One Little Word: Surprise

Five . . . One Little Words

After participating in One Little Word for several years now, I find myself eagerly awaiting what the new year - and my new word - will bring me.  Because I have learned some important personal lessons with each of my words!

(I know.  It sounds kind of wacky.  But I've discovered that there really is power in having a year-long focus on One Little Word.)

The whole thing started in 2011, the first time I signed up for Ali Edwards' One Little Word project.  My word that year was MOVE .  I chose that word because I felt like I needed some inspiration to get myself moving - basically, to get off my butt!  (You see, I'm a daydreamer at heart.  I can sit, quietly, and think about things all day.  Which is fine.  But.  Sometimes you need to get those dreams in motion.)   That first year, I got totally overwhelmed by the "project" end of things:  scrapbooking, supplies, keeping up with the monthly prompts.  In fact, I was so focused on the "project" that I didn't get much out of the "process."

What I learned that first year . . . is that I wanted to try it again.  (And that was a way to MOVE, when you think about it.)


In 2012, my word was SHINE.   I started out strong with the prompts and my word in 2012 -- but quickly flamed out.  (It was the scrapbooking!  Totally not my thing.)  What I learned from my word that year:  Do it YOUR way!  Shine YOUR light -- and don't reflect someone else's.  I learned to be inspired by the process, without feeling the pressure to do the projects.


In 2013, my word was SURPRISE.  I was hoping to surprise myself that year . . . and I did!  I learned something completely simple -- and very obvious (although it wasn't at all when I began).  You can't plan to be surprised; you can't set off looking for surprise.  You need to be open to being surprised -- and, when you are, why . . . you discover that surprises happen all around you, all the time.  (Surprise!)


Last year, my word was POSSIBILITY.  It turned out to be my most transformational word yet -- which was what I was looking for when I chose it.  (Just in a whole 'nother way!)  I expected to disover "new somethings."  But what I discovered . . . is that I really needed to clear out and create space for possibility in my life.

This year . . . 


And by now, I know that I'll end up someplace I really can't quite imagine right now.

So that's . . . Five One Little Words.

Five lessons.

(But not five scrapbooks.)


If you're joining along in Ali Edwards' class this year for the first time -- and you're finding the scrapbooking and supply lists and prescribed projects a bit overwhelming or daunting, let me know.  I am a completely rogue participant at this point.  I use Ali's monthly prompts as inspiration -- and then I do my own thing.  (It's my way to SHINE.)

Also -- it's never to late to join in.  Click here to register for Ali's class.


Parking Ramp Surprise

The other day, as I was driving through the parking ramp to park for my day at work, I spotted this . . . 


That's a very bad photo of a peregrine falcon.  
(Eating breakfast.)
(On the top level of my parking ramp.)

Here in Kalamazoo, it's not unusual to spot peregrine falcons.  We have peregrine falcons that live and nest in the tallest of our buildings downtown.  Last spring, there was a "falcon cam" pointed on their nest and you could watch them hatch online.  Tom can actually watch the falcons out his window at work.  One of my friends, who works in the building where they nest, sees them pick pigeons off the window ledges of the building fairly regularly.  Although I think I've seen them flying, I've never encountered one of them close up.

Until last Thursday.

It was the feathers that first drew my attention as I drove through the ramp.  There were LOTS of feathers flying everywhere, and a whole pile of them in the corner of the ramp.

Then I noticed the bird.  


Carefully guarding what was (probably) a pigeon.

I stopped the car and took some pictures through the closed window with my phone.  Not so great.  But kind of cool all the same!

Completely unexpected!  A parking ranp surprise! 

Words in the Wild . . . Truth

I bought a new pair of running shoes* months ago, and found these words on the box . . .


I cut the words out and tacked them on our corkboard.

Because they are true.

In our house, We Run.

Or . . . we do now!  Tom has always run -- since he was about 12 back in 7th grade.  He ran track.  He ran cross country.  He ran in college.  He ran road races.  He ran the Boston Marathon.  He runs.

Me?  Not so much.

Until last August, when I decided to Just Do It.  I started running with the Couch-to-5K app on my phone.  And I just kept going.

I don't love it, really.  But I don't mind it as much as I thought I would.

And now . . . I can say . . . We Run.


Although we don't run together!


Because one of us has a much slower pace than the other!

In fact, one of us is already at the 5K finish line . . .


while the other one still has a mile to go!

(But that's pretty much the best part for me . . . because I have my own cheering squad at the finish!)

We had a fun time running the Kalamazoo Klassic 5K last Saturday -- with much to celebrate at the end.  One of us . . . got a personal best time . . . 

Screen Shot 2014-06-15 at 11.10.39 PM

and one of us . . . got third place!



We run!


* Those shoes have since been replaced.  Because they made my knees hurt.


As I look back over The Year That Just Was (2013), I think it might be best to start with my one little word for the year . . . 


I very much like the concept of One Little Word -- having one word serve as a focus point through the year -- although I'm not so big on the "project" part of the whole thing.* 

In 2013, I had a great experience with SURPRISE.


What was most . . . surprising . . . to me was the realization that a SURPRISE can't be planned!  You simply can't intend to be surprised.  You can't decide to surprise yourself.  You can't expect a surprise.**

Because then . . . it wouldn't be a SURPRISE!


I know this sounds kind of stupid and lame.  But this reality - that you can't expect a surprise - was eye-opening to me.  I came to understand that a SURPRISE can only be recognized as a SURPRISE . . . after the fact!  

I realized that SURPRISES are . . . 



Spur of the moment.


When it comes to a SURPRISE . . . it's simply something you didn't seem coming!  You can't wake up and say, "I'm going to surprise myself today."  It just doesn't work that way.


You can tell yourself that you'll be . . . 

OPEN to surprise in your life.

ALERT to surprises that happen all around you.

AWARE at how many things surprise us every day.

I learned that SURPRISE . . . is simply a matter of opening up your eyes and welcoming the unexpected in life!


Life is full of surprises. 

Embrace them!


My biggest SURPRISES of 2013:

The power of sound.


Taking on a new job (with a lickety-split Switch-o-Change-o surprise element that nearly swept me over Another Edge) (And still might.).


Jo-Jo.  (Talk about spur-of-the-moment.)


Running.  (Still not quite sure where that one came from.  Complete sneak attack.)


And . . . a hot air balloon landing in the front yard!



* I am simply NOT a scrapbook kind of person, and I just never will be.  I accept that about myself.  When it comes to One Little Word, I don't really follow along with the "projects."  I just check in each month as a reminder to consider new elements of my word.  I don't create a whole "book."  (Although I usually start out thinking I might.  I never really do, though.)

** This did make following along with the formal One Little Word prompts particularly troublesome, because most of the prompts have to do with intentions and plans for your word -- exercises to make the word "present" in your life.  Can't happen when your word is surprise!

Shoddy Building Materials

Often, right after Thanksgiving, I share the results of a beloved family tradition:  The Gingerbread House.  


For 20 years, we have gathered early in the holiday season to create gingerbread houses.

This year, I carefully baked the house-pieces in preparation for another house-decorating session.  I packed and mailed a set of pieces to Erin, who wouldn't be joining us for Thanksgiving this year, and I got things ready for my Mom and I to "build."


Things started out well!  The houses stayed together right away, and we were optimistic and full of creative ideas.  I had found some pink, peppermint Andes mints that I thought would be Just Perfect for roof tiles this year, and I was inspired to try an all-peppermint themed house!


And, really, those Andes mint roof tiles were MORE than perfect!  They fit across and down the roof perfectly -- creating a solid roof of peppermint-y pink, beautifully highlighted with red licorice.

I was so pleased.

Until this.


Without warning, my entire house collapsed!

SURPRISE!  (But not the good kind.)

(If you look very closely, you can just glimpse the roof-tiles in the top of the disaster-scene, above.  Sadly, it is the only photo of my Grand Inspiration.)

Turns out those roof tiles -- coupled with all the frosting snow I had so painstakingly dripped from the roof -- were far too heavy for the gingerbread structure.


Although I tried to salvage the damage, it was too extensive.  The entire thing ended up in the trash.

Now, we've had plenty of gingerbread disasters over the years (and I'm not even talking about the time my Mom ended up with a broken leg. . .) -- but never have we had to toss an entire gingerbread house!

It was so disappointing.

My Mom bravely soldiered on.



I've got all the leftover candy (although I did throw out those tempting Andes mint roof tiles), and I'm thinking about starting fresh and making another gingerbread house on my own.

If I do re-build . . . I'll make sure my building materials are up to code!


Jenny Update:  Thank you for all your kind words and thoughts yesterday.  Jenny's surgery went very well.  She spent the night - heavily drugged - at the vet's office.  We'll be bringing her home later today.  

Full of Surprises!

Running in that 5K last weekend . . . presented me with PLENTY of surprises. 

Pretty surprised that I'm running at all.  (I hate running.  Always have.  Tom, who is a life-long, serious kind of runner, has tried to get me running a few times in our lives.  It's never really worked.  He had nothing to do with it this time around, although he's been very supportive.)

I truly have a love-hate relationship with running:  It just plain sucks while you're doing it.  But you feel so awesome when you're done!


Really surprised that I can run 5K without stopping.  (Granted, I'm in pretty good shape to start with -- from aerobic dance and kickboxing and spinning and such.  But running?  Not so much.)  The Couch-to-5K program really works!  If you're interested in trying to get running, I highly recommend it.

Totally surprised that I felt confident enough to register for a 5K.  (It helped that it was called the "Salmon Run" AND that it's run in the town nearest our cottage Up North.)  I didn't sign up until a couple of days before, though.  I just wasn't sure I'd be able to do it, and I knew once I signed up, I'd be committed.


Not so surprised, actually, that the running of the 5K was really pretty awful.  (Especially because I made the ultimate rookie mistake:  I started too fast . . . and then paid the price for it on the hills later on.)

Totally surprised that I could pull it together enough at the end.  (Based on my runs over the past couple of weeks, I set my race goals as follows:  I wanted to run in 30:00, I figured I'd run in 32:00, and I didn't want to go over 35:00.  But, because of the too-fast start and the unexpected hills in the middle, I was reaping there on the final mile.  As I neared the finish line, I could see the digital clock ticking away . . . speeding ever closer to that 35:00 mark.  Could I do it?  Barely!  34:59.  Phew.)


Not so surprised that Tom finished the 10K race just a few moments AFTER I finished the 5K.  (He's very fast.  Still.  After all these years.)

A little surprised that Tom WON the 10K event. (He even won a bottle of wine!  That was exciting!)


And absolutely, mind-blowingly surprised that I placed 2nd in my age group!


Isn't that something?


Life is FULL of surprises!

Right Now . . . September 2013

Z - O - O - M ! ! !

There it went.

September.  Just breezed right on by!


I don't know about you, but that was One. Fast. Month.

Here's what's happening for me . . .Right Now.


Watching . . . Jo-Jo.  Has she peed?  Is she tearing anything up?  Terrorizing toads?  Digging a new hole?  Wading in the pond?  (Again.)  Has she pooped?  Yep.  Watching a puppy is a never-ending job.  And that leaves no time for watching anything else!

Reading . . . Oh, my reading has slowed drastically this month.  (See above.)  I'm still slogging through Paris.  I do like it and feel it's worth the slog; I just don't have much time for reading.  (I did manage to sneak in Louise Penny's latest, though!)


Knitting . . . Right.  Knitting.  Something else I used to do.  (Do you know how tempting yarn is . . . for a puppy?)  The photo above represents the sum total knitting I've finished since Jo-Jo came to live with us.  Not. Much.  (But lovely, non?  It's Germinate from Kirsten Kapur in Lucent, the Most Lucious Yarn Ever, from Kim!)

Listening to . . . Mat Kearney.


Dreading . . . Tom's upcoming stint in Mumbai in a couple of weeks.  I'll miss Tom, sure.  But it means I have Jo-Jo Watch all on my own.  For quite a long time.  And that is a bit intimidating.

Planning . . . What to plant in my new "secret garden" . . . even though it will likely be spring before I actually do the planting.  (Because Jo-Jo.  And Mumbai.)

Humming . . . Brother Louie.  (Don't ask.)


Drinking . . . Wine, San Pellegrino (still), and some wonderful blackerry tea I just discovered.

Itching to . . . Travel!  I wish I had a trip coming up.  (But I don't.  It's definitely time to start thinking about it.)


Needing to . . . Get my closet switched over to my fall/winter wardrobe.  (Even though I will NOT wear socks and shoes yet.  I will NOT.)

Organizing . . . My desk.  (Yeah.  I know.  I'm always organizing my desk.  It's a given.)

Inspired by . . . These adorable ornaments.  I have already decided that I won't be knitting any Christmas gifts this year.  But then, I found these.  I'm thinking they might be kind of fun . . . and the Adorableness Quotient is factoring in. . .


Delighted by . . . My iPad keyboard/case!  Brian found it first, and based on his recommendation, I got one for myself.  It works like a charm!  (I have an iPad mini; they make the case for the regular iPad, too.)


Surprised by . . . I just signed up for my first 5K in 25 years!  (Wish me luck.)

How about YOU?  What's happening for you . . . Right Now?

Putting It In Stone

Every once in a while, I blog about my One Little Word project.  It's an interesting journey; one I really enjoy.  But.  It's mostly not something I share blog-wise. 

One of the OLW prompts over the summer (I can't quite remember the exact month, now, because after a while, they really do all run together) involved "writing" your word out in the public spaces.

I thought for a several days about how I would DO this.

And then . . . it came to me.

A patio stone!

I'd had this kit for a while.  (At one point, I think I planned to make gifts . . .)


So . . . why not?


I assembled all my stuff one afternoon.


And got to mixing my concrete!


I shaped my patio stone (I used a rectangular form) . . .


and pressed in my letters and some decorative stones.


Fun - and really easy!

Now, all I have to do is place it out in my garden as a reminder of my journey with SURPRISE.


(But I think I'll wait until Jo-Jo is finished with her digging!)

A Surprise ... In More Ways Than One

One evening last week, I was out running and nearly home when a truck pulling a trailer passed me going Very Fast.  I couldn't help but notice the words on the trailer:


Even so, I was surprised when I got home and noticed what can only be called a "Carnival Atmosphere" in my normally quiet neighborhood.

Because THIS. . .


A hot air balloon (the same one that went low over my house a couple of weeks ago) had made a surprise - but controlled - landing in my neighbor's front lawn, right across the street.

Big Excitement!

Neighbors poured out of their houses and came out with their cameras.  We took turns posing for shots with the balloon in the background.


It's just something that doesn't happen everyday!


After a time, when the Balloon Chase Vehicle guys decided they wouldn't be able to put the balloon UP again (too many trees and houses and basketball posts), they moved the balloon out into the street and let the air out.


I got a bit of that on a video (see below), but I misjudged how big and how close it would be.  Besides, the balloon was landing across my front lawn!  (I don't shoot videos often, and I was holding the camera in the wrong direction . . . but you'll get the idea.)


It takes a surprising amount of time to take a balloon down and pack it up in the Balloon Chase Vehicle!


Most of the crowd hung around and watched for another hour or so as they rolled and packed and stored the balloon.  Tom and I could keep tabs on the action from our front windows.


In the days since, I've been thinking about the Unexpected Balloon Landing event in relation to my One Little Word process this year.  Although I don't blog about it very often, I've been keeping up with the monthly OLW prompts and keeping my word for the year - SURPRISE - in my thoughts and journals.

SURPRISE is a funny OLW word.  Because most of the OLW prompts and activities are focused on how you can . . .

invite your word into your life

translate your word into action in your world

see the word around you

What I've discovered this year . . . is that I can't really DO most of that with the particular word I've chosen.  I mean. . . once you PLAN something . . . or TAKE ACTION . . . it is no longer a SURPRISE!

But I have been able to SEE the word around me.  To be AWARE of how often I am surprised.  Sometimes the surprise is subtle -- an unexpected shadow, a strange cloud formation, a bird song.  And sometimes the surprise is huge -- my reaction to a situation, a new possibility, a puppy!

This is my third year of doing One Little Word.  My word this year is more challenging than I had expected, but I'm getting a lot more out of the process than I ever have before.