End of the year

2016 End-of-Year Link Love

December 23, 2016

I typically take a break from blogging during the week between Christmas and New Year’s, and I’m doing just that next week. For me, this time of year is a time of reflection and planning. I’ll be reviewing 2016, working on setting goals, and choosing a word of the year next week, as well as spending a little extra time reading for pleasure, and resting up after hosting the family for Christmas. I didn’t want you to have Catching Happiness withdrawals (haha) so I prepared this Link Love for you to enjoy while I’m gone.

I loved Marie Forleo’s three-question end-of-the-year review process.  Simple, yet powerful.

For a more in-depth review of 2016, try Sandra Pawula’s 18 questions. There’s a free downloadable workbook, as well. 

I find choosing a word of the year a helpful practice (though I didn’t write about it on the blog, 2016’s word was “Quality.”) Here’s an article by Liz Smith about choosing a guiding word for 2017. As she writes, “Once you have your word, let it light the unknown path for you next year.”

I rarely listen to podcasts, but it’s something I would like to do more of in the coming year. I just discovered the Beaks and Geeks podcast, thanks to an email from Penguin Random House. Here’s a link to a round-up of “10 Best of Books Author Podcasts.” I’ll probably listen to some of these next week as well.

I would love to try this monthly art and inspiration subscription from Holstee. I’m adding it to my list of treats/rewards. (No affiliation.)

If you’re looking for a way to improve your habits, you can try this habit-tracking calendar. (No affiliation.)

And on a less introspective note, I’ve spent far too much time watching Simon’s Cat videos on YouTube. Why don’t you join me? Click below for the Christmas Collection:

I truly hope your 2016 was a stellar year, and that even better things are in store for you in 2017.

End of the year

Turning of the Year

December 30, 2015

Photo courtesy winterdove

Introduction by Ted Kooser: Here’s a New Year’s poem by Judy Ray, who lives and writes in Tucson. I like the way that common phrase, “the turning of a year,” has suggested to her the turns in a race track. Her most recent book is To Fly Without Wings, (Helicon Nine Editions, 2009). 

Turning of the Year

We never know if the turn
is into the home stretch.
We call it that—a stretch
of place and time—
with vision of straining,
racing.  We acknowledge
each turn with cheers
though we don’t know
how many laps remain.
But we can hope the course
leads on far and clear
while the horses have strength
and balance on their lean legs,
fine-tuned muscles, desire
for the length of the run.
Some may find the year smooth,
others stumble at obstacles
along the way.  We never know
if the finish line will be reached
after faltering, slowing,
or in mid-stride, leaping forward.

We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher ofPoetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2012 by Judy Ray, “Turning of the Year,” from The Whirlybird Anthology of Kansas City Writers, (Whirlybird Press, 2012). Poem reprinted by permission of Judy Ray and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2015 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.

End of the year

The Year in Review: 2015 in Pictures and Posts

December 28, 2015

It seems like only yesterday that I was contemplating the fresh new calendar year of 2015, and yet here we are only four days away from 2016. In looking back over the year, I notice that I’ve chosen to write about—and highlight here—mostly 2015’s simple pleasures and everyday adventures—and that’s fitting for the theme of this blog. The one glaring exception is the post I wrote about the death of our dog. I haven’t chosen to share the details of every moment good or bad (you’re welcome), merely the ones I thought you would enjoy hearing about or  possibly learn from along with me. Even though I try to remain positive, and to focus on what good and useful things can be taken from difficult or painful experiences, life is rarely ever all good or all bad, but a mixture of both. Here’s a look back at my 2015 in pictures and posts.


Interrupting winter.


Completing a sketching challenge and Tanks 20th birthday.


Appreciating the delight of little things.



Picking blueberries and extolling the pleasures of journaling.


Making a summer bucket list and  going to the beach with Tank.


Cultivating pronoia.


Proclaiming my love for books.



Visiting the Chocolate Kingdom, banishing the B word, and beginning the grieving process for our dog. 


Joining the 30-Day Gratitude Photo Challenge and experimenting with essential oils.

Which brings us to December, where I’ve spent my time keeping the cat out of the tree, taking walks, and trying to finish up my 2015 reading challenges (I’ve finished Mount TBR, I have one book left to make a Vintage Mystery Challenge bingo, but I’ve no hope at all of completing the classics challenge.)

Onward to 2016!

What were the highlights of your year? What were some of your challenges, triumphs, and disappointments? What have you learned in 2015?


The Weight of the Year

December 29, 2014

I know the calendar is an arbitrary division of time, but I feel the weight of the old year bearing down on me. The weight of goals achieved and not achieved, of challenges met and unmet...the days and weeks and months of 2014 feel heavier each moment. A new year is about to dawn, and it feels like a weight will fall off my shoulders with the passing of the old year. Do you feel that way too? The endings and beginnings of this time of year feel like a good chance to shrug off the old and look forward with optimism to the new. But before I go all philosophical on you, let me just quickly review the public challenges I set for myself in 2014:

 Reading Challenges
I succeeded in all three of my reading challenges—click here to see the results. I am just finishing up that last Mt. TBR book, but it will be done by the end of the month. I managed just one bingo, but I filled a number of other spaces—just not in a line! And I read all the “required” classics, and one of the optional books.

For 2015: I plan to read from my shelves again, since (surprise!) I continued to buy new-to-me books in 2014. I did end up with a small reduction in the TBR pile, but I still have many, many books secreted on my closet shelves.  I’ll also participate in the updated classics challenge here and once again in the Vintage Mystery Bingo Challenge.

30-Day Gratitude Photo Challenge
I’m so happy that I completed this challenge—it was fun, uplifting and gave me the boost I needed to take on…

31 Days of Sketching with Belle from Belle, Book and Candle starting Jan. 1. She plans to post her art on a separate blog (address to come), and I’m not sure yet how I’m going to post mine. I’m still working out the details and collecting prompts so that I’m never at a loss for what to sketch. My goal is to make sketching an activity rather than an event.

This year has been a year of emotional stress and upheaval (and dying computers and dogs going to the emergency vet), though I haven’t publicly written much about it. It was also a year of seeing old friends and family, reading good books and discovering Doctor Who. I’m grateful for the gifts 2014 has given me, but I want 2015 to feel different—less frustrating and anxiety ridden. I can’t control what happens to me, only how I react. Optimistically, I turn towards 2015, hoping for a happier and more successful year. But hoping will not make it so. If I want 2015 to be better than 2014, and I do, I will have to make some changes—in what I do and how I think. I’ll share what I learn in hopes that it will help and encourage you, too. As always, I’m especially grateful for all of you who have taken time to read my words and share your thoughts with me.

What gifts has 2014 given you? What do you look forward to in 2015?


2012 With a Bow on Top

December 31, 2012

Photo courtesy Klaus Post

2012’s parting gift to me was the Head Cold from Hell, which forced me to slow down, rest, and do nothing. I wanted to do that anyway, but without quite so much mucous production. It wasn’t all bad, though. While I sniffled and coughed in my bed, I also read books I want to finish by year’s end and pondered the year that was:

2012 started out with Contemplation Month and, as usual, some efforts to clear things out and become more organized, a tradition I think I will continue. I chose Passion as my word of the year, and proceeded to ignore it. 

After a rough 2011, 2012 seemed to be following suit after we had a minor car accident in March, but that car accident was a turning point. I changed my expectations and found that 2012 was actually mostly a good year, filled with interesting books, a couple of fun trips, and simple pleasures galore. My son turned 18, I got my office back and this blog turned 3. I finished up the year with a weekend spent having my mind blown at a Parelli Natural Horsemanship event, where—BIG ANNOUNCEMENT—I became a “Social Media Rock Star” and won a prize for my photographs. (They haven’t posted the winners from Tampa yet, so you’ll just have to take my word for it!)

On the more serious side, I noticed that I often felt overwhelmed and too busy in the last few months of the year, and my self-discipline when it came to writing was all but non-existent. These major issues must change and will be receiving plenty of attention in January. 

After watching what others have gone through in 2012, I realize that it’s a privilege to blather on about my emotions and goals, the small and big things that I find interesting and that make me happy. Living through 2012 was a gift, just as each day is a gift for those of us lucky enough to wake up to see it.

As the old year passes away, I face 2013 hopefully. Jan. 1 always feels like a fresh start and I look forward to a new year of simple pleasures and everyday adventures (I’ve been called for possible jury duty again!). I hope your 2012 was a year of happiness and growth, and that 2013 is even better. 

What did you take away from 2012? What are your hopes for the new year?

End of the year

Checking In

December 15, 2010

I was sick last week, and though I'm just about recovered, I'm behind on my usual activities, including posting here. This week, the last before school gets out for winter break, must be devoted to holiday preparation and beating the house into submission (that is, cleaning it). Then comes the usual end-of-the-year flurry of activity interspersed with introspection in which I will decide that I must change everything about my life and make a new start.

Just kidding. I think.

Does that happen to you? You take a look at your perfectly servicable--even happy--life and decide you'd like it to be different, better somehow. As the year winds down, I think about how it's gone, turn my thoughts to my hopes and desires for next year and consider what I might do differently. I have to fight the urge to set a bunch of goals, commit to challenges (I wanted to sign up for this one because it sounds so fun and the badge is pretty...but I restrained myself) and so on. I guess I think of this season as one of contemplation and evaluation--a sort of natural turning point in my life.

Scout contemplates trimming the shrubs so she can see the squirrels better
On a less philosophical note, I'm choosing books for the Off the Shelf Challenge--my goal was 15, but I've already got 17 stacked up (and still more lurking on closet shelves). I've chosen the first book I'm going to read for the Vintage Mystery Challenge: The Crime at Black Dudley, by Margery Allingham. I've never read anything by her before. This book is the first Albert Campion mystery. According to the book's back cover, I'm likely to like this if I'm a fan of Dorothy L. Sayers, Agatha Christie, and the Golden Age of British Mystery. That's me! Though I'm not officially doing the 50 States Challenge, I'm going to keep track of the settings of the books I read to see how many states--or countries--are represented.

The contenders
What does the end of the year bring for you? Do you do any sort of check-in with yourself? Are you making plans for next year?

P.S. I wrote a piece on visiting New Orleans on a budget--if you're interested, you can read it here.