Year in Review

Year in Review: 52 Quotes

As I've mentioned over the years, when it comes to journaling and planners, I'm All Analog All the Time. 
Here's my planner . . . 

IMG_7396 2

It's a Traveler's Journal. I've created my own "system" loosely based on bullet journaling, but . . . also not really bullet journaling at all.  I've got 3 useful sections: monthly calendars, weekly "spreads," and a random notes section. While not fancy, it works really well for me.

IMG_7395

Each week, I sit with the weekly spread and plan out my coming week. I transfer in any meetings and appointments and specific due dates. I plan out my dinner menus. And blog posts. I set up a little weekly "tracker" to follow my progress on the five-elements-I-need-to-stay-balanced. I create my weekly to-do list. I save a space for jotting notes and shopping lists. I plot out my workouts. And . . . for fun and inspiration . . .  I find a quote to include at the top of each week's page. (Here's next week's bare-bones weekly spread -- before I start filling in the details.)

IMG_7392

I'm quite intentional about the quotes I choose to include in my planner, although I don't get too stressed about it. The quotes usually . . . fit . . . the week in some way. Sometimes it's seasonal. Sometimes it's my mood. Sometimes it's aspirational. 

Anyway. As I was going through my 2021 planner as part of my end-of-year review, it struck me that my quotes actually kind of tell the story of my year in a slightly more . . . shall we say .  .  . esoteric way. So I typed them up for myself.

And then I decided to share them with you.

So. Here are 52 quotes from my 2021 planner, in date order. If you squint a little, you might be able to follow my year . . . in quotes.

=

jan

“Begin as you mean to go on.”
Charles H. Spurgeon

“Most of life is showing up. You do the best you can, which varies from day to day.”
Regina Brett

“Anyone who claims to be a leader must speak like a leader. That means speaking with integrity and truth.
Kamala Harris

“Life is what happens while you are making other plans.”
John Lennon

feb

“Nobody has ever measured, not even the poets, how much a heart can hold.”
Zelda Fitzgerald

“Love is the answer, and you know that for sure. Love is a flower, you’ve got to let it grow.”
John Lennon

“Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.”
Emily Brontë

“Where there is love, there is life.”
Mahatma Gandhi

mar

“In March, winter is holding back and spring is pulling forward. Something holds and something pulls inside of us, too.”
Jean Hersey

“March is a tomboy with tousled hair, a mischievous smile, mud on her shoes, and a laugh in her voice.”
Hal Borland

“By March, the worst of the winter would be over. The snow would thaw, the rivers begin to run, and the world would wake into itself again.”
Neil Gaiman

“Where flowers bloom so does hope.”
Lady Bird Johnson

“My life is better every year of living it!”
Rachel Maddow

IMG_4043

apr

“The moon is the queen of everything. She rules the oceans, rivers, rain. When I am asked whose tears these are, I always blame the moon.”
Lucille Clifton

“Hello, sun in my face. Hello, you who make the morning and spread it over the fields [. . .]
Watch, now, how I start the day in happiness, in kindness.”
Mary Oliver

“Here comes the sun, and I say it’s all right.”
George Harrison, The Beatles

“I believe in kindness. Also in mischief. Also in singing, especially when singing is not necessarily prescribed.”
Mary Oliver

may

“You can’t make things grow. You have to create an environment where things want to grow.”
Garden Marcus

“If you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress.”
Barack Obama

“Be aware of wonder. Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.”
Robert Fulgham

“And into the forest I go to lose my mind and find my soul.”
John Muir

jun

“In early June the world of leaf and blade and flower explodes, and every sunset is different.”
John Steinbeck

“But tomorrow may rain, so I’ll follow the sun.”
John Lennon and Paul McCartney, The Beatles

“Live in the sunshine. Swim in the sea. Drink in the wild air.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

“In summer, the song sings itself.”
William Carlos Williams

IMG_3564

jul

“Everything in life is a vibration.”
Albert Einstein

“Everything I’ve ever let go of has claw marks on it.”
David Foster Wallace

“My mind works in idleness. To do nothing is often my most profitable way.”
Virginia Woolfe

“Life is about using the whole box of crayons.”
RuPaul

“People from a planet without flowers would think we must be made with joy the whole time to have such things about us.”
Iris Murdoch

aug

“As I leave the garden, I take with me a renewed view. And a quiet soul.”
Jessica Coupe

“In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside you.”
Deepak Chopra

“I learned a long time ago the wisest thing I can do is be on my own side, be an advocate for myself and others like me.”
Maya Angelou

“What matters most is how you walk through the fire.”
Charles Bukowski

sep

“Wellness is not a ‘medical fix’ but a way of living – a lifestyle sensitive and responsive to all the dimensions of body, mind, and spirit.”
Greg Anderson

“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”
Vincent Van Gogh

“You don’t get explanations in real life. You just get moments that are absolutely, utterly, inexplicably odd.”
Neil Gaiman

“Sometimes you just have to jump out the window and grow wings on the way down.”
Ray Bradbury

IMG_5868

oct

“LIfe starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”
W.B. Yeats

“I have woven a parachute out of everything broken.”
William Stafford

“Is not this a true autumn day? Just the still melancholy that I love - that makes life and nature harmonize.”
George Eliot

“Energy creates energy. It is by spending myself that I become rich.”
Sarah Bernhardt

nov

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf’s a flower.”
Albert Camus

“Books break the shackles of time – proof that humans can work magic.”
Carl Sagan

“Throw open your window and let the scenery of clouds and sky enter your room.”
Yosa Buson

“In life, one has a choice to take one of two paths: to wait for some special day – or to celebrate each special day.”
Rasheed Ogunlani

dec

“It is December, and nobody asked if I was ready.”
Sarah Kay

“A bare tree stands with roots on both ends in December days.”
—- Kiran Bantawa in ‘Bare Trees

“Winter passes and one remembers one’s perseverance.”
Yoko On

“Happiness is a vine that takes root and grows within the heart, never outside it.”
Kahlil Gibran

“Reflective thinking turns experience into insight.”
John C. Maxwell

IMG_7048

Thank you for hanging around with me this year.
Your presence, your comments, your support . . . all mean the world to me.

Happy New Year, my friends.
May 2022 be just a nice, "regular" kind of year; balanced, and with not too many surprises for any of us!

See you . . . next year!


Year in Review: Lightning Round!

It's time for a quick rundown of some of my favorite things and personal "Best-Ofs" in 2021.

Lightning Round . . . 
Let's go!

IMG_6311 2

Best investment. . .  Therabody Elite (We call it The Blaster. And we use it every day.

Best scenic vista. . .  Sleeping Bear Dunes. (Pure Michigan.)

IMG_3595

Best thing I knit. . .  The Weekender sweater

Best thing I sewed. . .  Those green overalls.

Never thought I'd . . . Ship an entire CAR across the country. (Which I did when my dad sold Erin and Keith his Outback.)

Especially proud of . . . French braiding my own hair.

IMG_5799

Can't believe I . . . Tripped over Jenny and did a face plant into the wall. Twice! 

Total game changer . . . Plant dildos!

Pandemic silver lining . . . Patience. (These supply chain delays and staff shortages have taught me to just roll with things and have given me plenty of opportunities practice waiting. Patiently.)

Astonishing discovery . . . That it's easy to install hardware/buttons on a pair of overalls. (And especially when you've got a Tiny Anvil!)

IMG_4893

TV worth watching . . . Ted Lasso.

Best audiobook . . . Storyteller by Dave Grohl.

Most recommended book . . . Still Life by Sarah Winman.

Poetry volume I can't get enough of . . . Rival Gardens by Connie Wanek

IMG_6686

Favorite new obsession . . . Needle felting.

Most successful winter sport . . . Indoor gardening.

Wish I'd spent more time . . . Painting.

Song I THOUGHT would be my #1 on Spotify . . . Mr. Brightside by The Killers.  (It seems to show up on every playlist I listen to.) (Pink Floyd's Money? Really? Still stymied by that one. It's a good song, sure. But #1? I think I'd remember that.)

IMG_5681 4

Feeling sheepish about . . . Screwing up my photo scanning project. And then abandoning it.

Best thing in my garden last year . . . My Satomi dogwood.

Still gloating about . . . Being questioned at Costco about whether I was "old enough" for "senior shopping." (YES!)

Technology I'm loving . . . My new hearing aids with bluetooth!

IMG_3508

Secret crush on . . . Harry Styles. (I know. Don't judge.)

Would absolutely do again . . . Make another pair of overalls. (And maybe another Weekender sweater.)

Miss most about the "before times" . . . Happy hour. At a bar. And going to the movies.

Favorite ritual . . . Pizza Fridays. Every Friday. (And in the summer, BONUS ice cream cone.)

IMG_6595

Taking with me into the new year . . . A sense of humor, that patience I found, and . . . well. That photo project.

Leaving behind . . . My energy-sucking scrolling habit. (It's gotta go.)


Year in Review: The Highs and The Lows

"Most of life is showing up. You do the best you can, which varies from day to day."
        --- Regina Brett

==

2021 . . . was a Really Weird Year.

IMG_2539

On the one hand, there was a lot of Good Stuff. Vaccines. A new administration. Getting together with (some) people again.

On the other hand, there was a lot of Crappy Stuff. People who wouldn't get the vaccines. Same old political shit. Variants.

It was the Crappy Stuff that just kind of kept everything . . . feeling heavy. Always there, in the background. Burning building. Like a heavy layer of dust covering our lives.

But still. There was an awfully lot of Good Stuff happening, too. 

IMG_2423

For example, after getting vaccinated - but before the Delta variant hit, Erin was able to get on a plane and come home for a long visit with us in June. And Brian got a great new job that brought him (and Lauren, of course) even closer to us -- so now we can get together on the regular. Erin got a very nice promotion in her job at Google, and Tom connected with some interesting new clients that keep him (almost too) busy. Good stuff in any year -- and especially welcome in a year like this one.

On the flip side, our exterior home renovation project (re-staining the house, new doors, new light fixtures) was put on hold for the second big year! Some of the delay came from staffing problems for our painting company, but it was mainly because our doors (ordered long ago) are still stuck in some container on some ship or dock somewhere in the world. (Keep your fingers crossed for 2022.)

Other highlights? We got a new kitchen sink. I set up a password manager (which is a major hassle, let me tell you) (but worth it). We celebrated Jenny's 100th (as calculated in dog years) birthday. I sewed up the green overalls of my dreams. And learned to make croissants. Tom brewed a lot of beer (although I lost my chief-bottler job when he implemented his kegging system). The garden looked great. And we added a Peloton Tread to our basement "gym." Tom visited his parents and I visited the Mayo Clinic. I continued my watercolor classes (still via Zoom) and I started doing embroidery again. My dad is happy now that he can play poker with his buddies a few times every week. I did Yoga with Adriene almost every day, and even got Tom to join me now and again. I cooked a lot of vegetarian meals. And learned to give myself facials.

IMG_4064

Other lowlights? Although I started my family photo scanning project, I made a major error setting my scanner and now must . . .  start over. (The mojo has disappeared, though.) (And I can't blame the supply chain for that delay.) A couple of projects were Total Fails (it happens), and many never even made it to the starting gates. I suffered a major RA flare that sucked a lot of energy from me during the summer. Also a couple of bouts with diverticulitis. I spent too much time doom-scrolling, another energy-sucker. (Definitely a theme.) Many of the things I thought I might do this year . . . didn't actually happen. (Optimistic expectations about vaccination on my part.) Actually, most of my lowlights . . . are really due to that layer of dust covering everything. That burning building in the background. Energy-sucking. Frustration. Low-level irritation. Most of the time, I could rise above it. But there were other times when I struggled.

IMG_4176 2

All things considered, the Good Stuff outweighed the Crappy Stuff for me. Better than last year, for sure. I hold no illusions that there will be anything magical or different when we turn the calendar page to 2022 this weekend.

But I can hope for a dust cloth to wipe away that layer of dust, y'know?

==

“Resilience is accepting your new reality, even if it’s less good than the one you had before. You can fight it, you can do nothing but scream about what you’ve lost, or you can accept that and try to put together something that’s good.”
― Elizabeth Edwards

 

 

 


Year In Review: Root Review

"Happiness is a vine that takes root and grows within the heart, never outside it."
                ---Kahlil Gibran

IMG_2379

When I chose ROOT as my word for 2021, I had a feeling it might be the just-right word for me this year. After the upheaval of 2020, I needed a word that would give me some stability. With everything coming off the rails all around me, I wanted to feel secure and tethered. I just needed something to feel . . . solid again. 

As the year comes to a close, I know that ROOT was absolutely the word I needed.

IMG_6512

Lessons learned:

  • It's a good idea to dig around a little now and then . . . to take a good look at your roots so you can see how things are going down deep. Knowing the condition of your roots - and especially knowing what makes up those roots in the first place - will help you take care of your whole "plant;" your whole SELF.
  • Sometimes, when you plant yourself deep in the dirt and let things root . . . you get an entirely different bloom than you expected. Stay open to discovery.
  • Figuring out what holds you back frees you to move forward. But doing that (and I did a lot of that this year) means digging deep and getting your hands dirty.
  • A strong and well-developed root system assures that you can withstand the rains and thunderstorms of life -- the unexpected, the surprises, the things that completely throw us out of whack. Strong roots help us manage the good, the bad, and the ugly of life.

IMG_7368

  • When the "weather" of life is providing just enough of what you need, it's easy to take things for granted. That you'll always have enough "water," for example. That your "roots" will remain comfortable, happy, and well-nourished. That you can just . . . cruise along, happy as a clam, without providing any "water maintenance." But, as we know, "weather" - real and metaphoric - can change quickly. And we don't aways notice that we need some extra "watering" until we start feeling dry . . . and a little desperate, usually wondering what is wrong with us. So we need to pay attention to what's happening in our "gardens." To watch for signs of "dryness" in our own soil. To figure out when our roots need some watering. (So we don't wither and dry up.)

IMG_7365

Some projects I worked on during my ROOT year:

  • I dabbled in a root-inspired (sort-of) "art journal." It was a place for me to create collages, collect quotes and poems, and gather my "learnings" all year long. It was nothing fancy or elaborate, but turned out to be a meaningful way for me to connect with my word all year long.
  • I took on a family photo organizing and scanning project that, well. Took a bad turn. Which (as so often happens with those "bad turns") ended up defeating me. BUT . . . I'm "transplanting" that project into next year with renewed vigor - and a better plan.
  • I did an Ancestry DNA test with some fun results.
  • I developed my own recipe for "personal compost" (to nourish my roots on a regular basis) and I created a "root cellar" to preserve the things I've learned and discovered this year for future reference.
  • I started writing my "personal manifesto" (or "this I believe" statement if the word "manifesto" makes you conjure the Unabomber). While I had hoped to have it finished by the end of the year, I don't. But I've begun. (It's . . . ahem . . . taken root, you could say.)

IMG_7367

Although I feel complete with my word for 2021, I know it will continue to hover in my mind. I'm sure I'll come back for more "ROOTwork" in the future (which I take as a sign of a good word; you're never really "finished" with the good ones!). Most importantly, the work I've done this year has strengthened me at my roots, and makes me feel ready to forge ahead with . . . whatever comes next.

IMG_7369

(And that quote there on the cover of my root journal? There's a clue in there . . . about what my word for 2022 might be about.)

==

How about you? If you chose a word in 2021, how did it work out for you? And what lessons did you learn?

And . . . if you're thinking about a word for next year (maybe even for the first time), check out this interview series that Carolyn did about choosing a word. Or check out Ali Edwards' One Little Word program. Ali has been running this program for a very long time now, and has some great information about choosing a word and getting started thinking about it. The program itself includes monthly "thinking" and creative prompts and provides a very nice structure if that's your thing. (I sign up every year. I enjoy Ali's inspiration although I don't do (m)any of the creative prompts.) Something to consider, though, if you're interested in a deeper relationship with your word.

 

 

 


Measuring A Year: The Highlight Reel

Here we are . . . sliding into home base on the very last day of 2020! As we prepare to bid adieu to this total dumpster fire of a year, I'm wrapping up my "annual review" with a look at my highlights of 2020.

Highlights, you say?

Yeah. Highlights.

Because in the midst of this absolutely shitty year, there ARE highlights!

IMG_8207 copy

Before I get started on highlights, I want to offer this . . . I don't know what to call it, exactly . . . disclaimer, maybe? Acknowledgement? Anyway. I am aware - every minute of every day - how fortunate I am; how well-equipped I am to handle "staying home" during a pandemic. I have Tom, who is not only a calming presence but also damn good company. I live in a comfortable house in a safe neighborhood. I am surrounded by Plenty -- food, projects, tech tools, resources. I am healthy. I don't have children at home to worry about. Tom's business is safe from pandemic pressure, and he worked from home already, so we didn't even have that adjustment to make. Truly . . . an embarrassment of riches. I have much to be grateful for. And I know this. 

Still.
Burning-building-in-the-background.
(It's been a hard year for all of us.)

On to those highlights . . . 

IMG_0857 2

I made some Astonishing Personal Discoveries in 2020!

  • If I wanted to (and I don't), I actually could do that Project 333 thing Courtney Carver is always going on about! (Choosing only 33 items of clothing - including coats, shoes, jewelry, and accessories - to take you through a 3-month time period.) Personally, I still don't get the whole arbitrary-ness of Courtney's number 33 (I am a Questioner, after all), but I've always appreciated the concept. And now - thanks to 2020 - I know I really CAN live in 1 pair of leggings for a week. (Courtney is obviously not a knitter, though.)
  • I also can go out and about my life - even in my (albeit limited) public appearances - wearing no make-up and sporting terrible hair! I don't care. No one else cares. So liberating! (As much so as letting my hair revert to it's natural color, post chemo.) There is no need for vanity during a pandemic.
  • Days can go by without my needing to use or refer to my planner! I used to drag it with me everywhere - because I needed it and used it all the time. But now? I can just schedule (those rare) future "things" without even looking at my calendar . . . because there is so little ON it. So. Weird. (Even still, after all these months.)

IMG_0145

Total Game Changers that got me through 2020: 

IMG_9759 2

We had a Pandemic Dividend (an unexpected bonus) to celebrate . . . 

  • Late last February, we were convinced Jenny was . . . near the end. At almost 13, she had started having what we thought were seizures or a stroke. A vet visit, though, indicated she was actually experiencing Old Dog Vestibular Syndrome (yeah - it's a real thing and it's really called that). Basically, she had vertigo! It took a while for it to clear up -- but it did. So now, she's a deaf and partially blind almost 14-year-old dog . . . who's survived 2 knee surgeries, anal cancer, and Old Dog Vestibular Syndrome. As part of her vertigo treatment, our vet suggested short walks (she hadn't been able to go on walks for a while), so Tom started by just taking her down the street a little way each day. This was challenging -- because vertigo; she fell down sometimes and it was so sad. Anyway, Tom kept at it, gradually extending the distance. And now - at the end of 2020 - Jenny and Tom join JoJo and I for a one-mile walk around the neighborhood every afternoon! Although Jenny still keeps her head kind of turned to one side, the vertigo has cleared up. Jenny . . . is in better shape than she has been in years, and it's looking like she may make her 14th birthday in April!

IMG_0574 copy

My most proud achievements of 2020:

  • Becoming the official bottle-capper for FNM Brewing (Tom's home brewing operation)
  • Perfecting my technique for risotto
  • Learning to pronounce "epidemiologist" (That word just never rolled off my tongue. . . )
  • Serving as a Michigan election inspector

IMG_1069

Lightning Round:

Best investment of 2020:

  • Peloton
  • home wifi network upgrade

Never thought I'd . . . 

  • wear a face mask in public
  • know so much about the US electoral processes in so many different states

Thought I'd miss more than I do:

  • the gym

Miss more than I would've thought:

  • the casual nature of the Before Times (the ease of making plans, going out for a drinks or meeting for coffee, just stopping to chat with someone you meet out and about)

IMG_1375

Best TV watching:

Best book:

Best things I made:

  • those (damn) bunnies (Did I ever tell you the little girls named them Margaret and Penelope?)
  • all those (damn) face masks

Garden delight:

Favorite Peloton instructor:

Best new podcast:

IMG_0379

Oh, 2020.

What a ride . . . 

You've been a year for the books, for sure. Lots of crap. Lots of sadness. Lots of heartache. 

But, if we're open, lots of lessons, too. Silver linings.

2020 gave me the time and the space to think and learn and reflect. Left to my own devices, I'd never have cut the cord to so many commitments I thought were important. I would never have dared to live without my planner. I wouldn't have considered working out at home. Or learning to make risotto. Shoot . . . I wouldn't have grown out my bangs!

But here I am, hanging in there and doing . . . okay. I'm healthy -- and I'm determined to stay that way. I'm strong and I'm resilient. I'm more than a little bit mad (working on that). I'm ready to move forward.

2021?
Bring it!

IMG_1768 copy

Happy New Year, my friends.

Thanks for being here and hanging out with me this year! 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Measuring A Year: Sticking to the Plan (Kinda)

This week, I'm taking you with me as I "measure my year." I'm also sharing some of the selfies I've taken during the pandemic. I guess it's been a little side project I started without really meaning to . . . kind of to measure my mood. I'm not sure exactly why or when I started taking these pandemic self-portraits (because I'm normally not a selfie-taker at all), but I did. And now there's quite a collection, and they DO tell a story of my pandemic moods.(Also hair growth, as it turns out.)

IMG_9830

As I mentioned yesterday, I always begin my "annual review" by taking a look at the intentions I set for myself at the beginning of the year. I don't set resolutions or specific "goals" for myself. I set . . . intentions. They're very open-ended, generally. And they reflect the direction I want to head off in for the new year; they way I want to live my life.

One year (2018, I think), I tried Gretchen Rubin's "XX for 20XX" concept, and set myself up with 18 (I think) very specific things I wanted to do that year. I hated it. Hated. It. I know a lot of people just love that concept - and look forward to putting their lists together every year. It's not for me, though. I'm much better with annual, wide-open intentions. 

Anyway. Here are the intentions I set for myself back in January 2020:

  • be healthy and get strong
  • practice the things I love
  • pay attention to the moon
  • be kind
  • let love flow
  • focus on flexibility and stretching
  • keep my eyes open
  • be mindful of the world I live in
  • show up
  • make space

Even though they are very . . . non-specific . . . there is always some kind of meaning behind each intention; a reason I made it an intention in the first place! "Be healthy and get strong," for example, was all about my commitment to fitness and continuing my work with Jeremy, my personal trainer. "Be mindful of the world I live in" was related to my wanting to learn more about the environment and how I might change my own "footprint" on the earth. "Focus on flexibility and stretching" was, in part (although not exclusively), a reminder for me to try and find a new yoga studio. "Show up" was all about being more present for the people I love and care about, and to remind myself to speak out when I could about things that matter to me.

So these intentions were designed . . . for 2020 as I assumed it would unfold.

And then, of course . . . it didn't.

IMG_9666

I didn't look at my intentions for several months. I was too busy . . . adjusting to this new reality of pandemic life. But eventually, once I realized and accepted that it was a longer-term situation we had here, I did a quick review. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I didn't really need to make any drastic changes; that most of my intentions were wide-open enough that I could just tweak them here and there, maybe add a few things, and still move forward. So late last summer, I made some revisions to my intentions . . . to reflect my new and unexpected pandemic lifestyle:

  • be healthy and get stay strong ("healthy" took on a whole new meaning for me, and Jeremy is long gone. . . )
  • remove the barriers that keep me from practicing the things I love (mostly . . . put down the phone, step away from news, and Get To It)
  • pay attention to the moon and find new rhythms for living your life
  • be kind from behind a mask
  • let love flow with loving-kindness meditations
  • focus on flexibility and stretching by saying "hello" to your new friend Adriene 
  • keep my eyes open by staying informed by reputable, knowledgeable sources
  • be mindful of the world I live in while still allowing myself time to grieve and heal
  • show up by supporting my family and friends 
  • make shift your space to make room for pandemic life at home (now that "home" is also gym, movie theater, restaurant, brew pub, art class, etc.)

IMG_0846

I also added a few new intentions:

  • be gentle with myself
  • look for the next right thing . . . and do that
  • connect with local friends as if they were far-away friends (because they kinda are far-away friends now)
  • find new ways to celebrate special days and events 
  • get out my pom-poms and be a cheerleader whenever possible

2020 threw me for a loop, that's for sure. 
Things look a lot different than I anticipated they would back in January.
But when it comes to living my life, I've stuck to my intentions.
(kinda)
I call that a Win!


Measuring A Year: Always In the Background

So, yesterday I explained that I've begun my "annual review" process. I do this every year -- looking back before looking ahead. I also explained that - for me - counting things (minutes, pages read, workouts completed, etc.) is not all that useful or relevant. I'm looking for deeper revelations here!  I'm looking to find (in the words of Albert Einstein in the quote I shared yesterday) . . . 

the things that count that can't be counted!

Why do I go through this process at all you may ask? Well. For me, reflecting on the year-just-ending helps me understand myself. It helps me grow and become the person I was meant to be. It let's me know if I'm doing what I set out to do/living how I wanted to be living back at the beginning of the year.

Usually.
USUALLY, this is what my looking-back process looks like, in a nutshell:

  • I review my intentions for the year.
  • I identify what worked (the highlights).
  • I identify what didn't work (the lowlights).
  • Then, I figure out where I want to head next.

I say usually . . . because 2020 has been anything but a "usually" kind of year! So I'm mixing things up a bit this year. I did begin with reviewing my intentions (more about that tomorrow.) But instead of thinking about the highlights next - like usual, I decided to tackle those lowlights right out of the gate. Because . . . those lowlights? They kind of serve as the backdrop for (nearly) the entire year, and I wanted to address the the elephant sitting in the room.

IMG_1132 2

(Since the pandemic began, I've been taking regular, random selfies. They are very real. I'll share some this week.)

Let me begin with a story . . . 

Way, way back in time when my kids were very young (Erin just 5 and Brian 2, so we must be talking . . . 1994 here), we took a long car trip to visit family back in Wyoming. (My kids' ages are set in time for me, because Brian had a tiny cast on his tiny arm.) (Bed jumping with Daddy.) (I wan't home.) Anyway. While we were visiting, my sister-in-law and I thought it might be nice to have a group photo taken for my in-laws of all the grandchildren together (there were 5 of them at the time -- all under 6). And I had the brilliant idea of inviting my sister to bring her daughter (also 6) to the photo shoot so we could have my kids doing double-duty for ANOTHER photo for my parents of their 3 grandchildren. As you might imagine, 6 excited children under the age of 6 barging into the Sears photo department went . . . about as well as you'd think. We had out-of-control excitement. We had sibling squabbles. We had crying. We had at least one (and I think two) meltdowns. We had poopy pants. We had whining. We had an exasperated photographer. And we had three moms who were trying their best - and failing miserably - all while laughing hysterically. In short, we had very little cooperation anywhere. I remember the conversation going like this . . . 

Photographer: Maybe we should try again another day?
My sister: Like hell.
Me: Just take the flipping photo.
My sister-in-law: Can we have a burning-building background, please???

The photos (which he finally did take) are priceless -- and would only have been enhanced by that burning-building background we asked for! (We had a kid crying, a pouter or two, someone poking someone else, and Brian waving his cast around wildly.)  (In the best shot.) (If I could find it, I'd share it.)

And the point of that???
Well.
Some years just have a burning-building in the background.
And 2020 was one of them!

As I looked back on my 2020, I see a lot of me flailing around . . . in front of a burning-building-background.

Most of the really horrible things that have been happening this year . . . and they are really horrible things . . . have had no direct impact on the life I've been living, day-to-day. I've been safe and healthy and isolated here in my privileged little bubble.

And yet, I felt broken.
All year.
Disappointed.
Disillusioned.

My "lowlights" for 2020 . . . look very different than in "usual" years. This year, it was just a constant, relentless, horrible background noise. All the time. Every day. It impacted everything else that happened this year. Colors were less sharp. The air was thicker. Burdens were heavier. Chores more tedious. I'm pretty sure gravity pulled me down with more force this year.

Burning building background.
Every day.

==

Today is the final day for Honoré to host our "one little word" monthly updates for 2020. Be sure to check out what everyone has to say. As for me? I'm not ready with a post yet. But I'll share sometime next month.


How To Measure a Year?

And . . . I'm back! 

I hope you all had a lovely time last week -- however you were celebrating. We had a low-key week here, and even got to spend a bit of time with Brian and Lauren on Christmas Eve - masked, outside, socially distanced and brief, of course, but wonderful all the same. 

No Starting-Your-Engines here this week. Just a lot of reflection and thinking about wrapping up the year . . . and moving forward into 2021. Because here we are . . . deep into the last few days of 2020. This is where - in a usual year - I go through my "looking back" process -- in preparation for the "looking ahead" to a new year.

But, really. Who wants to "look back" at 2020??? Most of us just want to get it over with and move on!

And yet. . . 

And yet. . . . 

I know I need to process this year and how it made me feel. I know it was a dumpster fire. But there are lessons to be gleaned and silver linings to remember and stories to tell. Much as I might like to just close the door on 2020 (locking the door and throwing away the key), I know that's not how I want to move forward.

Last week this song started popping into my head . . . 

Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty five thousand moments so dear
Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure? Measure a year?
 
In daylights,
In sunsets,
In midnights,
In cups of coffee,
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife.
How do you measure a year in a life?
 
And it got me thinking . . . 
How DO you measure a year?
And especially a year like . . . 2020?
 
I suppose . . . I could start with things I can measure; things I can count.
 
525,600 minutes.
365 366 days. (2020 was a leap year, after all.) (That changes the minutes, too, actually. But 527,040 doesn't quite have the same lyrical quality, so let's just forget about the whole leap year thing.)
12 full moons
2 solstices; 2 equinoxes
1 birthday
 
288 days"safe at home." (Since March 16.) (And counting.)
224 blog posts. (I counted.)
193 Peloton workouts. (Peloton tracks my every workout.)
235 yogas with Adriene. (Every damn day now that I started.)
187 Instagram posts. (I counted.)
27 nights spent up north. (Tom keeps track.) (He spent 46 nights up there.)
520 miles walked with JoJo. (A very close estimate.)
21,582 pages read. (Per Goodreads. But not entirely accurate.*)
16 projects knitted. (Per my Ravelry project page. But, of course, it's not accurate either.**)
 
I could keep counting . . . Trips to the library. Meals cooked. Loads of laundry. Phone calls with my sister. Sleepless nights. Doctors appointments with my dad. Texts sent. Bills paid. Minutes worrying about democracy. 
 
IMG_2013
 
So. Sure. I CAN measure my year. In a numbers kind of way.
That's kind of easy, actually. 
And a fine place to start. But it's not even close to my whole story.
And I know that's not really what I want here, as I look back over 2020 . . . to look ahead to 2021.
Like one of our great scientists says . . . 
 
"Not eveything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts."
            --- Albert Einstein
 
It's way more complicated than . . . just counting.
 
So.
What DOES count, then?
How do I measure this year?
 
This is going to be my quest for these next few days.
Until 2021 arrives. 
 
==
* RE: Goodreads. I read a lot more than I record on Goodreads. (I don't include cookbooks, for example. Or poetry books. Or books of essays that I read slowly. Or art technique books. Or books I don't finish -- or the ones I'm almost finished reading right now! )
 
** RE: Ravelry. Although I'm pretty good at recording my projects, I'm not caught up at the moment. (So Ravelry doesn't even know yet about the 7 hats I finished in December . . . ) (Yeah. 7. I kinda got on a roll there.)
 

A Look Back . . . At the Things I Knit in 2019

My one little word for 2019 was intention . . . and I decided early on in the process to bring intention to my knitting.  (You can read more about that here, if you're interested in the nitty-gritty.) Basically, I decided to: 

  • Only knit what I would actually wear or use.  
  • Stick with using yarn I already had.  
  • In colors I love.  
  • And styles that suit me.  
  • No KALs.  No mysteries. 

I wanted to avoid jumping on any knitting-bandwagons that weren't right for me . . . or committing to doing something in a given time limit . . . or chasing a shiny object that wouldn't work for me or my closet.  

I still wanted to have some fun with my knitting, though, should something unexpected and perfect show up.  I didn't want to set myself up to feel like I'd failed if some new yarn made its way into my stash.  I wanted to be intentional about my knitting -- but I also wanted to be flexible enough to be inspired!

Now, as I look back on my knitting in 2019, I declare it a success!  When I look back over my Ravelry projects for 2019, I see . . . no clunkers!  I see 6 sweaters that I love and wear (none of them ended up in the Goodwill pile, which is a big win for me).  I see a stack of dishcloths we use all the time.  I see gifts for babies and kids and curlers and dads.  And I see only 2 shawls (because, really, I have plenty of shawls and was trying to Look Away From the Shawls in 2019) -- but I use them both.  Not a dud in the bunch!  I call that a great knitting year!

(And, yeah.  I know.  There is no gray cardigan in there.  But I don't see that as a failure.  I see it as a casualty of my being "flexible enough to be inspired.")

What were my favorite knits of 2019?

My hands-down, #1 favorite project of the year was my Night Shift shawl.

IMG_6884

I used gorgeous yarn from Briar Rose -- and I had so much fun shifting those beautiful colors.  (I didn't use color-changing yarn, so all those shifts you see?  They're my doing!  My favorite projects are always the ones where I get to play with color.)  If you've been thinking about trying one of Andrea Mowry's "shifty" projects, I highly recommend you do it.  Fun.  (Like . . . really fun!)  Great instructions.  And a pretty fabulous result.

Next up, my Felix Pullover.

IMG_6213

There is a good reason so many people have knit this great sweater (or the companion Felix Cardigan).  It's quick to knit (once you get the eyelet increases straight), fits great, and works with everything in your closet.  I knit mine from (stashed) Brooklyn Tweed Shelter -- which makes it light AND warm.

And then, my Alanis sweater.

IMG_2093

This layering piece is so perfectly "my style" that I wear it constantly.  It's a quick knit from a well-written pattern by Elizabeth Smith.  I knit mine in Brooklyn Tweed Shelter (again, from stash).  And . . . it has a sweet little pocket, too.

==

What to look for from me (knitting-wise) in 2020?

Well.  First up, you'll finally see that gray cardigan.  But other than that?  Who knows!  My knitting plan for 2020 . . . is to have no knitting plan. There are a few things I'm thinking about knitting this year (each of those highlighted words is a separate link, by the way), but I don't do well when I box myself into any kind of "queue" or "make nine" kind of structure.  For me, knitting is about inspiration coupled with the whims of my moods.  I'll keep my "intention" goals (top of this post) at the forefront of my project decisions (because that worked well for me), but beyond that, I commit to nothing.   

I just know . . . there will be knitting in 2020.  And that's enough for me right now.

How about YOU?  Do you like to organize your knitting plans in a structured way . . . or do your prefer to just let inspiration guide you?  What would you love to knit in 2020?

 

 

 


A Look Back . . . at the Words I Read in 2019

Goodreads sure makes it easy to review your reading for the year!

Screen Shot 2020-01-06 at 7.24.37 PM

So.

In 2019, I read 80 books. Just under 26,600 pages.  Slightly more than 2018.  Which is all meaningless information, actually.  But interesting all the same. Most of the books I read in 2019 came from my local library.  I read fewer audiobooks this year than usual (and I have no explanation for that) (although I'm afraid that it might be that I watched more TV).  A few of the books I read in 2019 were . . . pretty mediocre.  But most were quite decent and very worth reading.  (My average rating was 3.9.)  I wrote a review for every book I read.

After all those books and all those pages, here are the books that really stand out for me this year -- a list of my Most Memorable Reads of 2019 (not all these books were 5-star reads for me, but they were memorable all the same):

First, the book that changed my thinking more than any other book this year.  White Fragility is not an easy read -- but it is an important one.  It's good to shake up the way you look at the world sometimes, y'know?!  I think about this book every day.  Highly recommended.

White fragility

Then, there's the book that changed my digital habits in a life-shifting way: Digital Minimalism.  Sure, I still Google useless facts too often, and I scroll through Instagram a bit more often than I really want to, but generally . . . I'm much more aware of how and when I use technology, and I feel far less tethered to my phone.  

Digital minimalism

I started the year with Milkman . . . and I'm still in awe of it.  The story was powerful, and the storytelling structure was unique.  I loved the fresh voice and perspective of the novel's narrator.  While it's probably not a book for everyone, if you like something a bit different and you're in the mood for something to chew on, give this one a try.

Milkman

I always have a hard time choosing just one favorite book of the year, but if pressed . . . I'd probably tell you it was The Topeka School.  Again, probably not a book for everyone.  It's brilliant -- but challenging.  And so worth the effort. 

Topeka school

Then there's The Heart's Invisible Furies.  Epic, funny, poignant, and so full of heart it just . . . bursts!  (I talked Tom into reading this one after me, so I had a chance to listen to/talk through the best parts all over again as he read.)  If you like sprawling epics that will rip your heart out while making you laugh, this one is for you!

Heart's invisible furies

Oh, Lanny!  You stole my heart.  This quick, little read was such a magical treat!  

Lanny

I read Red at the Bone right at the end of the year - almost my last book of 2019.  There is so much packed into this short book -- great characters, compelling story, unique storytelling style. This is one you won't want to miss!  

Red at the bone

And then there's Just Mercy -- the first book we read together, which will always make it special to me!  Y'know, it's pretty . . . risky . . . to try something new.  Like a bloggy book group.  So it was heartening that so many of you responded positively to this new (and evolving) idea, and that you . . . read with us!  Our first book was an interesting look at the criminal justice system - and particularly at death row inmates - in the US.  Not an easy read, but an important one.

Just mercy

==

What to look for from me (reading-wise) in 2020? 

I don't have any solid reading goals or plans in mind, and certainly not related to the number of books I plan to read.  I don't think I need to read "more" and I don't think I need to read "harder," so I'll keep to my usual strategy:  paying attention to the major book prizes (the Women's Prize, the Man-Booker, and the National Book Award are my favorites), checking out the recommendations from the New York Times and the New Yorker and other readers I trust, and then . . . well . . . just be open to general inspiration.  

As far as very loose plans, well . . .  this year, I'd like to read something by Virginia Woolf.  (I never have.  I think it's time.)  It's probably time for me to re-read some Jane Austen. (I go on a Jane Austen binge every decade or so. . . ).  I'm interested in a few memoirs right now, and I have a short stack of books on art and creativity that I'd like to tackle this year. 

How about you?  Do you have any reading plans this year?

==

Read With Us

I invite you to Read With Us!  We're just starting in on Fever by Mary Beth Keane (available for Kindle - $1.99 now).  Be sure to read Carole's promotional/introductory post about the book today.  We'll be discussing Fever throughout the month of February, so you still have plenty of time to join us!

Fever

==

My other highly recommended (5 star) reads this year:

Olive, Again (Elizabeth Strout)
The World That We Knew (Alice Hoffman)
The Dutch House (Ann Patchett)
Grief is the Thing With Feathers (Max Porter)
Disappearing Earth (Julia Phillips)
The Murmur of Bees (Sofía Segovia)
The Nickel Boys (Colson Whitehead)
Women Talking (Miriam Toewes)
The Warmth of Other Suns (Isabel Wilkerson)
Inland (Téa Obreht)
Spring (Ali Smith)
The Great Believers (Rebecca Makkai)
Improvements (Jean Silber)

(For my reviews on Goodreads, or to follow along with what I'm reading, see my blog sidebar.)