One Little Word: Root

At the "Root" of March, Part 1

Ali Edwards' One Little Word March prompt almost always sends me into a bit of a tailspin, and I usually skip it entirely. She suggests that we "do something" (not necessarily connected to our words, but often inspired by our words) every day for a month. Or . . . try to.

This selecting something to "do" is really hard for me, as a Questioner (á la Gretchen Rubin's Four Tendencies). (Just quickly, Gretchen's framework distingushes how people tend to respond to expectations - both inner and outer. It's really fascinating. And it explains a lot. Questioners, like me, question all expectations, and will meet expectations IF they think the expectation makes sense.) So. Therein lies the problem for me. I don't have issues usually with the DOING of things I decide to do. The DOING just needs to be relevant and meaningful for me. Otherwise? Why bother?

So I struggle when someone suggests I choose something to "do" every day for X number of days. (I also have trouble with the arbitrary "X number of days" thing, but I'll just let that go for now.) So the choosing is really hard for me, unless I happen to have something already in mind that I'd like to do. 

And this year . . . I didn't.

Until I remembered something . . . BIG . . . hiding behind the closed door of a cabinet in my living room.

When my mom died four and a half years ago, and my dad downsized into an apartment, I became the Holder of All Family Photos. And they were a MESS. My mom had created a few photo albums, and those were fairly organized (although a lot of people in the older photos were not identified. . . ) (she always intended to make notes in the albums, but never did . . . ), but over the years, as other family members died, THEIR old photos ended up in my parents' closets, too. Plus . . . I uncovered shoeboxes full of mementoes and other random photos squirreled away in the deep, dark crannies of my mom's old condo. 

MESS . . . doesn't really begin to describe it. There are duplicates and triplicates and blurred faces and people even my dad can't identify. Everything all jumbled together in no meaningful way. But . . . I said, sure. I'll take care of it. It'll be fun, I said. It'll be a great project, I said. And then, completely overwhelmed, I stuck the whole mess (boxes and albums and folders crammed with photos) into the cabinet in my living room. 

And there it sits.

The guilt of the Great Photo Project pulls at me constantly. (Oh . . . the Shoulds and Oughts. They are a powerful force.)

But I knew it would take time. 
A LOT of time.
And a lot of attention.
And a strategy for sorting and scanning and saving and sharing.

And I had none of that.

Then, back in February . . . I started thinking about Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird.
And that old question popped up in my brain . . .
Q: How do you eat an elephant?
(A: One bite at a time.)

I decided to . . . take a bite . . . of my Giant Elephant Photo Project.
And begin.

Using the One Little Word prompt as my springboard, I decided that my "bites" of the Elephant Project would be . . . 15 minutes every day. Which doesn't sound like much. I mean, how much could I accomplish on this enormous, elephant of a project by just spending 15 minutes every day? But that's what I needed to do. Because I clearly wasn't going to find an extra, full week (or weeks) anywhere in my life!

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I started with some research (Questioner . . . ) to help me establish a process and strategy.
I set up a digital storage system (files) on an external hard drive.
And I grabbed the first box.

15 minutes every day. 

Some days I struggled to get 10 or 12 photos scanned, identified, and stored in the proper folders. But other days, I would find my flow and spend far longer than 15 minutes on the task.

By the end of March, I'd developed a good routine and finished that box and moved on to the next. I also took everything out of that cabinet in the living room and sorted. And I developed my strategy for what happens AFTER I finish the sorting and scanning. (I usually work on The Elephant late in the afternoon, just before Tom and I meet up for a drink; it's a strategy. . . ) 


So. Good progress, then.
And I'm motivated to continue now.

And here's the funny part. Until mid-month, I never really connected that my Elephant Project . . . was also a Root Project! 

You see, I never intended my word - root - to encompass my roots as in ancestry. I mean, I'd made the connection, of course. But I never planned to go there with my word. (Besides, my family history -- with the exception of one kind of renegade branch -- has already been carefully tracked by others in my family.) 

Yet here I was, scanning my ancestors!
Connecting with my roots!

Realizing that my great-grandfather (the tall guy on the far left) . . . looked like a member of the Peaky Blinders gang! (And, really . . . this photo is from the same era in history as Peaky Blinders.) (My grandfather is the little guy in front.)

Lester Robert Harley Dean circa 1922

And seeing that my grandparents were kind of dashing and debonair, back in the mid-30s.

Harley and Mildred 1935

Agnes and Henry

And I really got a chuckle realizing that my parents . . . looked like they'd had starring roles in Little Rascals as children.



So. For the first time in the 11 years I've been following along with Ali Edwards' One Little Word March prompt . . . I found a way to make it work for me.

  • I used the prompt as a way to get myself moving on a huge and daunting project. (I AM eating that elephant.)
  • I connected with my roots, in an ancestry-kind of way.
  • And . . . it all got me thinking about the metaphor in all this. That sometimes you just have to plant yourself, deep in the dirt. And let things root. And maybe . . .  the roots will create an entire different bloom than you expected!

(But wait. There's more. Join me on Monday for the rest of the story.)


Making It Visible

When it comes to my One Little Word every year, I like to keep it close, especially as the year gets rolling along and that January-enthusiasm begins to fade. I've found that if I can keep my word visible - right in front of me - I tend to keep it in mind, too.

Every year, I try to find some tangible symbol of my word that I can have out every day. Something I'll see. Some visual reminder of my word.

Sometimes it's just a little tchotchke that reminds me of my word. Like this inexpensive globe I picked up at World Market in 2015 . . . the year my word was journey. It still sits on a shelf in my house. Not as a fine art object, but to remind me to step out and put on my "explorer hat" whenever I can.


Sometimes it's a piece of jewelry. Like this miniature cairn necklace I wore all the time in 2017, when my word was balance. I still get it out and put it on whenever I'm feeling a little . . . tippy. It reminds me that balance is precarious, but worth striving for.

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Sometimes it's something inscribed with a quote relating to my word. Like this little "junk-collector" (because that's what it does) back in 2016 when my word was risk. It sits on my desk even now (still collecting bits and bobs), reminding me to step out. Because I can do hard things.


And sometimes it's the word itself. Like this little plaque I found in 2014, when my word was possibility. While certainly more on-the-nose than some of the other things, it always reminds me that bright possibilities are out there, waiting for me.


So . . . what did I choose for my visual symbol this year? 

Well. My word is root. And I keep thinking of . . . trees. Rooted in the ground, but able to bend and move above ground. Strong. Capable. Sure. Vulnerable. So I wanted a tree - with visible roots - for my symbol this year. And I found this cool thing . . . 

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The fact that it's built on a base of amethyst is pretty cool, too. (Because who doesn't need a little amethyst in their life . . . to help reduce negative vibrations, clear the mind of clutter, and . . . prevent intoxication, right?) I keep my tree-crystal on my meditation table, where I'm sure to see it every day. 

A visual reminder . . . is a powerful way to keep you linked to your word all year long.


How about you? If you choose a word for the year, do you do anything special to keep it visible for you?



Getting at My Roots

"Fortunate are the people whose roots are deep."
--- Agnes Meyer Driscoll


This month, I decided to do a little digging to check out my roots: The Roots of Me. I wanted to start looking for answers to questions like  . . .
Who am I?
What roots me to my environment?
How can I create healthy growing conditions so I can thrive (especially as I age)? 

In the garden, I'd just take out my little shovel and take a look at a plant's roots. Not so easy with . . . myself. So I set up a little exercise. Early in the month, I started an open list in my journal where I could jot down random things as they came to mind that might help me build a picture of . . . who I am . . . down at the roots.


It was kind of fun, actually . . . to start really thinking about I AM. (And, yeah. The Who song ran through my head all month long. It was my constant soundtrack.)

I listed things that are easy, "label-y" kinds of things . . . 


I included various personality "categories" . . . 
Enneagram 4w5
Questioner (who tips Rebel sometimes)
Aries sun, Sagittarius moon, Gemini rising

I listed things I like . . . 
"I could eat cheese every day and never tire of it."
"I like appetizers better than dessert."
"I like checking things off my to-do list."
"I love poetry."

I listed things I don't like . . . 
"I hate to be misunderstood."
"Things I hate: small talk, manipulations, deceit/lying, chaos, rudeness, cruelty, and compromising my values."
"I don't like stories where animals are at risk. And I am not a fan of stories set in prison. Or torture. Also war movies are not my genre."

I listed my tendencies . . . 
"I'm always trying to figure myself out. I'm very introspective."
"I get done what I set out to do. Eventually."
"I'm not a perfectionist, but I do have high standards."
"I'm an introvert, for sure. But I'm an 'extroverted introvert.'"

I listed things I'm good at . . . 
"I'm good with creative problem solving."
"I see the forest AND the trees."
"I'm good with color and proportion."
"I'm comfortable with ambiguity."

I included things that . . . well . . . probably bug other people . . .
"I can be stubborn and a little impulsive."
"I'm not fun to be around when I'm hungry."
"I'm not a fan of confrontation, but I can be very direct."
"I'm bossy and I like to take charge if allowed. If not allowed, I'll step back. But I may not engage. And don't expect me to take orders."

And I listed goofy things about me . . . 
"I like to plan parties and give them, but I'm always worried no one will show up."
"I'm one of those people other people stop to ask directions of. Even as an American . . . traveling in Europe."
"I don't mind knowing what happens beforehand in books, movies, and TV shows."
"I don't mind public speaking."

Over the weekend, I typed up my list and printed it out. In the end, I had come up with 99 things that answered the question . . . Who am I? I had Tom check it out, and he thought I'd created a pretty thorough and accurate list for myself. (And he knows me better than anyone so I think he'd know.)


This was a really interesting exercise. By taking a good look at the roots of ME, I feel like I'm in a good place to move forward . . . strengthening my own root system, figuring out how to create an environment where I can thrive. I'm not trying to change anything, really. Just trying to understand myself and take care of myself.

As any gardener knows, happy roots = happy plants.

(And aren't you glad I didn't make you read that whole list!!!)


Carolyn is hosting a monthly one-word link-up. Click here to see what other bloggers have to say about their words this month.


If you want to follow along with my word journey this year, you can click here to find all my posts related to "root."








Cut and Paste

If you've ever joined Ali Edwards for her One Little Word year-long workshop, you know that February . . . is vision board month. Some people really enjoy making vision boards; some people hate it. Me? I LOVE it! (I make little vision boards for myself all the time, in fact.)

There is nothing I find more centering . . . than sitting with a pile of magazines in front of me and a pair of scissors in my hand. Just clipping out images and words that resonate in some way. 


It's not about your "word" (if you have one) - or any other "goal." It's just about choosing what inspires. Words that speak to you. Images that appeal to you. It's a way to . . . see what pops up.


I ended up just creating my vision board this month right in the pages of my word-journal. 


I really like the way they turned out. A little introspective. Quiet. Kind of grounded. The way I want to feel this year.
(And - bonus! - I have plenty of extra clipped images to make more pages later.)

How about you? Do you like to cut and paste? Have you ever tried making a vision board?

More and Less

So . . . on Monday I talked about setting intentions and goals for the year. And on Tuesday I explained about how I play around with my "word" at the beginning of the year. Today? I've got another kinda fun little planning/intention setting thing to tell you about. If that's not your jam (as Adriene would say), just scroll to the bottom of this post and you can look at my current knitting project.

For the rest of you? Let's go!

This is a fun little exercise that is always included in Ali Edwards' One-Little-Word January prompt (which tends to focus on getting to know/exploring your word). I call it . . . More and Less.  (I've done this every year since 2011.) The basic premise is to think about the year ahead by asking yourself two simple questions:

  1. What do I want MORE of?
  2. What do I want LESS of?

It's easy, kinda fun to think about, and . . . you get pretty close to your inner motivations and intentions by doing it! Here's what I came up with for myself this year:


If you haven't already done something like this for 2021, now is a perfect time. It's a full moon (always a great time to review your intentions and check in with yourself). It's the end of a month. It's almost the beginning of the month. And it's still very much the beginning of a new year.

Give it a try! Let me know what you think. And if you've already done this exercise, what are some of the things you want more and less of in 2021?


FYI - If you're into this kind of thing, Mercury goes retrograde starting tomorrow (through February 21).


And for those of you just here for the knitting . . . here you go! (I think it'll be finished later today.)



Here's to a weekend filled with just what you need . . . nothing more and nothing less!



Word Play


Each year, when I start to explore my one little word, I begin by just . . . playing around with the word itself.

What does it look like?
How does it sound?
What does it mean?

I look for quotes, and begin a collection. I listen to music, and I start a playlist. I seek out poems and books and symbols. Sometimes I start some sort of journal, and sometimes I don't.

(This year, I did.)

It's a nice way to - gently - invite my word into my world.

Lately, I've been thinking about all the ways my word - root - comes up in my everyday thoughts and language. As a gardener, I regularly think about/talk about roots as they pertain to things that grow, so my initial thoughts started there . . . in the garden.

Healthy roots.
Root systems.
Pulling up weeds from the root.
Digging up and dividing and transplanting roots.
Fertilizing the roots.
Watering at the roots.
How plants take root.

But . . . root . . . doesn't stop with gardening!

My daughter had a root canal back in December. So there's the teeth kind of root.
There are the tell-tale gray roots of someone who dyes their hair.
We've seen (first-hand, lately) . . . that trust is at the root of democracy.
And we've all heard that money is the root of all evil.

We like to get at the roots of a problem.
And, of course, many of us want to find our roots by connecting with our ancestry.
We develop close ties to our personal environments by putting down roots in a community.
Roots can also be that essential core - or heart - of something, as in . . . the root of their relationship was a shared love of [insert thing here].

There are square roots, in math.
Root words, in language.
Root directories, in computer science.

We dig around and root out whatever is . . . underneath.
We root for our favorite teams.
We open our root chakras.
And, of course, we root-to-rise in yoga!


I've had a lot of fun playing around with my word this month!

Now . . . I'm ready to dig in and get to work.


How about you? Have you been exploring your word yet?

Be sure to hop on over to Carolyn's this week. She's hosting our monthly word round-ups this year with a link-up.



Under the Surface

My one little word for 2021 is . . . 


Root . . . 

started bubbling up, rising to the surface in my subconscious mind sometime in the fall. Or, at least, that's when I noticed it kind of hovering there. On the edge of my thoughts. I think it popped up as a response to one of my favorite flow-quotes from last year . . . 

"I am rooted, but I flow."
        --- Virginia Woolf

I started thinking about that quote. A lot. What does it mean . . . to be rooted? And what roots ME?

There is a lot of appeal for me right now . . . after a year of such rapid upheaval, of uncertainty, of constantly adapting, of flowing . . . to think about stability. About feeling settled. Grounded. Healthy. Rooted.

So my one little word journey this year . . . is going underground!

It's time to dig deep.
Get my hands dirty.

C'mon along.