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Posts Tagged ‘New Year’

gumption style charm

My one little word for 2016 is gumption.

Since 2010, I’ve been choosing a word to focus on each year: to guide me, to lead me into new places, and (sometimes) to spark needed change in my life. If you’ve been reading for a while, you know that brave, my word for 2010, had an especially powerful impact on me. (I still wear it around my neck, and I feel like I talk about it all the time.)

Last year’s word – quiet, unobtrusive and much needed – was gentle. Throughout an often difficult year, I spent a lot of time practicing gentleness with myself and others. I was ready for a more active word for 2016, but I was surprised when gumption sneaked in.

I first read about gumption in Anne of the Island, where Aunt Jamesina teasingly refuses to define it for Anne’s friend Philippa, saying that “anyone who has gumption knows what it is, and anyone who hasn’t can never know what it is.” Even at eight or nine years old, I sort of knew what she meant. I figured gumption was a combination of common sense, intelligence and spunk. (I even refused to look it up, thinking that would be cheating.)

When The Holiday came out a few years ago, I fell immediately in love with Kate Winslet’s character: sweet, bookish Iris, who travels to L.A. over Christmas to nurse a broken heart and begins to discover a whole new life. I especially love her relationship with Arthur Abbott, the retired screenwriter played by Eli Wallach, who says of his late wife, “She had real gumption. She was the girl I always wrote.”

I’ve watched The Holiday over and over, and I always love seeing Iris discover her own gumption – through Arthur’s wise friendship, the strong leading ladies he advises her to emulate, and her budding romance with film composer Miles. Near the end, when she finally tells off her toxic ex-boyfriend Jasper, I always want to stand up and cheer right along with her.

iris gumption kate winslet the holiday

Gumption is, of course, closely related to brave – but it strikes me as a little quirky, a little bit whimsical. It seems to bespeak an inner resilience – grit, yes, but also a lightness. A quiet confidence that it’s all going to work out. A willingness to say yes to new things and ideas. And a bit of sparkle.

I’m still in the middle of some uncertainty as 2016 begins, and I want to acknowledge that, but not to be ruled by fear. I want to face each day with courage and joy, common sense and pluck. I want to savor small pleasures and dream a little. Gumption seems to embody all those things – with a wink and a smile. I’m looking forward to where it might take me.

(Print from ACDShop on Etsy. I bought it for my mother last year and might be buying one for myself.)

Have you chosen a word for 2016 (or done this in the past)? If you have a word, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

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keep calm drink tea blue mug

Hello, friends. A belated Happy New Year to you.

I hope your holidays were wonderful. We spent ours in Texas, driving back and forth along a stretch of I-20 and spending time with several groups of people we love. I have stories (and photos of my brand-new nephew, Harrison) to share, but today I’m thinking about the words I want to keep in mind as I enter 2015.

I love the clean-slate, pristine feeling of a new year, and while I don’t always make resolutions, I usually choose a “word for the year.” This year’s word is gentle. I’ll have more to say about that soon, but after a hectic autumn and a stressful lead-up to Christmas, I’m ready for some gentleness. To that end, I’ve been remembering a line from Desiderata: “Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.” I’d like to pursue both halves of that line this year.

I’ve also been remembering a quote from Emerson that Lindsey tweeted a few months ago: “Let us be poised, and wise, and our own today.” Not a bad mantra, I’d say. Perhaps I should tape it to my bathroom mirror, or someplace where I’ll see it every morning.

I am a longtime fan of Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, and I found this next quote there, but it actually comes from Judith Guest, who wrote the book’s foreword. Guest says:

Some years ago, while cleaning out my grandmother’s attic, I came across this motto encased in an old oak picture frame: Do Your Work As Well As You Can and Be Kind. I remember laughing over what I thought then was a rather quirky juxtaposition of messages. Now it makes such perfect sense to me that I wonder how I could have missed it.

I have lots of plans and dreams for 2015, but that motto above sums them all up in one line. This year, I want to do my work as well as I can, and be kind. And be gentle, with myself and others. (I have a sneaking suspicion I’ll be following the advice in the top photo, too.)

What words are you keeping in mind as we enter this new year?

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Marking time

winter trees boston pink sunset

Last week, as I do every year, I bought two wall calendars: an artsy, colorful one for my office, and a cute Peanuts one for our kitchen. My search bypassed dozens of chic, expensively letterpressed calendars, whose designs shunted the number grid to the side, or relegated it to a single line of numerals. Charming, perhaps, but only half-functional. I need a calendar I can write on.

For most of my childhood, my mom bought a wall calendar each year, often waiting until after Christmas when the calendars went on sale. She hung it on the inside of the pantry door, marking birthdays, appointments, school events, upcoming trips in her neat cursive. Anyone needing to know what day it was, or what was coming up, could open the door and see it: the hidden, but vital, nucleus of the way our family kept time.

When my sister and I were old enough, we got to pick out our own calendars every year. I remember sitting at the kitchen table, non-smudgy ballpoint pen in hand, flipping through the year and writing down birthdays. Mom first, in the last week of January. My sister, ten days after Mom. A grandmother, an aunt, a cousin or two. Dad’s birthday in August, and mine in the middle of September, followed by my grandfather, nine days later.

Imitating Mom, we thumbtacked our calendars to the inside of our closet doors, scribbling down our own reminders. As the years went on, I added the birthdays of my best friends: Jon, Adam, Mike, Shannon. Brittany, Lina, Stephen, Kate. I still remember all their birthdays.

I’m not much good at keeping up a planner, though every few months I try again in a burst of organizational intention. And I know life isn’t a calendar, as Jenna recently remarked. Some progress is measured in cycles, some in fits and starts, some in steps like a dance, which don’t “take” you anywhere but which mark time nevertheless. I usually choose a word for the year and I often make some resolutions, but it doesn’t mean the days are entirely linear, nor would I want them to be.

But I do rely on my two wall calendars. They hang quietly above my desk and above my kitchen counter, twin steady heartbeats, marking the progression of days and weeks and months, which somehow add up to years much faster than they used to. They give me a visual glance at the whole month, glimpses of what’s behind, what is here now, what’s ahead.

I mark time with my wristwatch, the clock on my computer, the progress of the sun in the sliver of sky outside my office window. My church observes seasons with still-new names: Advent, Epiphany, Lent, Pentecost. My senses take in the progress of sunshine and dusk, fallen leaves and snow crunching underfoot, tender new grass and full-blown summer flowers. I mark time with my closet, my meals, in the pages of my journal.

These stacks of paper, printed with numbers, are only one way of keeping time. And yet the old ritual anchors me, turning over a new page each month. A grid of fresh white space, vibrating with possibilities, sprinkled with a few reminders or events to look forward to. I don’t try to write everything down; I know I can’t. Most of what happens will fill itself in.

Do you keep a calendar or a planner? How do you mark time?

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I’ve struggled a bit with my one little word for this year. Last year’s word, BRAVE, had so much impact on my life that you’re probably tired of me talking about it by now. I followed that word into a couple of English classrooms at ACU, to New York for a lovely weekend in April, into several yoga studios (in three states), into some new friendships, and of course, across the country to Boston.

My day-to-day life still requires a lot of bravery, in areas large and small – from trying a new dry cleaner to shoveling snow (what a workout!) to keeping on with the job hunt and the freelance work. This word’s work in my life is by no means over; it lives around my neck on a pendant a lot of the time, and it’s become part of who I am.

However. There’s a new word that’s been nudging me lately, asking for some space in this big, brave life of mine. I hesitated to choose it because it felt selfish. But on New Year’s Eve afternoon, when I took to the couch with tea and books to try and fend off the beginnings of a cold (which is still with me), I gave in. My word for 2011 is COMFORT.

As I continue being brave and trying to figure out how I fit in this new place and new life, I need to create comfort for myself. Not just creature comforts – though warm sweaters, hot tea and steaming bowls of soup, not to mention down jackets and plenty of cozy accessories, will be necessary this winter. No, I need to create several kinds of comfort. I need to reach out to old friends even while working to make new ones. I need to stick to a budget and then rest in the comfort of having enough. (More than enough, really.) I need to find pockets of peace and quiet, and savor them, instead of rushing to distract myself. I need to realize that while outer order contributes to inner calm, the trappings of comfort (and even a clean house) aren’t the point. I need to seek true nourishment, in all ways, instead of either “treating” myself or neglecting myself.

I also want to create comfort for others this year. I love having people over to our house, and we haven’t done that very often since arriving in Quincy. I want to create a safe, listening space for my husband, my family and my friends, old and new. I want to speak words of solace or encouragement, when needed, and be silent, when needed. I want my word to nourish me, but I also want it to take me outside of myself.

To that end, I’ll be participating in Ali EdwardsOne Little Word online class at Big Picture Scrapbooking, and also just trying to be mindful of my word, and see where it takes me. And I’ll check in here periodically about it, of course. I’m excited to see what happens.

Are you choosing a word this year? Or have you done it in the past? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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“Slowly the splendour died, giving place to the mystic beauty of a winter twilight when the moon is rising. The hollow sky was a cup of blue. The stars came out over the white glens and the earth was covered with a kingly carpet for the feet of the young year to press.

“‘I’m so glad the snow came,’ said the Story Girl. ‘If it hadn’t the New Year would have seemed just as dingy and worn out as the old. There is something very solemn about the idea of a New Year, isn’t there? Just think of three hundred and sixty-five whole days, with not a thing happened in them yet.'”

The Golden Road, L.M. Montgomery

I hope wonderful things happen in all your days this year.

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New Year’s Resolutions I am trying to keep:

1. Writing at least 3 pages a day – journal, articles, whatever
2. Cutting down my excessive chocolate intake
3. Becoming less critical of other people
4. Exercising 3 times a week

Reading goals I’m trying to meet in 2007:

1. Read at least 24 books (2 a month) of the 30+ I own but haven’t read
2. Read at least 6 new authors (I’ve already read one – Maeve Binchy, a charming Irish storyteller. Her book The Copper Beech is heartbreaking and beautiful.)
3. Try a new Jane Austen novel (I’ve only read two)
4. Try a new Shakespeare play
5. Read at least one biography and one memoir
6. Read four volumes of poetry (I have started Ted Kooser’s Delights and Shadows, and I quite like it so far)
7. Read two books on writing (not difficult because I am addicted)
8. Read a few young adult books (ditto)

New things to try this year:
1. A dance class
2. Yoga
3. A few new CDs/artists
4. Recipes from The Little Black Book of Chocolate, which I received for Christmas

Lots of trying. But my favourite moments so far this year have been when I stop trying. When I just drink in the sunrise outside my window…when I wear a soft new sweater and feel pretty without any effort…when I open my heart to Frankie or Julie or someone else at Lifeteam, or open my arms to hug Mom or Abi or Jeremiah. When I settle in with a good book, or sit down with Leigh Anne and gab for hours on end. When I savor life…and just let myself be.

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