A Word for 2013: Presence

Since 2011, I’ve chosen a word to set my intention for the year ahead when New Year’s Day rolls around. For 2011, my word was Space. For 2012, my word was Clarity. I chose each of them because they reflected a quality I was hoping for more of in my life.

Did choosing a word work? It’s hard to say. In 2011, I actually brought a whole lot of new things into my life. I did make some difficult choices around letting things go, but the truth is that I actually started the year with more space than I ended it with. When it was time to choose my word for 2012, I reflected on that experience. I knew that choosing a word wasn’t enough. I needed a word that I was willing to work with. A word that would be about more than casting a wish out into space. After some back and forth, Clarity came to me.

spring tight
Photo Credit: mindfulness on Flickr

I can say that I actually do feel that I ended 2012 with greater clarity than I started it with. Somewhat ironically, I worked harder to create space during 2012 than I did during 2011. I had to – I was under a pretty severe time crunch. At the beginning of the year I had something like five jobs. Five. They weren’t all very big jobs, but still, it was a lot. I felt as if I was under constant time pressure. I was pulled in a whole lot of different directions, and I wasn’t always doing any of it all that well. I had to get clear with myself about what my priorities were, and what I did and didn’t have time for. It wasn’t easy, but in the process, I found the clarity I needed to create space in my life for myself.

With 2013 starting, I’m actually in a pretty good spot. I feel like I have a sense of direction, and I know where I’m going. My word this year isn’t about self-exploration, so much. It’s about making sure that I’m actually taking the time to enjoy my life. With my daughter Hannah rapidly approaching her eighth birthday, it’s ever more apparent to me that I need to make sure I’m actually pausing to see and appreciate what’s going on around me. Since I work from home, it’s really easy for me to blur the lines between the professional and personal, and spend a whole lot of time with my face in my phone, or trying to finish an article when I should be doing something with my kids. I guess you could say I want to be more present in my life, so that I don’t miss it.

This led to my word for 2013: Presence. It’s about cultivating mindfulness. It’s about focusing on what’s in front of me, and spending less time looking at a screen. Will the year bring me what I hope? I think that’s up to me. I need to be willing to work on it – my experience in 2011 showed me that. I chose the word Presence because this is important to me, so I would say that I am willing. Now I just need to put it into action. The first way I’m doing that is by Crafting my Life. I’m going to spend a little less time writing, and a little more time living.

Now, I’d love to hear from you. Do you choose a word, or a theme, for the year? What are you hoping 2013 holds for you? Please leave a comment and let me know. And Happy New Year!

2012 Year in Photos Slideshow

This is my favourite post of the year. It’s one that I would do, no matter what, purely because I love it. It gives me a chance to reflect and wax nostalgic, and record my life in a unique way. This post contains my annual slideshow, chronicling my family’s year in photos. It’s my fifth such slideshow, and looking back over the other ones I can immediately see how my children have grown. I remember things I’d forgotten, and I laugh and cry. I’m not sure if anyone else loves my slideshows, but if one of the big benefits of blogging is having a record of your family life, then this slideshow is the pinnacle of that record for me.

The truth is that 2012 didn’t turn out exactly as I’d expected it would for me. Life is like that, after all. But watching this video, I can see that it was a fabulous year nonetheless. That’s the gift that comes with taking time to reflect – you can see how the story unfolded, and you can see how the twists and turns brought you to the place you stand today. My little slideshow does that for me in under three minutes, which I think is pretty cool.

If you’d like to take a walk down memory lane with me, you can find my previous slideshows here:

2008 in Photos | 2009 in Photos | 2010 in Photos | 2011 in Photos

I’ve spent plenty of time talking about my family and myself – and not just in this post. I’ve had a whole year to write in this space, and I’ve done it. Now I’d like to turn the tables back on you. What was 2012 like for you? When you consider this year, what images will stand out in your mind? And what are you looking forward to in 2013? I’d love to hear.

Happy New Year!

2011 Year in Photos Slide Show of Awesomeness

It’s funny how traditions start. You do something a few times and presto, you have yourself a tradition. It all kind of sneaks up on you accidentally like that. Although, if you think about it, maybe it’s not really funny at all. Maybe all of life kind of sneaks up on you accidentally like that.

One of my most treasured blogging traditions started in 2008, when I decided to make a slideshow with some of my favourite photos from the previous 12 months. I spent a long time choosing the images, and then I set the whole thing to music and watched it over and over and over. I liked it so much that I did it again in 2009, and 2010. This is how it officially became a tradition. Once you hit that third time, it’s no longer just something that you do, it’s something that you do because it’s that time of year and you always do it at that time of year. So it’s no surprise that as 2011 ends, I’ve made another year-end slideshow.

I don’t know what everyone else thinks of my slideshow, but I can tell you that my husband Jon and I adore it. My kids adore it, too. So I’m going to keep doing it. Because, you see, some traditions are for breaking and some are for keeping. The slideshow is definitely a keeper.

Happy New Year, and all the best for 2012!

PS – Another tradition that I enjoy is my monthly review of things I learned. Some are serious, some are funny, and all are hard-won. I will be running my December review on Monday, January 2. I’d love it if you played along. For this month I’m expanding the definition to include year-in-review posts as well. Write something on or before January 2 and come back here to include it in my link-up!

In Search of a Word

We all know that New Year’s resolutions don’t work. In fact, pretty much all of us have made them and not kept them at some point in our lives. I’m no different. I have made resolutions to exercise or organize or self-improve, and pretty much all of them fell by the wayside before January was over.

All the same, I think that a new year can offer a great opportunity to make some changes. There’s something about a new year that seems fresh and clean and full of possibilities. Sometimes a natural shift like that can provide a great impetus to do something new and different, and improve your life in the process. There’s nothing wrong with taking advantage of the feeling of a new start that comes around at New Year’s, and doing a little bit of soul-searching and personal reflection. But nobody wants to set a bunch of goals that go nowhere, so what do do?

Last year I decided to choose a word for 2011. The idea was that it would give me something to focus on, and something to keep in mind as I went about my life. My word was “space”. I wanted more space in my life for myself, my family, and the things that I enjoy doing. I wanted to end the year feeling as if I had more time, a better living space and more room to maneuver.

the best is yet to come
Image credit: Jeremy Yerse on Flickr

Did choosing a word for 2011 work? Yes and no. On the one hand, I did make changes and choices to bring more space into my life. I let go of some things that weren’t working for me, set some priorities and started saying “no” more. On the other hand, I started a new job in July, wrote an e-book, and started a podcast. As I see 2011 out, the truth is that I probably brought more things into my life than I let go of over the course of the year. But there’s something critical that makes it worthwhile, and it’s that I love the things I brought into my life. I adore interviewing people for my podcast, I love my job at VancouverMom.ca, and I’m immensely proud of my e-book. Maybe I filled up the space I created, but I filled it up with good things, so I’m calling it a win.

Buoyed by my semi-success, I’ve decided to choose a word to represent what I want to bring into my life in 2012. But with January 1 closing in on me, I still don’t know what I want that word to be. When the word “space” came to me last year, it just felt right. I’ve been spending a few weeks thinking about my 2012 word, and so far nothing has really resonated with me. I’ve considered joy, play, sustainability, purpose and passion, but none of them quite fit. Peace is the closest one so far to being a winner, but it’s still not there. And so, I’m continuing to work on it.

I trust that the right word for 2012 will come to me. In the meantime, I will sit with it, and think about what I want to bring more of into my life. No resolutions – or magic – required.

Do you choose words or set intentions at New Year’s? And have you decided what you want more of in your life for 2012? I could use suggestions!

3rd Annual Year in Photos Slide Show of Awesomeness

It’s funny how traditions start. You do something a few times and voila, you have yourself a tradition. It all kind of sneaks up on you accidentally like that. Although, if you think about it, maybe it’s not really funny at all. Maybe all of life kind of sneaks up on you accidentally like that.

Regardless of how this particular tradition formed, and whether it’s funny or totally expected, I now seem to have a year-end tradition of my own. I create a slide show of our family’s year in pictures. I did it in 2008 and 2009, and now here I am at it again for 2010, so I think it’s really official now.

I’m not going to say anything more. If a picture is worth a 1000 words, then what you are about to see is a novel. Any more words on my part are redundant.

Happy New Year!

OK, I have a few more words. I want to tell you that early bird registration, which saves you $30 off the course fee, ends New Year’s Day at Crafting my Life. Visit the Sign Up! page to, you know, sign up. The other thing I want to tell you is that my monthly review for December, complete with link-up, runs on Monday, January 3.

Memories of 2009

It is the first day of 2010 – a whole new decade, all shiny and new. But today, I am reminiscing on the year that just ended, 2009. To that end, I made a little photo slideshow. I decided to put on an intro, and the one that you’ll see is the 12th take and I was losing patience with the kids, who demanded to be included. Just so you understand why I might look a little, I don’t know, worn.

Anyways, here it is, so enjoy!

Happy New Year!

The Next 10 Years

It’s Thursday and I’m Crafting my Life! Today is the last day of 2009, which means that tomorrow will be a whole new decade. Today I am talking about what the last 10 years brought me, and looking forward to where I’d like to be when 2020 dawns.

(I know that technically decades start on the 1s, but the days when the odometer rolls from 9 to 0 are the big ones. 1999 to 2000 was far more exciting than 2000 to 2001, and so I choose to perpetuate the myth, with apologies to the more precise among us.)

I will admit, I frequently feel discouraged as I work to re-create my life. The progress feels slow, or possibly even non-existent. I declared that I wanted to write, and it took me months to submit two articles for publication. The first was rejected, as most are, and I still haven’t heard back on the second. I have ideas about what I want to do, but it’s difficult to carve out time while I care for a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old bent on self-destruction. It frequently feels like I’m drifting and directionless, and I worry that I made a terrible mistake in giving up daycare and trying to chart a new course instead of just hunting down the first engineering job I could find.

But then I stopped for a minute, and remembered where I was 10 years ago. On this day in 1999 I was a single university student, working on my thesis. I had been dating my high school boyfriend for 8 1/2 years, and I was way, way more than ready to get married. I lived alone and had no car, opting for a more frugal lifestyle so that I could live within the salary I earned in my practicum jobs. I was not, in any way, unhappy, and my life was pretty good all things considered, but my existence was geared very much towards the future. Finishing school, getting married, embarking on ‘real life’.

That very New Year’s Eve Jon proposed to me. If the world ended due to Y2K, he said, he wanted to be with me. It was cheesy but cute. In the next decade I finished my thesis and graduated, we got married and got our first apartment, and I got a ‘real job’ and bought a brand-spanking-new Honda. We moved further out to the suburbs and bought a house. We adopted our cat, Dorothy, and had a couple of babies. I remained in my real job for 9 years, until I got notice of my lay-off. With money in the bank and a severance package, I decided to take some time away from that career and see if I could create a new one.

This is where I am now. When I look back on my life this way, things look much better to me. I set out to create something, and I succeeded. Now I’m starting again, but not from square zero. I have experience that will stand me in good stead. I have resources that I’ve accumulated, and a family that is cheering me on. Of course things are slow-moving, I am doing something totally new and I am doing it at home with my kids. If you had told me in 1999 that this is where I would be in 10 years, I would not have been sad. I would have looked forward gladly, knowing what lay in store.

This raises the question for me of where I want to be in another 10 years. What do I hope my life will look like on New Year’s Eve, 2019? It’s a good question, and I’m not sure I have a concrete picture. But I do hope for a few things. I hope that I am making a living income as a writer and maybe a workshop leader. I would like to help others to craft their own lives, having successfully crafted my own. I want a house on the water with chickens in the back yard, and I want to belong to a choir and do yoga. And I would like my adolescent children to go easy on me.

We all feel lost sometimes, unsure of what to do next or what we even really want out of our lives. That’s probably OK. As I’ve found, at times like this it can really help to take stock of what you’ve accomplished. It’s renewed my sense of perspective, and reminded me that I am maybe not so bad at achieving my goals after all.

Speaking of goals and life-crafting, I have an idea for the Crafting my Life series that I will try out starting in January. Over the course of the month I will follow a particular theme each Thursday – January’s will be ‘What do I want, and how can I get it?’ Then, on the last Thursday of the month I will include a widget so that you can link up any posts you’ve written on the theme. It’s a way that we can join forces as we all work to create our lives together, build community and cheer each other on. What do you think? Does this sound like something you’d be interested in? Let me know!

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