Word for the year, 2017

It’s that time again. Time to decide what word will define and guide the coming year. I started this practice in 2012, and to date these have been my choices:

  • 2012 – Revision
  • 2013 – Momentum
  • 2014 – Consistent
  • 2015 – Hope
  • 2016 – Thrive

I like choosing a word that’s both positive and implies growth. Growth is a good thing…whether I’m learning something new, stretching my abilities to share with others, or just improving a skill I already have, growth is always my goal.

But desire for growth doesn’t exclude times of stillness, moments of contentment to look around and just be. 

In fact, I believe movement and stillness, growth and contentment, are essential to a happy life.

The happiest moments in my life have been the times I was still and reflective enough to realize, right in the moment, that I was happy…content with what was happening at that very moment.

Growth takes work, requires planning, thought, organizing, time.

Stillness allows me to evaluate and take stock of where I am, what I’ve learned, and what’s occurring in the moment.

Being intentional in my life is a way to express these two distinct states of being…growth-seeking, and being still.

By being intentional, I set the tone. I make the plan, I choose when to say yes, and when to say no.

I take responsibility for growth, and for times of stillness.

Being intentional means living thoughtfully, and that’s sometimes difficult to do. In a culture that moves at the speed of social media, and gets caught up in trends and likes, gadgets and the pursuit of “more,” it’s easy to live in reactionary mode, instead of choosing how my life will look.

I’ve not always done a good job of choosing direction…I’ve been far too passive, far too willing to let other things and other people set my priorities.

This year, I commit to living with intention, to choose how I want to grow, how I’ll serve others, and how I’ll take time to be still and reflect.

The easiest thing in the world is to live in the flow of whatever life we’ve found ourselves in, and the hardest thing is to stand in the middle of that flow and try to control it. Understand, this isn’t about a power struggle with anyone…in fact, to others, my life may look much the same as before.

Or not.

The desire to live with intention is about having an internal monitor, about being self-directed rather than being passive.

So, my word for 2017 is “intentional.”

What about you? Do you have a word to define your coming year?

~ Sheila

Happy New Year 2015!

January 1, and we’re off! Turning the page, starting a new round of resolutions, finding hope all over again. That’s the plan, isn’t it? A new year to motivate and sort out all the things that didn’t go as planned in 2014. Didn’t go right, didn’t go well, didn’t go at all.

Hope is my one word for 2015.

Hope is broad and generic…it covers anything and everything.

Hope is specific…detailed as my smallest dream, my simplest goal.

Hope is the secret ingredient in life that brings a smile to my face, even when reality isn’t yet the stuff of my dreams.

Hope tells me: I can change the future by how I approach today.

Hope reminds me: You never know how life will work itself out. Expect the unexpected.

Hope reassures me: There are always forces at work in life that I don’t see and can’t control, forces that result in good things that I couldn’t have forecast. Control doesn’t equal a good outcome, and lack of control doesn’t equal a bad outcome.

Hope sings its song to me, a song that only I can hear. I can hear it in the dark, and in times of storm.

I can see hope at work when nothing is visible to anyone else.

I can feel hope carrying me when I need the boost of encouragement.

Hope is as big as life, as strong as my challenges, as bright as the stars, as personal as my heart’s desires, and my word for 2015.

May each of you find your word for the coming year, and may you find the inspiration to carry you all the way to next December 31. Here’s hope for your year, your success, and the meaning that comes from life well lived!  ~ Sheila

Resolution redo

December 31st, and that time of year…I’m not a resolution fanatic, but I always do a bit of a life check and give the subject of change some thought. Some years I’ve had more to tackle than others, and some years I have more motivation to act on my goals. I always intend to act. But you know what they say about good intentions.

This year I have a new approach. No more lists of wishes for this change or that. Instead, I’m going to try choosing one word. One word that will focus my year, my efforts, my mind.

Myoneword.org explains the concept, and challenges me to define what I want to do with my year, or how I want to be different at the end of 2013. Choosing a single word to live with, and live up to, is energizing, inspiring…and I’ll admit, just a bit intimidating. What happens if I want to change my word mid-year? If I’m done with my first word, or if I choose poorly and need a do-over?

Well, the site doesn’t really go into these details, but as this is an exercise for my benefit…maybe I can bend the rules if I need to. Hopefully that won’t be the case. I’ll acknowledge here and now, at two hours to go, I’m still on the fence. But I think, technically, I have tomorrow to finalize my selection of the word.

Regardless of the challenge of distilling my hopes for 2013 into one word, I like the idea. Seems simple, neat, and doable.

Here’s to the other side of midnight, and 2013. And one word.

Happy New Year!

Yesterday I heard it repeatedly: “Happy New Year!” We’re all getting ready for the annual big crossover. A new year, filled with potential because the days are blanks, so far. We can’t believe 2011 has already come and gone…the months fly by. How is it possible?! I say these things, hear them all around me from others. Not everyone celebrates the same holidays. But everyone is subject to the calendar. The change of year impacts the whole planet.

So beginning tomorrow, I’ll start reminding myself to date my documents with “2012.” I’ll roll over the pages in my calendar and look ahead to the commitments already pencilled in for January. And I’ll be thinking of the changes I want to make this year. New Year’s resolutions are right up my alley. A list maker by nature, and someone who’s always inspired by challenge, it’s easy for me to come up with a plethora of items: “Next year…”

But here’s a twist on the whole resolution thing. What if resolutions were not just about making myself better? What if I use some of the space on my resolution list to include others? I do that already in a non-specific way. But this is a challenge to make it official.

Here’s some inspiration for you, if you’d like to make your resolutions more outwardly focused. Visit Resolution Twelve, a blog that posts and celebrates reaching out to others…groups, individuals, causes, you name it. This blog is not a charity or service that connects volunteers with needs. It is simply a vehicle for sharing goals for the coming year.

Obviously, you don’t have to post your outward-focused plan on this site to make it official or effective. But I think the value in posting somewhere, even on a list that lives at your desk or beside your kitchen sink, is accountability. Statistics say that most new year’s resolutions only last a few weeks. Wouldn’t it be nice if goals to reach out lasted longer? Maybe even changed your life?

Tomorrow I’ll be serving black-eyed peas with our dinner. Southern tradition says these peas bring good luck when you eat them on new year’s day. Not sure about that, but it’s an easy nod to heritage to serve a dish at dinner. As for that other tradition of sharing resolutions…well, there are some that are standard. Watch my weight. Be more productive. Be more organized. Listen more effectively. This year I’ll be adding a few other items, based on some of the suggestions from Resolution Twelve. I doubt that anything I do will make headlines or impact the world. But that’s not the point. The point is to make a difference, and that I can certainly do.

Last Friday of the year, last day of full time

Well, it’s finally here. If life goes as I’m planning, I’ll be in my office tomorrow for my last day of full time work. Not that I’m retiring…oh no, I’m at that awkward age…too young to retire, but old enough to be ready for a change in my work life. And definitely still in need of income…haven’t won the lottery yet, or made the proverbial fortune.

So I’m launching…I’m not quite sure what, just yet! There are ideas rolling around in my head…possibilities…I’m cushioning the first few weeks with some project work and relief work I had already lined up. But I’m also building in down time. I’ve discovered it is almost impossible to design a next step in life when you’re consumed by the commitments you’ve already made.

Some days I’m brimming with ideas and energy. And some days I’m scared. I haven’t been without income for twenty years, except for a few months here and there when we’ve made a geographical move. I’m also lucky. I have savings, and I have a safety net. Rob is able to keep us afloat while I sort myself out, so this is not going to be an experiment in Ramen noodle recipes.

I’m excited because I get to see what I can do, all on my own. I’m scared because I get to see what I can do, all on my own. If you’ve stepped away from the corporate security blanket, you know what I mean. I keep reading about all the entrepreneurs this economy is producing, and I hope I can soon be part of that group.

I’ve been a great employee, if I do say so myself. I take direction easily and work well with others. How can it be so frightening to take control of my own destiny and be the one in charge? I think it may be a matter of experience. I’ve only known what it is like to work in a corporate structure. The freedom and reward I’ve glimpsed are out there, somewhat obscured by the risk of solo flight.

Well, in a few more hours I’ll know. Or at least I’ll begin to know. Do I have what it takes? Can I transition to a self-starter? Here’s hoping! May the bridges I burn light the way! And may the future be bright!

See you on the other side of the new year! Happy 2012!

Fall is in the air

What’s magic about this season? Many people say this is their favorite time of year, and that’s true for me too. I always think the calendar should begin with September. It seems like the true start to the year, forever tied in my mind to the beginning of a new school cycle. From my own years as a student, through the years of my children’s education, that rhythm was permanently ingrained. Even without a tie to the school calendar now, so many rituals focus on back-to-school events that I can’t escape the reality that summer has ended, a new season has begun. And although summer traditionally brings luxurious down time and a more relaxed pace of life, it feels good to get back to a schedule, a routine, a defined expectation of the week after summer vacations end.

Aside from the back-to-school sales, the beginning of football season, and early advertisements for Halloween (already there are masses of bags filled with bite-sized candy bars beckoning in the grocery aisles), temperatures announce that change is in the air. The sun in September has a different quality in its warmth, a different brightness in its light. By October, mornings and evenings are crisp, and by November, some days there is frost on the steps outside my front door. The familiar ritual, pulling out sweaters and boots, gloves and coats, moving the summer wear out and the winter wear in, signals that turtleneck season, stretching from September to May in Alaska, has arrived.

When my kids were little, we made annual visits to apple orchards to buy apples and cider, and to pumpkin patch farms to pick pumpkins. It was fun to have exposure to the harvest season as we weren’t connected with these experiences in other ways. It was good to see my kids learn a little about harvest time and enjoy a taste of fruit bought from the source rather than a grocery store. There is just something completely heartwarming about drinking fresh pressed cider and riding on a tractor trailer pulling excited pre-schoolers around a farm.

I like pumpkins; they’re my favorite choice for fall decorating. I add a few brightly colored leaves and nuts, some seasonal berries and cinnamon scented candles, and decorating is done from September to November. I think you get more bang for the buck from fall decorating than in any other season. And the best part: so much of what you use is available in a natural form, right from the grocery store or farmer’s market. The produce section alone offers enough variety to dress up your look for any party you host from Labor Day to Thanksgiving.

The best part of fall has to be the food: iconic comfort food like soups, chili, stews; and sweets made with apples, nuts, raisins, pumpkin and all the familiar spices. Even the beverages are unique to the time of year…apple cider and spiced teas and coffees seem just right in October and November. I never think of drinking a cinnamon flavored coffee in July…why is that? But this time of year I’m focused on warm luxury in my beverages, and topping off a spiced coffee with a little sweetened whipped cream is a perfect start to the day or end to the evening. Sampling a pumkin cobbler or apple cranberry pie is a frequent pleasure. I bake more this time of year, and I appreciate the comfort of homey aromas coming from the kitchen when I open the door after work and remember that I put a stew in the crockpot before I left for the day.

Anticipation is key; I know what happens next, and I love it. We’re all getting ready to spend more time indoors, gear up for the Christmas season, celebrate once again the Thanksgiving holiday that reminds us of the importance of family, friends, good times, good food, and the traditions that bind it all together. So here’s to Fall, the magical (and real) start to a new year, a new cycle, and the best of comfort, home, and harvest.


Yellow daffodils - floriade canberra

It’s mid-March, and with the time change, the light lingers into the evening. It’s 7:00 pm and I can still look out and see the Tongass Narrows outside my window. Nice to welcome the softer seasons back after a snowier-than-usual stretch.

And with the return of spring months and lengthening days come other signs of rebirth. There are daffodils pushing up through the soil in the flower bed outside my house. The spring clothing catalogs have made their appearance in my mailbox. I’m beginning to think about Easter presents to send my kids. I look at dates to fly down to Arizona to celebrate Riley’s first birthday in late April. And I begin to think of summer plans. All good, all reward for getting through the winter months once more.

I love seasons. I love the change of mood that each season brings. Spring is about awakening. Summer is inherently a more relaxed time. Is that programmed into the American psyche from all the years of the school/summer cycle? First by your own school schedule as a child, then for anyone who has children, by their years in that rhythm. But even beyond the calendar, there is something about the long days that demands a slower pace and a celebration of all things summer: beaches, picnics, road trips, ball games, fireworks, watermelon and burgers.

Fall is the first season of “new year” to me. I always think there should be two re-sets of the year. Also tied to the academic calendar, September (or now August, as classes begin earlier each year) is the beginning of another school year, for so long a way of defining and staging each person: “What grade are you in this year?” And the excitement of fall harvest, Halloween, Thanksgiving…each event is a beloved marker of family and communal sharing that punctuates the months.

The peak of the year for many people, “the holidays,” is both the best and the worst of the annual cycle. I am better than I once was at enjoying the people and not stressing so much about the events. It is a magical time: for children waiting for gifts; for adults, touched by reminders of what is real and good in life. And when the real new year comes, we each have the chance, once more, to reset ourselves by the calendar. To resolve again to be “good,” however we define that for ourselves: diet, money, exercise, goals…it’s going to be different this year!

So, springtime, the second season, is upon us. I look at my spring decor, knicknacks that I am sorting through as I box things in my basement. I have a collection of blown Easter eggs that my kids and I made over the years. I have ceramic bunnies and an egg tree, an assortment of spring wreaths and linens that I’ll pull out for an Easter lunch. The brighter colors and lighter fabrics imitate the outdoors on sunny days, and remind me that many things in life are worth waiting for. Spring is one of them. Then summer. Then fall. Then winter. It’s all good, and fortunately, just as we’re weary of one, the next arrives, in perfect timing. Just as we need the next cycle to begin, it does.