My 2015 Word of the Year

January 30, 2015

I’ve had mixed success with the word of the year concept. While I’ve learned from and tried to permanently incorporate the connotations of my previous words of the year (open, light, passion, and the “secret” word I never wrote about in 2014, brave), I have not always felt that I fully embraced the concept. I tend to set a word of the year and mostly forget it, rather than draw on it for inspiration and guidance throughout the year.

In contemplating this situation, I realized that previous words had something in common: they were ways in which I wanted to change myself. And while self-improvement and change are good, and I’m certainly not saying I don’t need to continue to change and grow, I am, frankly, tired. In 2015, I need less struggle and more flow. Just for a little while, I want to leave myself alone and become more accepting of who I am right now.

So this year’s word of the year is…



Delight does not require that I struggle to be something I’m not. I don’t have to strive for it. I just have to pay attention to the delight that already exists in my life, and to actively seek delight in all that I do. Delight gives me permission to enjoy life, to turn my attention onto what’s going well rather than focus on what I want to be different. With delight to guide me, I’ll be more likely to say yes to what sounds fun, as well as look for the pleasure in all the everyday tasks and responsibilities I have.

I don’t have to look far to find things that delight me: my wonderful animals, a stack of books to read, blooming orchids, a good cup of coffee, the jumble of art supplies stacked in my office. I’m easy to please, and choosing delight as word of the year seems like something to look forward to!

I’ve read that we attract what we focus on. I’m eager to see just how much delight I can draw into my life in 2015. I’ll keep you posted.

What delights you? Have you chosen a word of the year? Do share.

Prudy delights in destruction.


Me, Too

January 28, 2015

“Acceptance isn’t stagnation—you will change no matter what. You can’t avoid changing. The question is whether that change comes from a place of acceptance and love, or a place of self-dislike and dissatisfaction. I vote for unconditional love.”
—Leo Babauta


Winter Interrupted--Adventures in Art

January 26, 2015

Friday I returned from Laure Ferlita’s artist’s beach holiday, Winter Interrupted. Along with a suitcase full of dirty laundry and sand in my shoes, I came home with new friends, new sketches and great memories. Eight of us spent four days sharpening our sketching-on-location skills at various places in the St. Petersburg, FL, area. Each day we had a new destination: John’s Pass, Clearwater Marine Aquarium, the beach itself, and Sunken Gardens. Laure offered instruction and demos, then turned us loose to sketch. Most of us had never met in person, but had taken online classes together and/or connected through our private class blog. It didn’t take us long to bond, and we ended up spending a good deal of our free time together, too.

Where we stayed
Some general observations on this adventure:

Sharing benefits everyone. One of my favorite things was when we shared our sketchbooks after each session. Each person’s take was different—even when two people sketched the same thing, the results were different—the hand of the artist in action. One day we also shared all the items in our sketching kits—so much fun to see each person’s favorite pencil/pen/sketchbook/palette, and we all jotted down tools we want to get our hands on.

Physical therapy for Winter the dolphin at Clearwater Marine Aquarium
“Bad sketching days” happen. I had one when I felt overwhelmed and just “off.” I didn’t like any of my sketches, but I made myself sketch anyway. The next day was better, and I can always go back and sketch from photos if I want a better representation of what we saw that day.

John's Pass
I love sketching palm trees! I added them to several pages, even when they weren’t part of the lesson.

Palm tree practice--my favorite is the one in the middle
Sketching in ink can be fun. My mechanical pencil ran out of lead at Sunken Gardens and I was forced to sketch with a pen—something Laure encourages but I hadn’t yet tried this trip. I’m not confident in my drawing skills and the pencil served as a security blanket. And you know what? I had the most fun sketching that day, and that page is my favorite page from the trip. (I can hear Laure laughing from across town.)

Sunken Gardens
Art instruction is great, but being inspired by fellow artists is even better. Each woman on the trip had something besides her art to bring to the group. I came away energized and eager to make my life even better than it already is. Getaways like this help us to pay more attention to our own wants and needs, and to open up to new people in a way we wouldn’t during our normal, everyday interactions with others. (Thank you Laure, Cheryl, Claire, Clare, Patti, Susan and Terry!)

Our collected sketchbooks
I’m still working on my pages—and will be for a while—so I can draw out the pleasure of the experience. I’m grateful to have had the chance to escape my everyday routine and add some art adventure to my life!

When was your last getaway? Are you planning one soon?

Liz Rosenberg

Sometimes She Needs to Cry

January 21, 2015

Photo courtesy Alexander Shustov
Introduction by Ted Kooser: During our more than four years of publishing this column we’ve shown you a number of poems about motherhood. Here’s another, beautifully observed by Liz Rosenberg, who lives in New York State.

I Leave Her Weeping

I leave her weeping in her barred little bed,
her warm hand clutching at my hand,
but she doesn’t want a kiss, or to hug the dog goodnight—
she keeps crying mommy, uhhh, mommy,
with her lovely crumpled face
like a golden piece of paper I am throwing away.
We have been playing for hours,
and now we need to stop, and she does not want
to. She is counting on me to lower the boom
that is her heavy body, and settle her down.
I rub her ribcage, I arrange the blankets around her hips.
Downstairs are lethal phonecalls I have to answer.
dying, I need to call.
My daughter may be weeping all my tears,
I only know
that even this young
and lying on her side,
her head uplifted like a cupped tulip,
sometimes she needs to cry.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2009 by Liz Rosenberg, whose most recent book of poetry is “Demon Love,” Mammoth Press, 2009. Poem reprinted from “Paterson Literary Review,” Issue 37/2009-2010, by permission of Liz Rosenberg and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2010 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.


Interrupting Winter

January 19, 2015

This week I’m over in Clearwater with Laure Ferlita, interrupting Winter with an artist’s beach holiday. I’ll report back on our simple pleasures and everyday adventures when I get back. Have a happy week!


This Is Not the Blog Post I Planned

January 16, 2015

I had a thoughtful blog post planned for today, full of encouragement and wisdom (har), but due to circumstances being what they were, I did not finish it. Instead of giving you nothing (don’t thank me), here is what my day was like:

As I was sitting in my office this morning (which doubles as Prudy’s bedroom at night), I notice something suspicious in her water dish. It was a mouse.

More specifically, my wireless computer mouse.

I snatch it out of the water, remove the batteries, and toss it in the trash thinking it can’t possibly work. On reflection, however, I pull it out of the trash, dry it thoroughly and replace the batteries, thinking just maybe it might still function. Lo and behold, it does! Sort of. Perhaps I can muddle through the day if I am careful. I can always borrow a mouse from my husband if my newly dried off mouse fails me—which it does almost immediately. I can click on things, but if I try to scroll, the screen leaps and stutters until I pull the batteries out of the mouse again. OK then. Borrowed mouse it is. Let’s get back to today’s blog post…

But wait! You say you want to type? No, no, no, no, no. Whether the keyboard decides to take a break, walk off the job in sympathy with the mouse, or just simply make my life difficult, suddenly it doesn’t work. I try rebooting. Nothing doing. Into my husband’s office I go, to use his computer to look up “keyboard won’t work.” I find a solution on a Dell forum that works. Back in business. OK, about that blog post…

[Short interlude in which I eat lunch.]

OK, then, let’s put some nice, soothing music on Pandora for inspiration. Hmmm. I don’t hear anything. What gives? Do my external speakers work? Yes. How about iTunes? Yup. OK, look up “sounds don’t play on web pages.” Try a bunch of things, including clearing my cache and cookies (which means I now have to sign in to everything again). Nothing. OK, I guess I can listen to iTunes—BUT WAIT—now iTunes doesn’t work, either. (Pity poor Laure Ferlita who was getting a blow-by-blow recounting of all this.) I wonder if the laptop has sound and the problem lies between it and the external speakers? Pull the laptop out (it lives on a shelf under my desk and I use a docking station to connect it to an external keyboard and monitor) and find that no, it doesn’t have sound.

No, I do not curse.

I give up. Stare pitifully at my paper. Twiddle my pen. Can’t think of anything to write. Click sadly over to YouTube to look longingly at some silent videos.

And suddenly

A miracle.


Don’t know how, don’t know why.

Beautiful sound.

But now it’s 4:30 and I’m cranky. Decide the encouraging and wise (har) blog post will have to wait for a day when I feel encouraging and wise.

Moral of the story? Some days are irritating and unproductive. Some days expose your weaknesses. You just have to put up with them, do your best to get through them, and hope the next day proves to be better.

I hope your Friday was much better than mine!

RIP little mouse.


Do Your Duty

January 14, 2015

“There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy. By being happy we sow anonymous benefits upon the world.”
—Robert Louis Stevenson

Chocolate makes me happy.

Laure Ferlita

Friday This and That, or Yes, I'm Still Here

January 09, 2015

I’ve been so busy with this and that I feel like I’ve been neglecting this blog. Along with my normal, day-to-day stuff, here’s a little bit of what’s been going on:

Tank is lame and I don’t know why. Later today I have an appointment with the farrier to rule out hoof issues. Our current thought is he’s pulled a muscle. If that’s the case, there’s nothing to do but take him for gentle walks and let it heal.

I have an owie.
I’m sketching every day. You can see my sketches on Flickr, but I assure you they’re nothing to make a special trip to see. It’s more about establishing a sketching habit, brushing up and improving my sketching skills and getting over “fear of the blank page.” I’m posting them to keep myself honest. Belle, from Belle, Book and Candle, is sketching with me, and you can see her sketches here

I’m helping Laure Ferlita wrap up details for Winter Interrupted: An Artist’s Beach Holiday that will take place Jan. 18-22. (Another good reason to get back in the habit of sketching!) 

Taste testing. It's a tough job, but someone's got to do it.
And, of course, I’m reading—library books mostly, and nothing towards any of my reading challenge goals. Oops.

So what’s new with you?


January on the Gulf

January 07, 2015

Photo courtesy Roger Kirby

Introduction by Ted Kooser: Mark Sanders, who lives in Texas, is not only a good poet, but he’s an old friend to the poetry of my home ground, working hard as teacher, editor, and publisher to bring Great Plains poetry to the attention of readers across the country. Here’s an example of one of his poems.

The Cranes, Texas January 

I call my wife outdoors to have her listen,
to turn her ears upward, beyond the cloud-veiled
sky where the moon dances thin light,
to tell her, “Don’t hear the cars on the freeway—

it’s not the truck-rumble. It is and is not
the sirens.” She stands there, on deck
a rocking boat, wanting to please the captain
who would have her hear the inaudible.

Her eyes, so blue the day sky is envious,
fix blackly on me, her mouth poised on question
like a stone. But, she hears, after all.
                                                                  January on the Gulf,
warm wind washing over us,
we stand chilled in the winter of those voices.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2011 by Mark Sanders from his most recent book of poems, 1Conditions of Grace: New and Selected Poems, Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2011. Poem reprinted by permission of Mark Sanders and the publisher. Introduction copyright 2012 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.


Link Love, New Year's Edition

January 02, 2015

With the turning of the year, many of us become more contemplative. We think about the past year, the future, and what we want more or less of in the coming months. Here is a collection of end-/beginning-of-the-year links I found inspiring and helpful, and that you might enjoy also:

Playing off the 12 days of Christmas idea, Laura Vanderkam has come up with “12 Days to a Happier, More Productive You.” 

Sandra at Always Well Within  has prepared a couple of free downloads here: A time-tracking log as well as a worksheet to help you review the past year.

Just in case you’re overwhelmed by “have an amazing year” cheerleading, remember that “life isn’t a tidy upward achievement narrative,”—and that’s OK.

How to say No graciously—an important skill we all need. 

Disconnect, do less and be more successful!

And on a lighter note, the folks at Smartpak (no affiliation) have made a series of funny videos with the theme “If horses were people.” Here is a recent one, about blanketing, that made me laugh. (The farrier one is hilarious, too.)

Happy New Year and happy Friday!