Posted in Life As I Know It, Soapbox

2020: If You Play Your Cards…Right?

*Please note: while this title may make you think this is a political post, it is SO not! This is my annual “word of the year” post…and I hope you enjoy it.

If you play your cards right, you’ll…fill in the blank. The dictionary defines this cliché as “to do things in an intelligent and well-planned way.” As in, “if you play your cards right, you’ll get the job,” or anything along those lines.

So where exactly am I going with my punny title for this year’s “word of the year” post? I’m glad you asked.

When the next year is over—2020—it will be hindsight. (Another pun! So silly.) And I don’t want to look back and see that I have yet again still not prioritized play in my life like it needs to be. My ToDo list looms large over every day…and it feels like a pass/fail test…where failure is the norm.

Truth be told, when I was a kid, my mom made my having fun difficult. If someone invited me to do something, it was always an issue. She never made it easy, and I think because of that, I was kind of trained to avoid causing any issues by downsizing my quest for fun. Her impact continued into my adulthood where, after my father’s death when I had just turned 21, she made me feel guilty for doing anything that didn’t include her. Because of this, the fun I had in my 20s (and more) often included my mom, so…yeah. I had fun, but it was rarely carefree.

This is not to say that I do not know how to have fun or that I do not have fun. I love to laugh and have a good time. But I don’t do well at 1) prioritizing/planning for it or 2) not feeling guilty about it.

I’ve spent a lot of years being responsible to a fault. And now my ability to play needs to be amped up.

For instance, this year’s winter break was exceptional—I had more unscheduled and unstructured time than I have had since I was a kid. But I didn’t even know what to do to make the most of it! My guys and I all had time off, and we just hung out. Now, this was great—but there was more hanging and less doing than what I had envisioned. Typically, I feel too tired…and too used to taking the easier path of not prioritizing fun.

It’s like after years of not working out consistently, my flabby muscles are tired and resistant and don’t want to commit to the initial push needed to get back in the game.

This is why my word for 2020 (if you haven’t already figured it out) is…PLAY.

Studies show that play is critical to a healthy life. People like Dr. Stuart Brown have researched just how critical play is in our lives.

Our culture has demonized leisure time as something that only “losers” have. One of my favorite (NOT) responses when I ask someone if they are, say—watching “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”—is “Oh…I wish I had time to watch TV…”

Sorry, but some of us really need to get over ourselves.

A healthy work ethic does not have to directly correlate to a lack of fun ethic. It should not be a badge of honor to be so consumed with the HaveTos of life that we simply can’t let ourselves relax and watch a little TV.

And, honestly, while I have gotten better at ignoring this stigma toward playtime, I just kind of suck at making it happen. Sometimes I feel like I don’t even know what I think would be fun.

I want this to improve in 2020.

Now at the age of 52, finally playing with a full deck (get it?! 😊), too much of my life IS hindsight. I look in my life’s rearview mirror and know that I should have made it a point to make more fun stops along the way. And it is up to me to do that on the road ahead.

Play shouldn’t be a guilty detour. It should be a part of the drive that makes the journey all the better. Perhaps even a fuel that keeps us going in the right direction.

So I’m hoping to play my cards right this year—both literally (I enjoy card games!) and figuratively. My aim is to infuse my life with more purposeful play and to believe that it is not only fun…but right.

What do you say…are you game?

Posted in Life As I Know It, Soapbox

2019 – A Time to Create


I didn’t intend on being one of those “word of the year” people. They can be annoying, can’t they? But dammit if another another new year has come and another new word to help guide the year’s goals has found me. It started a few years ago with ripples, and every year since a word comes to me that makes complete sense…as it does on the dawn of this new year.

For many reasons, I want 2019 to be a year to create like never before.

As a writer, I always strive to create, but I’m not just talking about words here (though they are a huge part of my goals for creating). No…I mean create in a much broader sense…

I’ve been “responsible” since as far back as I can remember. And while being a responsible person is a good thing overall in my book, when it is the primary thing it can be stifling to other parts of life. And as my responsibilities in life shift (with my mom’s passing and my son angling toward maturity), I want to rediscover—or maybe discover for the first time—aspects of life and embrace opportunities to create.

I want 2019 to be the beginning of a way of being. In too many ways I’ve been living a “dress rehearsal” existence, but 2018 has really reinforced for me that there is no such thing.

Now is the time.

A bottle of wine makes a good analogy for this. I love wine, but I don’t have a wine fridge or cellar—just a little ol’ wine rack. On that rack, I’ve kept some bottles of wine for years, thinking they would be used for special occasions.

Over a decade ago, I brought home a bottle of wine from a trip to Hawaii that my mom took us on for her 80th birthday. I held onto it for one of those special occasions. With my mom’s passing this year, Thanksgiving was our first holiday without her, so I thought it made sense to open that bottle of wine and make a remembrance toast to her. There was just one problem. After so many years of fluctuating temperatures on that wine rack, the wine had gone bad.

I waited so long for that “special occasion” that we lost our opportunity to enjoy it.

Waiting too long for life’s special occasions means letting the wine of life turn into vinegar.

Now is the time.

So yes, the CREATE of 2019 means DO the book that I’ve wanted to for so long.

But it also means…

ENGAGE in more experiences—including having more fun.

EXPERIENCE and SAVOR more of life’s sweet specifics (ala the Weissmans in Paris, if you watch “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”).

MAKE our home a soul space for my family and me. That means getting much needed projects going as well as simplifying/purging/minimizing to lighten both our physical and mental loads.

TRAVEL – Waiting for the “someday” doesn’t work. Doing does. There are too many places to see and already too little time to see them. Better to work on the list than just pine for that “someday.”

LEARN by making more time to read and discover. Creativity stagnates without a broadening horizon.

And, as all of this is mostly a reaffirmation of the obvious, there is the continuous goal to CREATE more opportunities for positive change…for hope to spark…for hearts to grow…for love to win.

I want 2019 to be a year for all of us that begins (or perhaps for you continues) the creation of a Glorious Unfolding…

It’s true, as Andy says in The Shawshank Redemption, that it’s up to us to “get busy living or get busy dying.”

In many ways, at least for me, creativity = life. And so, in 2019, I aim to create by rolling up my sleeves and getting busy living and doing.

It’s about time.

All photos are used with permission.

Posted in Life As I Know It

What Would You Like to Do with 2016? Yeah, Me Too…

In so many ways, I want to tell 2016 what the people here, from Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, have to say (NSFW). Perhaps I’ll lighten it up to “suck it.” Perhaps not. Continue reading “What Would You Like to Do with 2016? Yeah, Me Too…”

Posted in Life As I Know It

Breathing Grace

So…2016…you have only begun to reveal yourself. Years from now—Lord willing—if I look back on you, what will come to mind? Will it be another year of remembering very specific challenges or milestones? Unremarkable? Amazing? One that I’d rather forget? Continue reading “Breathing Grace”

Posted in Life As I Know It

10 Resolutions You Can Actually Keep

With the coming of the New Year, many of us feel the pull to make some changes and start fresh on a few fronts. If you’re like me, too often this is a setup for failure—unless you use my recipe for success. Continue reading “10 Resolutions You Can Actually Keep”

Posted in Life As I Know It

2015: Time to Sally Forth

What is it with a new year? I mean, it’s merely a way of marking time…there is no literal change going on, except perhaps the hanging of a new calendar. Yet it matters, doesn’t it? For some reason, there is a sense of new beginnings…a new chapter…a clean slate…a chance to change the lackadaisical flow of things or corral the madness of the overwhelm of life.

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to get started.

I know a lot of people who like to hang onto their Christmas decorations for as long as possible. Me? As far as I’m concerned, they can come down on the 26th. Well…I’m not quite that brutal, but I am definitely eager to pack them up around the New Year. I like to get it over and done with so that I can face the 2-3 bleak months of Chicago weather without holiday clutter. Well, that’s not exactly it—I’m just ready to move on.

And I am so ready to move on from 2014 (and ’13, for that matter).

 

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Last year was the first time I chose a word for the year as a kind of theme to guide my heart. I chose the word ripples because I felt a strong connection to understanding the way life and the choices we make ripple out into the world and impact other people. As it turned out, my word choice resonated throughout the year in spectacular fashion—in both good and bad ways. In ways I hoped for and in ways I didn’t know were coming. Diplomatically speaking, 2014 was a challenging year. And I’m not too sorry to say goodbye to it. In fact, I am currently handing 2014 its hat and showing it to the door. Adios, asshole. (Oops. Did I just type that out loud? It appears that I might have.)

My word for 2015 popped into my heart without invitation. It just showed up and makes complete sense. 2015’s word for me is journey. (And I don’t mean the band. Though their song titles of “Don’t Stop Believin’” and “Open Arms” certainly work with my intended meaning.)

 

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I used to read this comic strip years ago called Sally Forth. It was about a woman and her family’s daily life. I liked the reality of it, and I also liked the play on her name—to sally forth means to energetically set out on a mission or adventure—and for Sally, her life was the adventure. To me, the phrase is similar to raising a fist and crying “Onward!” when what you are looking at is an uphill journey.

 

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The journey my heart calls me to is both professional and personal. I have a lot of ground to cover. So far, it has indeed been uphill, but I am rallying my internal troops to make the climb. From the time I was a little kid, I’ve always loved the song “Put One Foot in Front of the Other” from Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town—it’s a great way of reminding us that getting started only takes one step. And then another. And another.

And I am working on taking my next right steps to make the journey of 2015 (and beyond!) a meaningful and fulfilling one. I’ve got my metaphorical hiking boots on, and I’m ready to sally forth!

How about you? Are you finding that you, too, are on a pivotal journey? Or ready to begin one? Or ready to start thinking about being ready to begin one? Well, at some point, we’ve just got to get that foot ready to put itself in front of the other. If I can do it, you can do it. And if there is a stumble on the journey, I know from all of my past trips and falls that I will get back up (maybe catch my breath) and get my feet moving again…and you will, too. We have to…because the alternative sucks. Staying down and licking any wounds means you remain right where you fell…which probably isn’t that good of a place to hang out.

 

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So journey with me. Not alongside me because we are probably on different paths—but sallying forth to our next life adventure.

I’m so ready for it that I just want to say to 2015…

“Let’s get it on…”

 

 

May your New Year be a blessed one—and may the journey that you walk be filled with grace, joy, kindness, compassion, and love.

Happy New Year!

All photos are my own.
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