to help a stranger during what I’m sure was the hardest time of her life. I will never forget her. It turns out we worked for the same company in different buildings. And for the record her little boy made it and did fine. :) So my point is she rose above her own pain, no wallowing in self pitty for herself and helped a stranger. I learned a lot that day.

  34. Thank you so much for the reminder that we’re not alone in our imperfections! I always loved Pollyanna as a child. As a ‘mature’ woman I have come to realize that she had the right attitude for all ages. I was recently diagnosed with uterine cancer, (which is going to be fine), and although I was pretty shook up at first, I determined not to moan & groan about it. No, I don’t want to have to go through this but God has allowed it & He will equip me for the journey. It’s up to me to ‘look up’ & see the bright side of things. Imagine if everyone determined to do that!! Thanks Amy!

  35. AMEN… thank you for that reminder!!!

  36. Thank you so much for this post. I needed this so badly today!

  37. wendy Carter says:

    I have a question. Ive done paper piecing twice now, this last time easier than the first. But my block is mirror image of yours. Not sure how it happened but it still works! My question is, why not sew from the cutting line? Also, I quoted you on facebook, hope you dont mind. Love the uplifting messages you give. And yes, I am not always fond of Mondays either! But school is almost out and that will change for a few weeks!!! Have a great day.

  38. Hi, for all time i used to check blog posts here early
    in the break of day, as i enjoy to gain knowledge of more and more.

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