Word of the Year: 2021

It’s funny how many different posts on social media I am tagged in nowadays when it comes to the last week of December and the first week of January. In 2012, I decided that I had a “theme word” for the year rather than a New Year’s Resolution. I’d found a community of dancers and a dance style that truly resonated with me, in June 2010, and I dove in head-first, specifically with the intention to learn and then teach this style. 2012 was deep in the full pursuit of this challenge, and so the theme word DANCE made tons of sense. I was still doing other pursuits, spinning and weaving, volunteering and organizing, traveling even! but as a theme word, that’s where it all started.

Some years, when I chose a theme word, I really pursued it most of the year. Some years, I barely even remembered the theme word as the year got under way. But the process of stopping to think about things has been a process I’ve enjoyed now each year.

Last year, none of us had any idea what was in store for us. I selected the theme word INTENTIONAL as a means to say what I would pursue would be what I *intended* to pursue, not just based out of habit or declining obligations. Of course, as of today, I’m still under work-from-home pandemic quarantine. Today is day number 296 for me, since I was sent home from work. This week, our CEO announced that the two US offices (in CA and in NY) are back under mandatory work-from-home through the end of February (all previous optional come-in-to-the-office has been rescinded). I don’t miss the commute, but it wasn’t originally my intention to remain mostly locked indoors.

Which brings me all to this year. What theme word resonates with me today?


I feel a little bit like a Dickens ghost, the Ghost of Being Present. In the Muppet version of the story, the Ghost of Christmas Present cannot even remember having introduced himself to Michael Caine’s Scrooge, he’s so embedded in the present. There are days when I *only* know what day it is because I keep a large calendar widget on display in my laptop desktop. I have to look up what day it is, what hour it is, heck what month it is, sometimes.

But also, thinking about going forward, I refuse to make long-term plans right now. Until there is mass vaccination throughout our town, county, state, country — there’s no point in making plans to travel and gather. I cannot risk getting infected and being either asymptomatic and spreading the disease or being symptomatic and risking hospitalization or death. Our hospitals are nearly out of oxygen. There’s 8-18 hour waits, outdoors or in your car, until you can be seen (that, or drive two hours to a different hospital two counties away). So I can only live in the present when making plans for “what do I want to do next?”

But living in the Present is also just a healthy approach, too. I want to be present and in the moment with my Sweetie, the only other human I see every day. I want to be thoughtful about my interactions online, over text, or over video. I want to be aware of my surroundings, right now, and be involved in what can be done here, now, in this moment.

Because that’s all I have.

I live right here in this moment, in the PRESENT, and why not take advantage of this opportunity?

Here’s to living in the PRESENT and making the most of it

The Words-of-the-Years List

Word of the Year: 2020

Right before New Year’s, I was pondering words and phrases like “TAKE RISKS” or “STUDY” or even “DECLUTTER,” but these weren’t quite right for my own theme for 2020. As my friends do, several jumped into the discussion to make suggestions or share their word of the year. A few observed that my thoughts sounded like “simplify” or “align” or “nourish,” all of which are very worthy themes indeed.

But since Wednesday, I just keep coming back around to the same word:


The more I settle into the new normal for my age and interests and abilities right now, I am being more carefully INTENTIONAL about how I spend my time and energy. For example, sometimes habit kept me teaching. And while I adore my students and I really loved sharing dance knowledge, it was getting obvious I needed a new training and treatment regimen. I’ve had knee troubles and lately low back pain, and it just didn’t get any better by ignoring it. (Duh.) So I’ve put my dance teaching on hold, a very intentional hiatus, for the express purpose of training my body back into a more healthy state.

My time spent in particular hobbies has changed drastically. Some of my choices have been intentional changes to remove myself from environments that have some problematic community trends. There are times when it’s no longer my calling to fix everything that’s broken in some spaces. And that’s okay. I have no regrets for the years I spent in some activities, and I have grand friendships from the experience. But I don’t have to attend every event to still show love and affection for friends I value. Instead, I can choose intentional interactions with these friends.

My own artistic pursuits are somewhat broader and somewhat more narrow than ever before. And that’s okay. I’m perfectly happy being very intentional about what arts I spend time on now. And this also means that I’m looking for ways to gift some supplies to others who will be more likely to use them in the pursuits I’m no longer chasing. It’s a time to send the treasures to other homes, where they’ll be used immediately.

The past several years, my immediate family at home and I have been watching specific TV shows together in order to grapple with the state of the world and our nation. As we dig into these discussions, I’ve found there are some topics around which I want to intentionally engage with the world. Likewise, I have to choose the audiences with whom I will engage. I’ve intentionally walked away from some interactions because I’ve lost hope that some minds will change. And that’s okay. Not every fight is my fight. But the fights that I want to be intentional about? Those I refuse to be silent out of laziness or silenced out of fear or other pressures.

And there’s just the time spent with family. Rather than allow time to just disappear, I want to embrace intentional time with those I love and that I am closest to.

Intentional. These are the things I *mean* to do. Yes.

The Words-of-the-Years List

Fire Hair: Intentional Use of Color

Word of the Year 2019

What I’ve Been Thinking About This Week

My astute readers will know that I’ve been thinking through my Word of the Year for the past week. In As the Year Winds DownI summed up the past several years’ words I’ve declared.

  • 2018: PRACTICE
  • 2017: GOALS: achieved by finding both TIME and SPACE
  • 2016: HABITS
  • 2015: MASTERY (and COLOR) + “Finish the Unfinished Objects”
  • 2014: CREATE
  • 2013: FOCUS
  • 2012: DANCE

When it started in 2012, making DANCE my word of the year was obvious. I found ATS just 18 months previously, and I was smitten and dancing every moment possible. I had a five-year plan in mind, a first end-goal, and wild dreams. The notion of FOCUS hails back to my SCA mentor in all things artistic, Mistress Tonwen (Rae). When people would ask her was I was apprenticed to her “in” as an area of study, she’d laughingly say, “FOCUS!” I’m still not always completely focused, but it was a good reminder that just wildly chasing all the colors sometimes can result in a muddy result.

CREATE was a very fun year for me. I really did try to post hashtag photos of #CREATE almost every day of the year. It was enjoyable to see how many ways I do create and make things in my regular, every-day life.

Both HABITS and MASTERY (and the illusive “finish the UnFinished Objects” in my life) both speak to me about how one goes from a Wish to a Plan to an Accomplishment. I’m still on a life-long pursuit of improved habits and mastery of skills. I often suggest that someone can start with “Just One Habit” that takes them towards their goals. I would love a clean house, so right now as a family I’ve asked to work on “Just One Habit” and keep the living room couches (and their associated end tables) clean every night before bed. Just one habit: Pick up the living room at night. It’s been working for 9 days so far, and I’m feeling optimistic. Mastery of my artistic pursuits or my business skills—this also requires layering my habits, one upon another.

GOALS and PRACTICE were natural continuations of the same path I’d been pursing. It’s not enough to just build any habit, not without knowing what the GOAL should be. And having set those goals, it’s a matter of practice to get to the level of mastery I’m looking for. I cannot call 2018 any measure of success toward #practice, as this fell off quickly. It’s not that I didn’t practice things, but it wasn’t as powerful a beacon word for me as the months went on. I think I had my attention on “regular life” and keeping up with commitments, more than pursuing practice techniques and time.

But then this week, when I posted Careful What You “Wish For,” I was specifically trying to avoid setting myself up for failure with a Word of the Year that didn’t motivate me, or only set me up for learning hard lessons in weird or terrible ways. By Find Your Strengths I was reminded that my favorite way to improve life is to take what I’m doing well now and apply those lessons to what’s next. Lessons learned are important and should be headed. And the more I considered Strengths and Follow-through, the more I knew what I want is to be reliable, complete, and thorough about what I attempt. And applying those lessons learned is my tried and true method for success in life.

What I’ve Concluded

So where does that lead me? Pedestrian ideas swirled in my head like  “CALENDAR” or “PRIORITIES” or even “TASKS.” But those didn’t seem to tie up the loose ends properly. They also looked like the kinds of words that could go horribly wrong. I mean really, “Calendar” as a word of the year? Please laugh along with me when these things came to mind. I’m laughing at myself. No, it’s much simpler than that.

My Word of the Year for 2019 is STRENGTHS.

  • Play to my strengths
  • Learn from my strengths
  • Apply my strengths to habits I want to develop
  • Use the lessons learned to extend my strengths
  • Build my strengths
  • Share my strengths with others
  • Honor my strengths and make them count
  • Support the strengths of others and lift them up

How do you think of your strengths? Do you honor them? Do you work to build them further? Do you share your strengths? Do you showcase the strengths of others in your life? How do you build toward strength?

Some Fun Visuals

Now, it wouldn’t be an effort of mine if it didn’t have a visual element or a nice tracking system, right? I just recently read about a “Year in Pixels” as a concept. Here’s some links for those who would like to know more.

And while I do like the apps on my phone, I’m also a spreadsheet user and a Google Drive aficionado. So I created a custom file on my Google Drive, with different tabs for different topics to track.

The idea is to fill in a block per day. There’s a column for each month and rows for the day of the month. You decide what color coding system appeals most to you. I love yellows and oranges, so I made the “best” or “highest” value in my color keys into “Golden.” I’ll be able to update my tracking from my phone and make changes on the fly throughout the year. I’ve already added another tab since I took these screenshots, to track spending time on studying ASL on my own.

Templates ready for tracking a Summary of my day, Movement, and Crafty pursuits

In case you’re unable to read the details on the screenshots, here’s my personal scales for tracking (for now).

  • Summary of my Day: Scale includes (1) Golden, Best, (2) Green, Still Good, (3) Meh, Middle, (4) Cool, Could Be Better, (5) Fork in me, Try Tomorrow
  • Movement tracking: Scale includes (5) Five minutes, (15) Fifteen minutes, (30) Thirty minutes, (60) An hour, and (61+) Over an Hour
  • Crafty tracking: Scale includes (5) Just a few minutes, (4) A nice break, (3) A great session, (2) Committed time, and (1) Dude, Whoa!

Strengths and Follow-through

After thinking about how I work to play to my strengths on habits I want to improve, it also reminds me that these are about matters with follow-through. Completing the starts and stops or deciding it’s not something worth completing. Let your Yes mean Yes and your No mean No. Setting priorities, and even shifting priorities when need be.

Sure, I’ve collected lots of crafty supplies. But are all of them destined to be used? Hmm. Good question. It reminds me of those “new year’s resolution” suggestions that tell you to turn all your hangers backwards. Only turn them right-way again if you wear the outfit. At the end of a year, remove all the clothes you didn’t wear that year. Well, first that supposes that (a) all your clothing goes on hangers in the closet and (b) that all clothing should be worn every year. Now that I live where it’s almost never cold or never raining, there’s some things that get used only every 2-10 years when it’s finally cold and/or wet. So that’s not practical.

But the core thought does seem to have some resonance with me. Which crafty pursuits of mine are actually things I plan to work on? Am I ever going to use XYZ supply? Or is it time to stop being the foster-mom of these supplies and find instead a forever home where someone else would be happy to use the supplies?

Also, there are quite a few “irons in the fire” projects that are part-way started, lurking around in my life. Granted, the reason is usually because they are each better suited for different places and contexts. There’s two projects next to my spinning wheel, both are only for the wheel. There’s a single box filled with a carding project, best for in front of the TV. The flower work bench has all the flower supplies, and there’s two deadlines looming over there. My work rolly cart always has a supply of hand-spinning for when I’m caught somewhere with extra time. My short deadline project at home was finished a week early (which makes me happy) and makes me wonder what’s my next deadline project for home.

There’s always a running list of computer tasks, weekly updates, some regular tasks to finish, and some current deadline projects. And in the distance, the looming prospect of carving out time to try to de-clutter my storage unit. Then there’s costuming needs for SCA events or for storyteller outfits or next Santa season.

Everything we choose to work on says something about our priorities, even when we didn’t mean to make commentary on them. But when I half-remember a promise to do something for a friend and then I forget, that’s a poor commentary on my half-promise. I want to do something about that, to improve and be more reliable, even if it’s just my own hidden integrity that no one knows about but me. Heavy thoughts for a December 30.

Ten years ago, my view out over the ocean in Malibu

Find Your Strengths

One of the most inspiring messages I ever got from a book came from Organizing from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern. In there, she talks about how there are successful tasks that you accomplish regularly in life. You have some strengths. And she suggests that if you examine your strong points, your strengths, you can find ideas for applying those strengths to your weakness, or more properly, to the habits you’d like to strengthen. For example, if you never forget to put on deodorant but you always forget your vitamins, consider putting your vitamins in front of your deodorant. When you reach for your deodorant, your vitamins are right there so that they’re an easy habit to improve.

I use this technique all the time. I look for habits I want to build, and I try to pair them with habits I already have. I want to do more knee stretches. I have a paired habit now when I walk to my office in the morning. I walk past the same bike rack with a railing every day. Now my habit is to stop at the railing, stretch my knees and hamstrings, my calves and ankles, and even my lower back and hips. That single paired habit (walk past railing = do stretches) has become probably about 80-90% successful in my weekly trek from parking to my office.

I also adore paper planners. I love stationery and colored pens, etc. But I realized I didn’t have a regular habit of logging things in paper, nor always having the energy to lug a planner with me everywhere I go. I do however always have my phone with me. I finally weaned myself off the novelty of trying to log everything on paper and enforcing that everything should be accessible in my phone (which makes it accessible to any computer). Now I have a very detailed electronic set of habits using Google Calendar, Google Contacts, Gmail, Google Drive, Google Keep, and Evernote,

I added a new habit recently. Small tiny things I would promise to do would slip my mind. “I’ll work on that soon as I get to the office,” I might quip in Facebook Messenger to someone. Or while chatting with a friend, we’d say, “Let’s have dinner next month!” Of course I forgot these more often than not. That is, until I noticed that I *hate* to let a Phone Notification get swiped away if I hadn’t done the task in my reminder. So I started logging these quick tasks into my Google Calendar as a Reminder that would push a Notification to my phone (on a specific day and time). Now, I have to do the Task to mark it “Done,” or I have to reschedule it for when I have more time to focus my attention on the task.

I found my strength. I will obey a Notification Reminder or I will reschedule it for when I have the time to complete the task. It’s amazing how many tasks I’m getting done more frequently now, simply because I scheduled them on my Calendar. I’m starting to see this whole topic as a potential theme word for next year. Still pondering, but it’s taking some shape.

Who would think that those little icons could boss me around?