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Life in the Time of Corona

Happiness Jar

Mandy Fernandez

Mandy Fernandez is a writer, editor and author in Pensacola. She writes creatively and professionally on topics of business, education, arts, health, family life, parenting and natural foods. Her first children’s book, Kazoo Makes The Team, was released in 2016. Learn more at

I picked one hell of a year to start a Happiness Jar… but that’s what I did in 2020. Over the winter holidays in 2019, I saw the happiness jar idea shared on social media. The notion is to designate a jar where you put in notes of gratitude or write good things after they happen. You fold up that written note and stuff it into the jar. Then keep filling it. By the end of a year, you have a jar full (or perhaps even several jars full) of wonderful memories. You and your family read the notes aloud on New Year’s Eve after 12 months, reflecting on the incredible year you’ve had.

I loved that idea - taking time to write down fortunate instances throughout the week and month. The concept of doing this for a whole year appealed to me. I printed out the cute online graphic I found where I saw the suggestion, and I taped it to an empty Mason jar.

For Christmas 2019 and New Year’s 2020, I handed out 20 happiness jars to friends, co-workers and loved ones. I wanted to encourage the people I cherish most to do what I had planned to do – be happier and be more mindful of the special moments in life, record them and enjoy reading them a year later.

My two daughters spent a few minutes each week writing their notes and placing them in the jar. We had fun documenting silly, accident-prone events like one kid spilling grape juice on herself and laughing about it. Another time, one kid caught herself saying a phrase that she immediately admitted was “kind of dumb.” We recorded moments like watching family movies together. At times it was simply us having fondue on a Saturday night - dipping marshmallows, strawberries and Rice Krispie treats into melted chocolate. Other cases were more significant like my daughter winning the top reader award in her class and earning second place in reading at her grade level.

Everything was going well until mid-March 2020. Then the pandemic hit our area.

No problem! Ever the optimist at first, I pulled out a smaller jar for these temporary virus weeks. It will be all be over in a month or two, I naively told myself and my family. We’ll still do our best to find joy, and we’ll put our notes in this separate jelly jar marked for the virus.

During the end of March and April, we did put notes of gratitude in the jelly jar marked “Happiness Jar During COVID-19.” Yet as May rolled in and June hit us over the head, the world seemed to worsen. Our spirits felt broken as ugliness spread quicker than the positive cases. Our happiness was fading away, now hiding beneath the sofa with dust, dog toys and missing socks.

I felt the saddest I’d been in a long time, even falling into an early depression. By July I willed myself out of a slump with help from my family. I began taking on personal challenges and creative writing projects. It took a focused mind and heart, but I began to see hope again.

By end of July I put my first slip of paper back into the happiness jar. This was after six weeks of the jar staring at me, neglected and alone on my kitchen table. I felt good reclaiming my joy and sanity.

In August, my kids and I began to take note of good things happening again. We put a few slips of paper into the jar. Our notes were not as frequent as in early 2020 and not placed as enthusiastically, but we did it. I finally poured that COVID-19 marked jelly jar into the original happiness jar and let my daughter use the smaller jar for a craft. This pandemic and all the unpleasantness about it are part of us and we have to face that.

We still have four more months to go of this unprecedented, unbelievably historic year. Additional things could happen to shake us to the core. But I’m determined to keep my happiness jar. I want to show my kids that the right attitude and hope are needed to help us cope with difficult times.

On New Year’s Eve at midnight, we will welcome in 2021 by opening up our happiness jar notes and reading them aloud. We will have captured proof of our amazing moments, even amidst crazy 2020.

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