The year of momentum

I’m a planner. By the time eighth grade rolled around, I already had my entire high school course load mapped out. My senior year in high school barely began, and I knew every class I was going to take for my college major and which clubs I was going to partake in. My dad would chuckle and remind me, “When people plan their lives, G-d laughs.” It wasn’t long before I understood my father’s meaning: I graduated from a college I never intended to attend; I reside in a place I never dreamed of living; and my career doesn’t remotely resemble what I studied. Still, I plan. But with much more flexibility and the knowledge that it can all go to s#*! at any moment.

Last year, my planning stalled. For lots of different reasons, I threw my hands up in the air and asked, “Why bother?” You know what happened? Nothing. I didn’t blog. I barely wrote. I created virtually nothing. I stood still. Sure, I thought about doing all those things, but life circumstances paralyzed me. Spending the better part of the year spinning my wheels, I ended the year (in terms of my personal goals and passion projects) in virtually the same place where I started. And that felt BAD.

As 2016 was moving toward the rear-view mirror, I stumbled upon Belong Magazine on Instagram; and as I got to know the founder, Brooke, through her daily photos and accompanying words, she became an inspiration. I recognized her struggles with her goals as my own, and her encouragement to take baby steps became a mantra of sorts in my head. The one thing I did a LOT of in 2016 was read, and so I added books like Gretchen Rubin’s Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of our Everyday Lives and Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear to my reading list.

All of this inspiration led to my one little word for this year…

momentum: one little word 2017

Belong Mag’s Instagram post a few days ago sums up the reason behind my word momentum perfectly: “If you don’t take a step forward, you’ll always be in the same place.” In her book, Elizabeth Gilbert told a story about her mother that beautifully illustrates the concept of doing your future self a kindness. This resonated with me to the point of almost haunting me. It is my future self that I must keep in mind when faced with the choice to move forward or remain in place. From something as simple as trying to decide if I should take five minutes to make a sandwich for lunch, I think of future me, who is going to be hangry if I opt to do something else with that time. When it comes to my goals, I must also think of the future me and make decisions that leave her in a more positive place than she was.

What is your one little word for 2017?

Mama’s Losin’ It

Photo credit: Mubarak Fahad via / CC BY-NC-ND







2016: The Year of RELEASE

It’s been two years since I’ve committed to One Little Word because the only word in my vocabulary during that time was “survive”: survival of profound loss, survival of learning how to be a mom, and survival of all the “adulting” that went on in between. Although things finally feel like they’re settling into a new normal, I didn’t plan to choose One Little Word this year. But then, during a late-night cuddle session with The Toddler Who Refuses to Sleep Through The Night, I began mentally listing my goals for the year, and I realized they all had one thing in common: release.


Goal: Release myself and my home from all the material things that neither bring me joy nor are essential to keep.
Plan: Using The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Spark Joy as guides, I will focus on at least one category per month to tidy up so that hopefully I have a simpler household come this time next year.

Goal: Release myself from the negative self-talk, unrealistic expectations, and unattainable perfectionism.
Plan: I have two strategies going into this one. The first one I saw on Facebook, and I really like it. It’s basically a form of aversion therapy. Whenever you say something mean about yourself, something you wouldn’t let anyone say about your best friend, you have to give up your phone for 30 minutes. The second I credit to a friend of mine: Turn the negatives into action statements. So instead of saying, “Ugh, why can’t I ever remember to call So-and-So on her birthday?! I’m the worst friend,” you’d re-frame it: “After I call So-and-So today, I’m going to put an alert on my calendar so that I’m notified of her birthday every year.”

Goal: Release myself from financial stress.
Plan: Asking for help is not one of my strengths. I always think, I can do this, no matter what this is. Confidence is one thing; stubbornness is another. No matter how many years I’ve spent attempting to budget and whatnot, it’s time to bring in the experts. In addition to making calls and attempting to lower rates on cell phone bills, etc., I’m going to work with a professional to get out of as much debt as possible this year (school loans, I’m looking at you), create a budget that’s realistic, improve my credit score, and make sure I’m putting enough in savings, retirement, and college funds. Normally I’d be stressed just thinking about this, but having a plan, not just a goal, is freeing in itself.

Goal: Release my dreams from living solely in my mind.
Plan: If you were with me during my heyday of blogging, you know that this is one I’ve been struggling with for years. While I’ve made a lot of progress on certain things, like getting an article published and becoming a contributing blogger, there’s a lot more I want to do that I’ve constantly put on the back burner for excuse after excuse.

anne lamott quote

I do a pretty good job of living without “what if”s. To borrow from one of my favorite poems, I don’t want a dream deferred to fester like a sore. The plan is a little fuzzy at best. I’m going to start with writing down the dreams and steps I need to take to attempt them. Then, I’ll start following the steps. Note, achieving the dream is not the goal; finally attempting it is.

What is your One Little Word this year?

Photo credit: “Monarch Release” by kcolwell via / CC BY-NC-SA


Redefining balance

image source

I remember a time in the not-so-distant past when I considered myself a blogger. Now my blog is but a memory of those days, and my Blogger dashboard is littered with nearly-finished and some just-started drafts that I’ve been writing for the past few months. For some reason I haven’t been able to get from draft to publish. Perhaps it’s because I’m out of the habit of writing or simply because I haven’t been into it. Lately, I’ve felt the need to unwind with activities that would get me out of my head; writing, for me, even when penning fiction, does just the opposite. In the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to push myself to blogging productivity, since that was one of the activities I wanted to better balance this year, but it just wasn’t clicking, and then I read this in my blog reader last night:

If you’re a lapsed writer, before you even start exploring writing again or “getting more productive,” you’ve got to take a little action to give yourself a fresh start.  And that action is the simple act of forgiving yourself for the way things have been.     ~ Marla Beck

And it spoke to me, in relation not only to my lack of writing, but also to my goal of practicing balance.

For me, balance no longer means finding time to do everything I “need” or want to do; balance means achieving a healthy mix of work and play, productivity and relaxation to maintain a happy me. The things that make me happy – how I play and relax – aren’t always consistent. While blogging/writing was at one time an outlet that created much reward and satisfaction, recently the blank computer screen has been less attractive than the stack of books on my shelf, the piles of photos that have yet to be scrapped, the movies in my Netflix queue, and the “pinned” recipes that remained untested. At first I felt guilty that writing had been pushed to the back of my heart, but then I both accepted and embraced it, enjoying the activities that made me most happy at the time. As a result, I’ve read some great books, watched more movies in the past few months than I usually do in an entire year, and even made a few great projects… all of which I’m now finally ready to write about here.

So what is the ultimate take-away for me six months into this “year of balance“? It’s that balance means different things at different times; that what makes me happy today might not make me happy tomorrow – and that’s O. KAY; that trying to force myself to continue a hobby – whether that be blogging or scrapbooking – when I’m not feeling it can make the hobby even less desirable; that there is great benefit in listening to myself and giving myself both the space and permission to do what my brain and body need at the time.

Thus, this is me accepting the way things have been, forgiving myself for diverging from my original path, and promising to continue being honest with myself about my needs. And this is me finally hitting the “publish” button.

2013: The Year of Balance

As was probably evident in yesterday’s visual year in review, 2012 has been a fun but busier-than-before year. Thus, to say that I bit off way more than I could chew with my goals this year is an understatement. That said, I still have a lot to show for oh-twelve.

In the midst of the crazy that was my work life this year, which included planning and executing three community-wide events, writing three English units and editing two language arts textbooks, designing and editing six newspapers and twelve newsletters, and launching and maintaining several social media campaigns, I still (though it beats me how) managed to accomplish just shy of half of my 12 of 2012 goals:

My happiest victory is that I actually read 12 books – WOOT! I’m hoping to do the same (or better) in 2013.

Equally exciting for me is that I continued practicing Hebrew so that I can read it – albeit SLOWLY – and more importantly understand some when it is spoken. I’m already signed up for another Hebrew class in January, so I’m hoping that my communication skills in this language will continue to improve in the new year.

In addition, I finally made a decision and temporarily closed my Etsy store, enjoyed more date nights with Hubby, and wrote. A LOT. YAY!

Moving onto my one little word, I experienced renewal of spirit, relationships, budget, and home. Renewal of body is an ongoing challenge, as is renewal of balance. Which brings me to my one little word of 2013…

This year, I will have ONE goal: to practice (not achieve) balance. I have a feeling that by practicing balance, other goals will incidentally be achieved as a result. More importantly, though, is the knowledge that a focus on balance will make for a happy Cheryl.

What is your focus for 2013? Whatever you choose, I hope it makes you blissfully happy!

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One Little Word of 2012 (6-month update)

How is it possible that we’re already approaching mid-July?! Way back in December (which really feels like just yesterday), I had decided on renewal being my One Little Word of 2012. I thought since we’re more than halfway through the year now, it would be a good idea to “check in” with my word.

✗ Renewal of Body
Good news: I’ve gone to the gym! Bad news: I can count the number of times I’ve gone to the gym on my hands. My body and mind have both rediscovered my love of pounding the pavement (on the treadmill) to a great beat, the way it clears my mind, gives me energy, allows me to have a restful sleep. But it has yet to become consistent, let alone a habit or routine. The bottom line is I have to make time for this, the way I make time to eat and sleep because, really, it’s just as important.

√ Renewal of Spirit
A+! I’ve done a really good job in the past month or two of nurturing my soul again, not finding but making time to blog, scrapbook, read, write, cook, and “do art” – all the things that make my spirit smile. I make time to hang out with friends, talk to G-d, and listen to children. I am learning to pay better attention to what I need.

Renewal of Relationships
Hubby and I have started dating each other again this year, and it’s been a wonderful thing, a blast really. In the midst of all the “life crap” we regularly struggle with, we have had a lot of fun together this year, and I’m happy to know the fun is just getting started. I’m particularly looking forward to our annual non-traditional Thanksgiving in Charleston. I also recently renewed a lot of my bloggy friendships, which I greatly missed during the last year, and in doing so found a few new-to-me bloggers that I’m enjoying getting to know. I have NOT done even a remotely decent job of keeping in touch with friends and family afar, and so I hope to begin rectifying that in the months to come.

√ Renewal of Balance
I used to have a very consistent work schedule, which made having a consistent life schedule relatively easy. Once that work schedule became varied, it threw me for a loop. But I’ve finally learned that just because you don’t have the same weekly schedule doesn’t mean you can’t have a schedule every week. Each Sunday, I sit down with my calendar and, like a puzzle, figure out which hours will be spent on which jobs and where I can carve that all-important time for life outside of work.

Renewal of a Budget
I’ve only recently gotten on track with this goal. I realized that merely saying, “I’m only going to spend $20 this week to play with my girlfriends” wasn’t cutting it. That wonderful yet pesky debit card is just too easy to use. So about a month ago, I came up with the idea to take out a certain amount of cash with each paycheck. When that cash is gone – whether it be Monday of that week or Saturday – that’s it. No more playing for Cheryl. This little trick has worked remarkably well. I certainly still have some work to do to improve the health of our budget, but I feel like I’m headed in the right direction with it.

✗ Renewal of Home Sweet Home
How many months does it take to put pictures on the wall? Apparently over a year, for that’s how long we’ve been living here, and we still have empty picture frames sitting in a corner waiting to be filled and hung. I am so not happy with the lack of renewal that I’ve brought to our home. Me being me, I’m not sure that a house of mine can ever be a home until I entertain in it. I am going to make this happen before 2013 gets here. Period.

The verdict? I have brought a lot of renewal to my life, which I’m extremely proud of myself for doing. There are definitely diamonds in the rough to celebrate and for which to be grateful. But there is still some renewing to be done. Fortunately, I have another five-and-a-half months in which to do it.

What would you like to renew in the remaining months of 2012?

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One Little Word of 2012

theme in Judaism, especially our Mi Shebeirach (video link) prayer, is the renewal of body and spirt. Singing this at services and having just experienced a renewal in my commitment to Judaism, I’ve been thinking a lot about this concept and how renewal would be a good area of focus (and thus my one little word) for 2012:

Renewal of Body
It’s time to get moving! I have free memberships to two gyms – one where I live, one where I work – so there is absolutely no excuse not to work out, other than sheer laziness which I need to kick in the tush. I plan to accomplish this by teaming up with Hubby. He has the same gym memberships I do, so this will be a healthy way to spend time together. I also want to spend more time in the kitchen with good-for-us ingredients.

    Renewal of Spirit
    Simply put, 2011 was an emotionally exhaustive year. I need to bring a little bit of serenity back into my life and my psyche. Journaling, devoting time to myself and the things I enjoy doing, and yoga have all proven to be helpful strategies in the past that I’m looking forward to trying again in 2012.

      Renewal of Relationships
      For a myriad of reasons that aren’t really important, there are relationships in my life that have suffered a bit of neglect. I’m going to pick up my phone and pen more in the new year to revive long-distance relationships, and I’m going to make an effort to spend more time with the people who are within my reach.

        Renewal of Balance
        Schedule wasn’t a dirty word back in 2009, so why has it become one now? Schedules work for me. This I know. So instead of fighting it, I will again embrace it and hopefully achieve a bit more balance in my life by doing so.

          Renewal of a Budget
          I can set a killer budget in theory, but in practice, I inevitably blow it. I really want to travel more this year, but to do that, I need to 1) stop spending money on things I don’t need and 2) stop paying more than I should for things I do need (aka use the coupons that I clip).

            Renewal of Home Sweet Home
            I’ve never been the tidiest of people, and I know I never will, but I usually at least try to be. This year I found myself not trying very hard. I finally unpacked the last moving box over the holiday break. Now it’s time to finish up some projects, get the rest of our pictures on the walls, and maintain a space to which we are proud to invite friends.

              I’m toying with the idea of participating in Ali Edwards’ BPC One Little Word Class to keep my One Little Word more in the forefront of my mind this year… but I have to make sure it fits into my budget.  🙂

              Wishing you all a happy, healthy new year!

              #Resound11: The Year in Review

              The start of December has been BUSY, and I’m afraid there’s not much promise of it slowing down anytime soon. Still, I would be remiss if I didn’t try to squeeze in some time for reflection. After all, you have to consider where you are to know where you’re going. Jaemie, from my old stomping grounds in Johnstown, started a wonderful site, #Resound11: Reflect & Reinvent, to focus participants’ and readers’ reflections about this past year as we think about the year ahead. As I can use all the help I can get these days when it comes to focusing, I decided (albeit a little late, as per usual) to play along.

              One Word
              My intended one little word for 2011 was REALIZE. One could argue that, through what became a very trying year, I did realize according to the first definition of the word, to understand; I realized a lot about myself, and that’s always a good thing. The fact that the second definition of the word, to make real (a plan, dream, etc.), didn’t come to fruition saddens me. In fact, it led me to think that the real word for 2011 should be disappointing, but I concluded that this wasn’t a very fair evaluation as there was a lot of good that happened this year. Really, the word that sums up the year is SURPRISING. Some surprises were not so great (hi, third layoff in two years!), and some, like getting to meet a favorite author, were happy, welcome surprises. For good or bad, the bottom line is that this year didn’t turn out anything like I had planned. As such, I was reminded that I can’t control everything; the only thing I can control is how I react to what happens, and that’s a realization I’m going to take with me into the New Year.

              I successfully gave up caffeine… for less than a month. Diet Coke is my kryptonite. As far as vices are concerned, it’s not the worst I could have, right? The vices I need to give up still remain negative self-talk and procrastination, which I’ve realized only fuel each other.

              Fortunately, I think the good I’ve done this year outweighs both the inaction and not-so-great habits. I’m most proud of how I’ve jumped into the community and have begun practicing what I preach through volunteerism. In the past year, I’ve dedicated my time to sit on boards, head committees, raise money, and – most importantly – teach.

              Sadly, my most recent superpower is being bitten by fleas. Seriously, guys, I fought the fleas, and the fleas won. Hm, is it a superpower to parody songs? In all seriousness, I think my greatest superpower is that of flexibility. Whether in my classroom on Sundays, at work, or while planning an event, if something doesn’t go as anticipated, I’m pretty darn good at rolling with the punches. Perhaps I can one day learn to apply this superpower to my personal life.

              Theme Song
              Neko Case and Nick Cave’s version of She’s Not There really spoke to me this year. Of course, it helps that the song was the theme for the first episode of True Blood this season, but more than that is the fact that, until recently, I spent the majority of the year not feeling like myself, as though I wasn’t there.

              I thankfully feel less like that now; however, it’s still a great tune to dance to!

              Thelma & Louise
              Having been fortunate to find a great group of friends here in Cola, there are a number of Thelmas to my Louise. Some would bail me out of jail, some would probably be sharing the cell with me, and a few would be there afterward to help pick up the pieces. There might even be one or two who would be willing to drive off the cliff with me…given enough alcohol.

              Achievement Unlocked
              Though I’m by no means great at it, I can say that I learned to read Hebrew this year. This is something I’ve wanted to learn for the last decade and simply never took the time to do. I’m glad I allowed myself the opportunity to finally realize this goal.

              Catch Phrase
              While I still love my catch phrase from 2010 (so much so that I had to include a video of it again),

              there is a phrase that I found myself saying a LOT this year. SRSLY. Written, spoken, or texted – whether you end it with a period, question mark, or exclamation point – “seriously” gets the job done. Don’t know what I mean? Watch the clip below. Seriously.

              I’ve always loved this word, but since I started working with middle schoolers again, I find it’s become a more frequently used part of my vocabulary: Seriously, did you just do that after I told you not to? Seriously?! Yes, you’ve earned the right to lose your recess – seriously.

              And thus wraps up the first week of #Resound11. I’m looking forward to a little more reflection this month and a whole lot of thinking about how to make the coming year better.