Word of the Year for 2011

As I wrote about yesterday, I have begun choosing a word for the year rather than deal with resolutions that would fall flat quickly.

Choosing a word for the coming year proved a bit more difficult for me than in the past. I have a baby due near the end of January which makes it hard for me to envision exactly what my year will look like.

Obviously there will be a new little loved one in my happy little family and I know it will impact our daily lives dramatically, but it’s hard to fathom what that means until it actually happens. So when it came time to start looking ahead for what I want in 2011, I was having trouble pinning it down.

While on the phone with a very dear friend last week, I mentioned my word of the year conundrum and said I may just carry “shine” with me from this year right on through to next year, but that I didn’t feel it was quite right.

Let me say here that there is absolutely nothing that can take the place of a friend who thoroughly understands you and can help light the way when you’re lost. And my friend did just that.

As I talked to her about my need to prepare myself for new motherhood, being able to care for my family and also make sure I don’t lose myself along the way, she suggested the word she saw for me: “nurture.”

I thought about it. I rolled it around on my tongue a little. I let my imagination conjure images and definitions. The more I thought about the word “nurture,” the more I felt both at peace and energized by its possibilities.

So I’m going with it. Because this year I want to nurture my little baby boy when he gets here. I want to continue to nurture my husband and my stepson. Equally important, I want to nurture myself, my desires, my creativity, my quiet time. I want to continue writing because that’s where I get my focus and my drive.

The dictionary defines “nurture” as follows…

  1. to feed and protect: to nurture one’s offspring.
  2. to support and encourage, as during the period of training or development; foster: to nurture promising musicians.
  3. to bring up; train; educate.

It’s the second definition that really hits home for me: “to support and encourage.” That’s what I want to do for myself, my family, my friends, my acquaintances, and my home in 2011.

What will you choose for your word of the year?

Pause Before Reacting

I’ve been reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, which follows her journey through a year of trying various happiness resolutions.

The biggest lesson I’m getting from the book isn’t necessarily her particular resolutions, rather it is to stop and think before reacting in a situation.

Throughout the book Gretchen gives some examples of irritating moments in daily family life.Like when her kids are bickering or when she or her husband are in a bad mood. You know those times.

What I’ve found intriguing is that due to her happiness project, she was sometimes able to pause in that moment before reacting to look at things from a different point of view, then react more creatively.

It’s easy to yell or join the bickering or get defensive or say something resolutely to the moody party like, “then just fix it.” In her moments of pause, however, Gretchen had the presence of mind to realize how she would normally react and realize that such a reaction may not solve the problem or may even add more stress to the situation.

For example, when she found her two daughters arguing and crying, she marched to their room and almost told them to “knock it off” or some other such parentism. But she didn’t. She stood in the doorway, realized that probably wouldn’t actually make them stop, and instead said something like, “Crying always makes me thirsty. I’m going to get you girls some water.” Soon they were all in the kitchen drinking water and Gretchen even got her girls to laugh.

Wow.

So that’s the sort of mindfulness I’m trying to bring into my own life now. When I feel a gut reaction rising, I’m pausing (when I remember to) to ask myself if whatever I was about to say will actually help the situation. If the answer is no, I’m taking another minute to get creative with my responses.

When my husband gets yet another work call on a night or weekend, rather than what has become my standard reaction (a huff or rolling my eyes or asking, “seriously?”), I’m trying to be more mindful of the fact that he’s just as irritated about the interruption as I am. It doesn’t help to have me adding my annoyance to the situation. Instead, I try to give him a sympathetic look as if to say, “I know it stinks that you are stuck working during free time.”

Or like yesterday, when my stepson came home from school hyper and without saying hello told me he was going to a friend’s house, my gut reaction was to say something like, “Not even a hello? Just ‘you’re going to so-and-so’s house? You didn’t ask our permission. What other homework to you have? What about chores?”

Instead, I paused. I realized a stream of questions and parentisms wasn’t going to make for a lighter mood. I also realized that my stepson often says he has plans that turn out not to go through and this might just be another kids-talked-at-school-but-didn’t-run-it-by-parents-yet situation.

Having that moment really helped. From there we had a discussion about the school project for which he is partnered with the aforementioned friend and what they need to accomplish together. We talked about the good grade he got on a quiz and we discussed what homework he had. I asked him if his friend had spoken to his mother yet, to which the answer was no. So I sent him on his way to carry about his afternoon and asked him to get back to me when he had talked to his friend and to please let me know what time he would want me to drive him over and what time he needed to be picked up.

No bickering. No struggle. And you know what? The plans never materialized, so had I gotten worked about it in the beginning, it would have all been for naught anyway.

That Gretchen sure is onto something.

Hello Again, Big News, and some Friday Happy

Hello everyone! (If you are in fact still out there and I sure hope you are.) As often happens with me in the summer time, I have taken a hiatus from blogging. Actually I’ve taken a hiatus from my computer in general. No blogging, twittering, Facebooking. No sirree. I’ve hardly even checked email.

Glorious!

Why a summer hiatus? So many reasons. First, I love life and summer reminds me of all the wonderful things there are to enjoy about life. It also reminds me to slow down. More relaxing, more fresh air, more time with friends and family.

Second, my long running contract work ended rather abruptly in July. As a web project manager, my entire work day revolved around being tied to my computer. When I suddenly found myself not tethered to it, I felt lighter. I’ve worked with computers heavily for my entire 10 year career. Stepping away was exactly what I needed to reconnect with myself.

Third (and by no means diminished in this last position), I’ve been nesting. Why now? I’m so jittery-teary-eyed-excited to share with you for the first time online that a little one is on the way! That’s right. My belly is growing and so is the love in my heart for the tiny little addition that will greet us near the end of January. It’s been a tougher journey to get here than I would prefer, but my husband, my stepson, and I are ecstatic and thankful.

Happy Book BadgeNow, let us remember that it is Friday and Jamie has challenged her Next Chapter book group to share their happy on Fridays while copies of The Happy Book make their way around the book groups. I think I’ve already done that above. I have so much to be happy about.

This week Jamie is shaking up the challenge and is now inviting everyone to get their own copy of The Happy Book to share in a new happy activity each week. I’ve reserved my copy and will be headed to the book store shortly to pick it up. Will you join the fun?

The first activity Jamie selected from the book is to choose your mascot, carry it with you wherever you go, and take pictures of it along the way. It just so happens that last Christmas I bought a four-pack of little Christmas ornament dolls and gave one to each of my best friends (see below photo, my doll is the one in the turquoise dress).

Mascot dolls for me and my girlfriends

I then set up a private blog where we could each take pictures of our doll as a fun way to share our lives. The last post to that blog was in April, so this feels like the perfect opportunity to reinvigorate the adventure. I’ll be putting my doll in my purse today to get her back out in this wide, wonderful world.

What about you? What have you been up to this summer? What is making you happy this week? What mascot will you carry?

Happy Mother’s Day

Mothers come in all shapes and all sizes. They are patient, they are kind. They are stern, they are tough. They give hugs, kiss scrapes, and clap the loudest.

Mothers do what needs to be done, often without any thanks. They support, love, work, and provide.

To all mothers – biological, step, adoptive, foster – thank you for everything you do. I wish you a very happy mother’s day!

In honor of you, here is author Kelly Corrigan talking about what makes her mother special. This video makes me laugh and it makes me tear up. (If you’re viewing this in a reader, you may need to click through to the full post to see the video.)

Happy Mother’s Day, everyone!

Wishcasting Wednesday: Gentleness

Wishcasting badgeIt is Wishcasting Wednesday, a wonderful day when we can cast our wishes out in the world and support all everyone else’s wishes with positive energy.

This week Jamie asks: “What do you wish to be gentle with?”

Instantly, I came up with two things.

My stepson – He is in that going-on-13 place where he is stuck between wanting to be a kid yet wanting to be big and strong. There are days when he is so loving and others when his attitude is less than delightful. I wish to be gentle with him as he figures out who he is in this world.

My living room – This week my husband and I are replacing the floor in our living room, which means Sunday we emptied the room and ripped up carpet, Monday night we set down the underlayment, and last night we started laying down wood planks.

During the process we have talked about what we want to do with the living room when it’s time to bring everything back in and the answer is we want to be very selective about what comes back. We want the room to be free of clutter with plenty of room for positive, loving energy.

Now I’m sending happy, gentle, wish-fulfilling thoughts to the universe for everyone’s wishes.

Erma Bombeck’s Advice on Loss of Identity

I’m reading Forever, Erma, a collection of Erma Bombeck’s columns from throughout her career. One in particular caught my eye.

“Lost Identity” originally published September 18, 1965 in response to women asking Erma her opinion on how to find their lost identity. In the column she light-heartedly explains her own view of personal identity and how easy it is to feel question it when you are commonly referred to as so-and-so’s wife or mother.

Erma discusses the difficulty housewives (remember, this was 1965) have in taking time for themselves to be their own person.

Her approach to resolving this for herself one day was this:

What I represent to other people isn’t half as important as what I represent to myself. One day as I stood studying my reflection in the skillet lid, I plopped it down, went back to the bedroom, put my hair up in curlers and changed my dress. I put a dab of perfume behind each ear and returned to the kitchen. When asked where I was going, I snapped, “I’m going out to the garbage can all by myself!” No one understood. But I felt better.

I’ve definitely had days where I dressed up a bit to alter my own mood. It does wonders for the ego, I think. When you feel good about how you look, you walk taller, feel more confident, and generally can relax and be yourself.

Erma later says that she likes to think identity “isn’t lost at all–just buried temporarily under a stack of ironing, a book that needs covering or a basket of mending.”

All I could think after reading her column was “oh my goodness, I never covered stepson’s math book!” Maybe I should read it again.

Happy Mother’s Day (and a video of a great mom)

I hope all of the moms, mom stand-ins, stepmoms, foster moms, grandmoms, great-grandmoms, and all other kinds of moms have had a wonderful Mother’s Day!

My stepson wrote a poem for me on a poster that he colored with butterflies and flowers in earth tones because, as he explained to me, he knows I like those. I did the only thing one can do in such a situation: I squished him like crazy, rapid fire kissed his cheek, and cried. I am lucky to have him in my life.

In other mentions of Mother’s Day, Pamela Slim tweeted a link to a video earlier this week that tells a great mom story. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. (Oh, and if you want to follow Pamela on Twitter, she’s @pamslim. You can find me @lifeafterweb.)

Happy Mother’s Day!

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