Some Assembly Required

January 19, 2024

Photo by Andrik Langfield on Unsplash

Happy belated New Year! I’m mostly back from my extended break after a productive, in-depth review of 2023.

As I wrote in December’s Happy Little Thoughts, I did not accomplish many personal or professional goals in 2023. I spent most of the year navigating grief and the practical and administrative matters related to two deaths, and it was all I could do to keep my own life somewhat functional. When I wasn’t doing those things, I was mentally and emotionally recovering from doing them.

But now things are starting to settle down*. Starting a new year feels like starting fresh.

Choosing a word of the year

As usual, I have been pondering the choice of a word of the year. I would like 2024 to be, as professional sports teams call it, “a rebuilding year.” Now that I’m no longer responsible for caring for my mother-in-law, I can begin to think again of what I want to accomplish.

I toyed with the idea of rebuild as a word of the year, but it didn’t feel quite right. My circumstances have changed. My dreams have changed. My tolerance levels for some things have changed. I’m staring down a milestone birthday. Instead of rebuilding what I had before, as great as it was, I want to build a life I love, one that makes me happy to wake up in the morning, on the foundation of my old life. If that makes sense.

Here’s the quote, from Jamie Varon, that inspired me to choose build as my word of the year:

“Imagine the woman you want to be. Think of what her daily life, her habits, and routines would be. Start showing up to those habits and routines, start building them, step by step, and day by day. You don’t become her like magic. You build her. Start building.”

Words of support

Knowing that I am still somewhat shaky emotionally (especially considering what’s been going on with Tank—see * below), I’m choosing a couple of “background” words to support build: restore, gentle. At least right now, I’m not up for any major disruptive changes. I am up for building small habits, little by little, gently, while allowing time for restoration.  

After I wrote down some big goals I want to achieve in 2024, I broke them down into smaller goals, sometimes into something I can achieve in a month. Some of these subgoals are process goals, like “work on [insert project here] 15 minutes 3 times a week.” January has been kind of a trial run, as I figure out how to build the habits I want.

Some fun supportive practices

Thinking about choosing your own word of the year? That’s only the first step. While you can leave it to chance, if you want to make the most of the practice of choosing a word of the year, it helps to keep that word uppermost in your mind. Here are a few supportive practices I’ve heard about and might try this year: 

  • Keep a notebook to record ways your word of the year has shown up in your life
  • Create a Pinterest board for your word of the year
  • Create a vision board focusing on your word of the year
  • Put your word of the year on sticky notes and post them in strategic places.

What feels different?

I feel a certain determination I haven’t felt before. A few of my goals have migrated from year to year without my making any real headway on them and I want that to stop. I feel more likely to look for solutions and work arounds when I hit a roadblock, rather than giving up at the first significant obstacle. One lesson I learned from losing my mom and mother-in-law is that you don’t have all the time in the world. If you want to do it, do it. Do not keep putting off things that are important to you. Build the life you want now.

Do you choose a word of the year? If you’d like to share, please do in the comments below!

Read about past words of the year here, here, and here.

*Last week, my horse, Tank, developed some kind of serious mystery ailment and for the past week I’ve been alternating between hope and despair. As I write this post, he is doing better and I’m cautiously optimistic that he’ll pull through. He’s due to come home from the vet hospital tomorrow.


When Choosing One Word Isn’t Enough

January 20, 2023

Photo by Amador Loureiro on Unsplash

The practice of choosing a word of the year is meaningful to me, probably because words are meaningful to me. Since 2010, I’ve chosen a one-word theme each year (except for 2013—I either didn’t choose one, or I didn’t write it down anywhere I can find it now). My word of the year is often something I aspire to (“flow”), or want to have more of (“delight”). I try to choose a word which will influence many areas of my life, one with layers of meaning I hope to discover over time. Some years I’ve found my word meaningful, while others I’ve barely thought of it, or it wound up being a mismatch for what the year turned out to hold (I’m looking at you, “Dare”/ 2021).

I also continue to incorporate previous years’ words in my life—I still try to work “deeper,” for example, and 2022’s “simpler” will continue to guide me for the foreseeable future.   

Life moves swiftly and is complicated, so having just one word/concept to guide me simplifies things when I’m making decisions or unsure of something. However, this year I couldn’t land on one word that resonated. I played with at least a dozen, until earlier this week, I realized 2023 needs three words.

1.      Flexible

As most of you know, I’m the main caregiver for my mother-in-law, Carol. At this point, she needs support more than actual physical care. I mostly coordinate with Hospice, manage her medications, and try to keep her supplied with foods she finds appealing. I’m able to leave the house when I need to, because mostly she takes care of herself (and our adult son is currently living with us and can keep a watchful eye on her). This situation could change at any time, and fast, so I don’t want to load myself with commitments and goals I might not be able to complete. I’m not actively seeking freelance work (though I’m still available!), but I have some writing projects I’ve been working on, off and on, for years, that have no deadlines. While this can sometimes be death to my productivity, this year, I appreciate the flexibility. I plan to use my writing time to explore them. (I’m hoping to spend more time with Catching Happiness, too.)  Which brings me to the word…

2.      Forward

Even before Carol’s health crisis, I’d been waffling about my way forward. Do I still want to write? If so, what types of writing do I want to do? If not, what meaningful work could I do instead? I don’t want a new career (I don’t think?!), but I still want to engage my mental faculties. I also want to earn money. I’ve been stuck for a while. I want to move forward.

3.      Fun

And last but not least, I want to have fun in 2023! The past three years have been decidedly un-fun. I want to be more proactive about finding and indulging in fun. I’ll write more about fun in future blog posts!

There you have them—2023’s words of the year: flexible, forward, and fun.

Do you have a word of the year? Please share in the comments below!

For more information on choosing your own word of the year:

Happiness jar

A Mid (-ish) Year Review

July 22, 2022

Photo by Maddi Bazzocco on Unsplash

When I wrote “I’m not even going to try to guess what 2022 holds, but I am going to stay optimistic and open” in my first post of the year, I couldn’t have guessed what the year would hold, and I’m actually grateful for that!

We can never “know” what’s coming (though sometimes we can guess). All we can do is savor the happy times, and build a foundation of resilience and a network of support for the hard ones. To stay “optimistic and open,” even when it’s hard. (And forgive ourselves when we fail at that.)

We can also cling to practices which help us feel grounded and give a shape and structure to our lives. Today I’d like to share my mid (-ish) year review of my efforts to shape 2022 so far.

Word of the Year (WOTY)

With the unavoidable complications of caregiving, “simpler” has been a great focus word. Here are a few ways I’m applying the concept of simpler:

I’ve continued to declutter my house. I’ve been watching YouTube videos by The Minimal Mom to maintain motivation, and one of the concepts she’s brought to my attention is that it’s all about “inventory management.” How much “stuff” do you want to manage?  I’m not a minimalist, but I do find a less cluttered environment contributes to a calmer mind. 

I’ve stripped my writing down to the bare minimum. This isn’t my favorite practice, but right now it’s the right choice. I simply don’t have the emotional and mental bandwidth to write much. (Though if the right project or idea comes along, I’ll make an exception!)

I’m breaking tasks into smaller, simpler steps.  For example, we want to touch up the paint in our bedroom. My task for this week was “Find out if we have the paint we need or if we have to buy more.” (Note: This will take approximately three minutes…and yet, here it is Friday and I haven’t done it yet! Since it is such a small step, though, I will probably manage to do it. This is why I need to break things down into tiny steps.)

“22 in 22”

In January, I’d only put about 10 things on my “22 in 22” list; now I’m up to 19. My entries range in difficulty from “buy new pjs” to “West Coast visit with Mom, Shy, and Kerri.” I’ve accomplished nine of the 19 (including the two just mentioned), with another three in progress. Considering what 2022 has wrought, I’m pretty happy with this. And I still have almost half the year to go.

The Happiness Jar

Even though I forget some weeks, I’m still dropping slips of paper in the Happiness Jar on a regular basis. It looks like this now:

I’m adding a reminder to my informal weekly planning session so I don’t keep forgetting. This little project really does make me happy.

What else?

No surprise here, I’ve been reading a lot! Books old and new, from my TBR shelf and from the library. I’m still working through my personal reading project, “Agatha in Order” (reading Agatha Christie’s novels in the order they were published). I’ve also been listening to more audio books. (Is anyone interested in a reading round-up post?)

Tank is living his best life, roaming a 15-acre property with a “gang” of older geldings. I ride once a week on average, an easy hack around the property with the occasional trot thrown in (he’s in better shape than I am for this). The heat and humidity of the Florida summer preclude doing much more than that, even if we wanted to. 

Tank (in front) with best buddy Bubba

My sketching practice is still largely theoretical, though I did do two or three sketches while I was in California in June. One of the undone “22 in 22” entries.

Future plans

I’m keeping them simple(r). Continue to experiment with ways to make sketching a habit rather than an event. Continue to declutter. Continue to slow down and take it one day at a time. Work on those tiny steps.

Lessons learned

Or, rather, lessons I’m in the process of learning… Hard things get easier over time. Letting go of perfectionism is more important—and more complicated—than I thought. Don’t wait if there’s something you really want. You never know when something may happen that makes it impossible to go after your desires.

I hope the first half of 2022 has brought you both joy and challenge—and that you’re on your way to reaching your own most desired dreams for the year.

How has your year been so far? Do you have any plans for the last half of 2022?

Check in

First Quarter Check-In

March 25, 2022

Photo by Sixteen Miles Out on Unsplash

I hate to break it to you, but 2022 is one quarter of the way done…or it will be next week.

Time seems to have picked up its pace, racing forward with no regard to my readiness for it to be the end of March and Almost Summer (in Florida we have two seasons: Summer and Almost Summer). While I’m a little surprised to find myself teetering on the verge of April, the first three months of the year haven’t been all bad, despite bouts of depression and continued horror around the world. This year, I’m going to try something new: reviewing both my word of the year and my goals every quarter. Previously, I’ve been much more haphazard about the review process.

The year so far

I’ve taken to heart what I mentioned in “First Thoughts for 2022”: “I want a year of ease and serendipity and settling into the spaces of my life in a way that feels organic instead of molded to fit arbitrary goals I set for myself.” I’ve continued to concentrate on my word of the year, simpler. Since I didn’t set a big bunch of goals at the beginning of the year, I don’t feel bad about not having a long list of shiny accomplishments checked off.

The thing I’ve noticed most is that so far this year, I have been operating more slowly and mindfully. I catch myself rushing, and slow down. I single task more often. I’m becoming more realistic about what I can accomplish in a day. This is a valuable mindset shift that’s starting to feel more natural. 

A few noteworthy accomplishments:

  • Continued to add slips of paper to my Happiness Jar.
  • Read two books related to my exploration of simpler (The Power of Less, by Leo Babauta and Do Less, by Kate Northrup). Next up, Digital Minimalism, by Cal Newport.
  • Moved Tank to new accommodations. My entire boarding barn relocated to a new, larger property this week. A huge undertaking for the owner, and a bit of upheaval in my settled routine, but the property is great and it will be a positive move. (Tank is happy, so I’m happy.)
  • Continued taking a couple of online courses, one personal and one related to blogging.

Coming attractions

During the next three months, I plan to continue to take small steps toward reenergizing my writing. I’m going to start planning a trip to California to see family. And I’ll continue some cleaning and organizing projects around my house.

I’m also preparing to take an internet break in April (inspired by David from Raptitude, who wrote about taking an internet break here, and about how it went hereI’ll write more about this when I’m just about to do it).

I’m far too tied to my devices—laptop, tablet, phone. A couple of weeks ago, my (newish) laptop’s internal fan died, and I had to use my old (slow and glitchy) laptop to complete some work until we could fix the new one. I couldn’t go even one day without a computer. It’s true that most of my work uses a computer, whether for research, connection, or actual writing, but I also read quite a few blogs and listen to a couple of podcasts on a semi-regular basis. I’ve been scrolling Instagram nightly after dinner while we’re watching something mindless on TV. I try to maintain one day a week where I don’t go to the computer, but I don’t always manage that. I find that when I have a few minutes, I jump online to “catch up” on blog reading or emails. There are other better ways to spend time.

As I continue to learn what simpler means to me, I feel that it’s about “less, but better.” About going deeper into things that matter rather than trying to do or be All the Things. About slowing down enough to feel content. So far, I’m pleased with my word of the year choice, and after some rough days, I’m feeling slightly more positive overall. Baby steps, one day at a time. Learning to live with hard things and still function. I’m looking forward to the second quarter of 2022. 

How is your year progressing so far? Any surprises? 


First Thoughts for 2022

January 14, 2022

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

How have the first two weeks of the new year been treating you?

I’m finally taking a breath after a whirlwind last couple of weeks of 2021, another year I’m not sorry to put behind me. I’ve spent the last couple of weeks recovering (I’m so tired…you?) and regrouping. (Read: digging out my office which has become, once again, a Pit of Despair.)

The beginning of a new year is a natural place to think about goals and changes you want to make. But this year, instead of planning a whole year’s worth of goals, or diving head first into the deep end, I’m taking a gentler approach overall. For example:

Word of the year

Remember my word of the year (WOTY), dare, from last year? Probably not, because after that first optimistic post, I don’t think I revisited it on the blog even once. And not much more often in private. Too many varied and disrupting events took place in 2021, and dare just didn’t fit well with how the year played out. In this instance, choosing a word of the year was kind of like when health experts try to match the annual flu vaccine with the flu strains expected to be circulating…and fail!

In retrospect, a better WOTY for 2021 would have been “survive.”

So anyway, as 2021 wound down, a word kept reappearing in my consciousness, and as I usually do when that happens, I’ve taken it as my WOTY for 2022:


Not shiny or glamorous, but fitting, in that the past two years have made me hunker down and reevaluate my life in unexpected ways. I’m looking forward to seeing how simpler influences how the year unfolds. Two things that come to mind immediately are the way I cook (my menu planning and cooking need a revamp that makes them simpler) and what I concentrate on in my writing. I’ve been chasing too many different types of writing projects and I’ve managed both to lose the joy of writing as well as dilute my focus and skill level. I’m sure more will come to my attention as the year goes on.

(Two of my online friends have also chosen words of the year. Read their posts here and here.)

Goal setting/yearly planning

I’m very good at complicating things, overscheduling, and being wound too tightly. Rushing, rushing, rushing. Fitting more in when I should take more time to do fewer things. (Another way in which simpler may help.)

I came across this sentence in something I read (forgive me, I can’t remember where I found it), and this sums up what I want for 2022:

“I want a year of ease and serendipity and settling into the spaces of my life in a way that feels organic instead of molded to fit arbitrary goals I set for myself.”

I’m slowing way down. Being a lot more deliberate. There are a few things on my “I’d like to accomplish” list for 2022. I’m using Gretchen Rubin’s “22 for 22” framework, but I only have about 10 things listed so far. 

What I’m not doing

I’m not doing any reading challenges. I’m not going on a diet. I’m not “making big plans,” at least not yet. 

And speaking of plans, I just finished reading Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals, by Oliver Burkeman (Amazon, Bookshop, no affiliation), which is not about time management in the traditional way at all. This passage resonated:

“…planning is an essential tool for constructing a meaningful life, and for exercising our responsibilities toward other people. The real problem isn’t planning. It’s that we take our plans to be something they aren’t. What we forget, or can’t bear to confront, is that, in the words of the American meditation teacher Joseph Goldstein, ‘a plan is just a thought.’ We treat our plans as though they are a lasso, thrown from the present around the future, in order to bring it under our command. But all a plan is—all it could ever possibly be—is a present-moment statement of intent. It’s an expression of your current thoughts about how you’d ideally like to deploy your modest influence over the future. The future, of course, is under no obligation to comply.”

Almost none of my plans over the past two years have come to fruition. I’m disappointed, but at the same time, simply grateful to be alive and relatively unscathed. I’m not even going to try to guess what 2022 holds, but I am going to stay optimistic and open. To continue to embrace simple pleasures and everyday adventures—and to share any happy discoveries with you.

Do you have any special plans for 2022? What is your word of the year?

For more easy, beginning-of-the-year inspiration, check out these links:

The Soul + Wit podcast, “Less Hustle, More Happiness.” 

The Action for Happiness Happier January calendar.


The Strength of a Word

January 29, 2021

Photo by Siora Photography on Unsplash

I’ve been trying to cling to some vestiges of normalcy in these far from normal times, so as I’ve done for the past few years, I’ve chosen a word of the year to be a sort of one-word guidance system. I say I chose it, but really, it chose me, because this word is not one I would normally gravitate to.

The word is dare.

Dare strikes me as a bossy word—at first glance, it sounds like a word that is going to make me do a whole lot of things I don’t want to do, as in “I dare you to…” After the exhausting slog of 2020, I’m skeptical of my ability to live up to a word like dare. However, one of my online friends called it, more charitably, a strong word. OK, we’ll go with that. Maybe I can draw strength from it as well as be pushed by it?

I’m willing to take on dare because after some thought and exploration (and consulting a thesaurus and dictionary, thanks to a friend’s suggestion). I’m choosing to focus on the meanings of to take heart, try one’s hand, venture, to have sufficient courage to try. Dare is also associated with imaginative or vivacious boldness. I kind of like the sound of that.

Also, for the first time, I created an acronym to correspond with the word’s letters (hat tip to another friend for this idea). Here it is:

D: Dream (because dreaming starts everything)

A: Act (dreams won’t become reality without action)

R: Recharge (after taking action, I’ll need to recharge)

E: Evaluate (evaluate the result of my action to see what comes next)

Where will dare take me? I don’t know yet, but I have some projects in the works that I might not have decided to tackle without the support of such a strong word.

If 2020 taught me anything, it’s that I shouldn’t put off things I want to do—there’s no guarantee the future will be anything resembling the past. It’s up to me to figure out what I really want to do/be/have, and try to make those things happen. No one is going to do it for me.

Have you chosen a word of the year for 2021? I dare you!


The Words Guiding Me This Year

January 31, 2020

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Regular readers of Catching Happiness know that I usually choose a Word of the Year to guide me. This year is no different—in fact, I have two words that I will be keeping in the forefront of my mind as I navigate 2020.

This year, I’ve chosen the words free and soften as my words of the year.


Initially, I chose free because I’m going to do something this year that will make me feel more free—I’ve decided to stop coloring my hair.* I got my first gray hair at age 21, and though it took many years for more grays to appear, I’ve been coloring my hair for a good long time now, and I’m tired of the process. After I read about a possible link between breast cancer and permanent hair dye, that was it for me. I’m done. I have an aunt who had breast cancer, and I don’t need any more risk factors.

Thinking about no longer coloring my hair led me to thinking about what else I’d like to be free of. Things like expectations, caring what other people think about how I look and what I do, stories I tell myself that hold me back from having the happy life I want. I want to feel free to explore, expand, give, express my creativity, enjoy my simple pleasures and everyday adventures. 

When I looked up the definitions of free, I found some additional food for thought. The online definitions, from Merriam-Webster, included: enjoying civil and political liberty; enjoying personal freedom; choosing or capable of choosing for oneself; made, done or given voluntarily or spontaneously; relieved from or lacking something, especially something painful or burdensome; not bound or contained by force; having no obligations or commitments; not impeded or obstructed or restricted; capable of moving in any direction; frank/open; overly familiar or forward in action or attitude. As a verb, free means to relieve or rid of what restrains, confines, restricts or embarrasses.


Soften came to me one day when I was struggling to make something work. When life doesn’t immediately cooperate, my tendency is to tense up, struggle, and use force when I should soften and ease up. Maybe even let go. I’m often reminded of this in yoga class when I have a muscle cramp and must soften my pose or come out of it altogether. Softening—my attitude and my actions—causes me to slow down, and often averts an impending accident

Words working together

I believe that the combination of free and soften indicates to me that I want to explore being more flexible and relaxed. How this plays out in real life, with its work and responsibilities, remains to be seen. How can I have self-discipline but not too much, also remains to be seen.

Did you choose a word of the year this year? What do you think it means for you?

*Apparently, “going gray” is currently A Thing, with books and blogs devoted to the process. While I’m not planning to share much of my own transition publicly, I’ve heard that the process brings up a lot of emotions and beliefs about femininity, aging, etc., so it’s possible that I will eventually write about it. (And, of course, when my hair is fully transformed, I’ll have to post a new profile pic!)



February 11, 2019

Photo courtesy Andrew Martin via Pixabay 

As I mentioned briefly here, the word of the year that presented itself to me for 2019 is “rise.” And it did present itself—I was minding my own business, going about my normal, everyday life when it popped into my head. And wouldn’t leave.

Some years I’ve had to do exercises or put in time pondering possibilities, but not this year.

Rise scares me a little, as passion did. With its connotation of picking myself up after a fall, rise initially felt like a word that you turn to during hard times. Please, 2019, I beg of you do not to be as emotionally challenging as the end of 2018!

But as I was noodling around with the word, a more gentle, cheerful take appeared: the concept of floating, of lightness, of flying like a balloon.  Rise has an uplifting feel to it, one of upward movement. The sun rises, cream rises to the top, bread and other baked goods rise (becoming tasty and delicious). One “rises to the occasion.”

Rising is gentler than climbing.

To rise, I’ll need to let go of heavy things dragging or holding me down, release attitudes, beliefs, worries, and negativity.

I like it. I have a tendency to be internally dark, heavy, serious, and intense. As light offered me a chance to explore and focus on more happy aspects of living. perhaps rise will offer some of the same benefits. 

I recently came upon this passage in Jon Cohen’s book, Harry's Trees:

“Olive was particularly inspired by dawns like this when she could not see the sun. It gave her strength and comfort to know that it was out there, rising, doing its daily job, unthwarted by clouds, rain or snow. That’s the way she liked to think of herself. Against the impediments and disappointments of life, she was a riser.”

I think I’m a riser, too.

I like a word of the year with some ambiguity to it. It makes for interesting encounters with myself throughout the year. What about you? Do you have a word of the year? If you feel comfortable, please share it and what it means to you in the comments section!


Out With the Old, In With the New (Year)

January 04, 2019

Photo courtesy malohan, via Pixabay

It’s a bright, shiny new year. How is it treating you so far?

So far so good, here at Catching Happiness. I’m happy to say my freelance work continues to flow in, and our son recently passed his (very difficult) 2-20 property and casualty insurance agent’s license exam. A child’s success: that’s a happy BIG thing.

The end of 2018 and beginning of 2019 have been a scramble. I’m slowly making the time to reflect on 2018 as well as begin to think about goals and projects for 2019. In November, I’ll have been producing Catching Happiness for 10 years. How is that even possible?! I still remember how exciting and scary it felt to click publish for the first time. I’ll have to come up with a fitting way for us all to celebrate!

 “Flow” was my 2018 word of the year, and it served me well. I worked and traveled more than I have in past years, and I lost a parent. We also added a puppy to the household, and even though Luna’s a year old now, she still requires significant training and supervision—and she’s not always getting it. (My husband’s Christmas slippers didn’t survive a week!) For the past few months of 2018, I’ve felt like I was riding a raft in white water—going with the flow was a fitting image to hang onto.

I’ve been thinking a lot about where I want to go, figuratively speaking, in 2019. My comforting routines have fallen by the wayside and need to be rebuilt. I’m still getting used to life at my new barn. The owner is wonderful, and it will be a good situation in the long run, but we’re still finding our footing. I need to simplify my life (again) so I can pay attention to the things that mean the most to me. (And I have a lot of messes to clean up. A. Lot. Of. Messes.)

I think my word of the year for 2019 is going to be “rise.” It keeps knocking on the door of my consciousness, but I don’t know what it’s trying to tell me yet. Guess I’ll have 12 months to figure it out.

Do you choose a word of the year? How is your planning for 2019 going? What are some of your hopes and dreams for the new year? What was great about 2018, and what lessons did it teach you? Please share in the comments below!

Traditionally, I’ve taken a break during the week between Christmas and New Year’s. I didn’t get the chance to do that last week, so I’m going to take next week off instead. Be back soon!


One Word to Rule Them All—A Closer Look at Choosing a Word of the Year

January 08, 2018

One day in December I was cleaning out our pantry while listening to Marie Forleo interview Tim Ferriss. Something Tim said struck me as I stood in my kitchen, clutching cans of black beans and tuna: 

“What would it look like if it was easy?”

I realized I’m not used to expecting things to come easily. I’m used to expecting to work hard, to struggle, to sweat, to grind it out. What is this concept “easy” of which you speak?!

Because even when “it” is easy, I find a way to make it hard.

It’s my superpower.

I grasp, I cling, I obsess, I worry, I engage in procrastination and perfectionism and many other unhelpful habits.

And you know what, I’m tired. I’m tired of struggling, of swimming upstream, of overwhelming myself in “shoulds” and over-analyzing and over-researching and over- everything.

I’m “over” it.

I realized, standing in my kitchen, listening to Tim and Marie talk, that I want my life and work to flow. And just like that, my 2018 Word of the Year (WOTY) presented itself to me.

My words of the year have often appeared this way, without my having to dig around in my subconscious. A word pops into my head or keeps showing up in what I’m reading and seeing in a fashion impossible to ignore. I’ll roll it around in my brain, noticing how it makes me feel. Is it a word that can apply to multiple areas of my life? Is it a stretch, but not so far outside my comfort zone that I’ll feel constantly intimidated by it? Does it have layers of meaning? Do I get excited at the possibility of having it guide me during the upcoming year? Flow fit the bill for 2018.

It’s always fun seeing the ways my WOTY pops up throughout the year, whether it’s in art, music, or words. I’ve already stumbled on several passages that connect to the concept of flow in my mind. Here’s one paraphrased from the novel The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles:

“Life is like a dance partner, and if you relax and let yourself go, you’ll find yourself waltzing.”

Doesn’t that sound lovely?

So in 2018, I plan to focus on putting aside things that impede flow, such as fear and perfectionism. I’m going to take up habits and practices that lead to flow, such as Morning Pages, and remembering to take a few moments to plan out my day so that things will run more smoothly. I’m also going to focus on not over-scheduling, because that leads to rushing, and rushing is not flow.

Working with a Word of the Year is a gentle way to set a tone, intention, or expectation for the coming year. It can be as simple or as in depth as you like. In my experience, it can be a useful tool in advancing your goals and enriching your life. 

Have you ever tried choosing a Word of the Year? How did it work for you? 


7 Alternatives to Making New Year’s Resolutions

January 01, 2018

Photo by Carolyn V on Unsplash
Does anyone make a New Year’s resolution anymore? There’s a lot of talk about how resolutions are rarely kept, and how most people give up on their goals just a few weeks or months into the year. For a person who wants to set and achieve goals, it can be a frustrating dilemma. If resolutions aren’t an effective way to a better and happier life, what is?

Here are seven alternatives to New Year’s resolutions that just might help you make 2018 your happiest year ever:

Choose a Word of the Year

I’ve done this for eight years, and written about it several times on Catching Happiness. I choose my word to focus on an overall theme or feeling I want to carry through the entire year. I choose it to offset tendencies I want to correct, or to remind myself to choose happiness (“delight”). My word for 2017 was “deeper,” and going deeper into life last year added brilliant new dimensions to my experience. My word for 2018? Flow. For a free Word of the Year tool, click here. To explore the concept further, visit

Adopt a “Do More ______, Do Less_____” philosophy

For example, “Read more, watch TV less” or “Walk more, eat less junk food.” Deceptively simple, but baby steps work.

Commit to a 30- or 90-day challenge

Choose a habit you want to adopt or a small goal you want to achieve, and work on it for 30 days straight. For larger goals, make a 90-day plan, treating each week as the equivalent of month (see The 12 Week Year for more inspiration and ideas about how to do that.) 

Make a list of simple pleasures and everyday adventures you want to experience

How often do we pack our goal lists with things we want to change or have to work for? This is simply a list of things you look forward to in 2018. Family vacations, books you want to read or movies you want to see in 2018, or a loved one’s wedding/baby/grandchild belong on this list. Try breaking it down like Laura Vanderkam does with her seasonal “fun lists”

Write a letter to your future self

Include such things as what you hope to accomplish, how you want to feel, what you’d like to leave behind in the coming year. Open it on Jan. 1, 2019 to see how you did.

Start a gratitude journal, jotting down at least one thing you’re grateful for every day

(Read The Gratitude Diaries for an inspiring look at how gratitude can make your life happier.) 

Join the 7 Things x 2018 Challenge

Fill in the following blanks, and you’ve got some goals for the year:
Learn how to ____________
Start ____________
Stop ____________
Take a vacation to ____________
Find ____________
Try ____________
Be more ____________

Growth contributes to happiness, so setting and reaching goals is one way to feel happier. I hope 2018 holds plenty of growth and happiness for you!

What do you have planned for 2018?

Note: Starting today, I’m changing the usual Catching Happiness posting schedule from Wednesdays and Fridays to Mondays and Fridays. Happy New Year!

12 Week Year

Planning Practices for a New Year

January 06, 2017

During the week between Christmas and Jan. 1, I begin my official year-end wrap up and planning for the next year. I don’t do New Year’s resolutions, but I do set some big, overarching goals at this time. Or try to. I have a problem with big, overarching goals. Oh, I can set them all right, but I struggle with the nitty-gritty, down-and-dirty practicality of how to get from here to there. I’m going to try something new this year, which I’ll get to later, but first, I’m going to share with you some tools I use for planning my goals for a new year.

Year-End Review

Before I get into any goal setting, I look back over the past year to see what I’ve accomplished and where I’ve fallen short. This year, I used Marie Forleo’s three-question review, but I also wrote down a list of some of the more mundane things I did that nevertheless were accomplishments, such as reading 109 books, posting to Catching Happiness 106 times, and starting a regular sketching practice (three months and counting). While I fell short on working on my book idea, riding Tank bridleless, purging my house of unneeded items, and various and sundry other goals, 2016 was a better-than-average year for me. I took a moment to savor those accomplishments before moving on to…

Goal Brainstorming

Next, I start writing out all the things that are floating around in my head that I would like to see accomplished in the coming year. This is where I allow myself to dream big, and I include as many of the nagging tasks I’d like to see finished as I can think of. This year, I’ve made a list called “70 in ’17”—70 things I want to happen in 2017. Some of these are writing goals (complete a draft of that book, write some haiku), some are household goals (buy new light fixture for kitchen nook, stain the chairs on the front porch), and some are just for fun (do puzzle with M, buy some new music, go to Fannin Hill with Tank). My idea is to work from this list as I sit down to plan each month.

12-Week Planning

This is the new thing I mentioned above. I recently read The12-Week Year, and I’m experimenting with 12-Week planning. I’m hoping this will solve my problem with carrying out my bigger goals by helping me break them down into much smaller, more do-able increments. So far, I’m still struggling a bit with that—my perfectionism (fear in disguise?) is hampering my ability to choose and break down appropriate goals, but I’m making progress.

Word of the Year

As I’ve done in past years, I choose a word of the year to guide me. Previous years’ words have included open, light, passion, and quality. This year’s word is “deeper.” I want it to encourage me to stop skimming the surface and go deeper, to find the riches that are buried. Be less superficial, more real. Do fewer things, but do them better.

Vision Board

For me, this is just pure fun. I like playing with pretty pictures! I create two—a larger one for my office, and a smaller one to go in my daily planner. I choose images and words that make me happy and draw me to them, that symbolize for me something I want more of in my life.

In January, all things seem possible. It’s in the actual doing that we sometimes run into problems. All this planning, for me, is intended to keep me on track. I share these practices with you in case there’s anything here you might like to try for yourself.

How do you plan for a new year? Do you have any goals or dreams for 2017 you’d like to share?

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.


Field Trip Friday--First Orchids

June 19, 2015

Did I need more orchids? Well, no, I didn’t need any, but when my orchid-loving friend Barb asked me if I wanted to go to a wholesale orchid nursery, I said yes. I counted my empty orchid pots (there have been a couple of casualties lately) and decided I could buy a few. How many did I buy? We’ll get to that.

After a two-hour drive, we came to this unprepossessing exterior:

Which led into this:

No, I didn’t drool.

But I did spend a happy hour with my friend examining orchids, choosing which to add to our collections, trying to guess what the ones without open blooms would look like. Prices ranged from $3 to $12, depending on the size and variety of orchid. We filled a large box with our choices, paid for them and loaded them in Barb’s van. Definitely a delight-ful field trip.

I bought nine. Most are in some stage of blooming, but I have one that will be a surprise. Its buds are tightly closed and I don’t know yet what it will look like.

Here are some photos:

Have you taken any field trips lately?

Bucket list

The Summer Bucket List--How to Survive the Hot and Sweaty Months

June 08, 2015

“June is the Friday night of summer, and all is full of possibility.”
—Laura Vanderkam

Each new season brings its own delights. Though summer is not my favorite season here in Florida, each year I grit my teeth and make the best of it. I was inspired by Laura Vanderkam’s words (see above, and read the full post here) to start thinking about things I can accomplish and enjoy during these hot and sweaty months. Maybe working on the list will distract me from the heat and humidity?

In keeping with my word of the year (delight), this summer will be long on delights/adventures/pleasures, but that doesn’t mean I’m only going to play. I want to experiment with different writing venues (#2) and try some new exercise classes (#7). I always take a little more time for reading (a future post about my summer reading list is in the works), but this year, my summer bucket list includes:

  1. Take Tank to the beach. Yes, really.
  2. Go to the library to write (the only downside is I can’t take my coffee with me).
  3. Take a week’s “staycation” (or maybe several long weekends?).
  4. Go to a Tampa Bay Rays game with my mom when she visits in August.
  5. Sketch in my sketchbook. Maybe even finish—i.e., fill all the pages of—a sketchbook!
  6. Make homemade frozen pops. I never got around to doing it last summer.
  7. Try a month of unlimited classes at Karma
  8. Spend a day by the pool.
  9. Go to the beach at sunset with my husband.
  10. Rewatch The Princess Bride and Support Your Local Sheriff (my cat is named after the female lead in this movie).
  11. Try the new gelato place in town.
  12. Make pesto with the basil from my garden. (Done!)

What’s on your summer bucket list?


Daring to Delight

March 02, 2015

I’m determined to do a better job of living my word of the year in 2015—why not when it’s such a nice one? So I plan to review my progress every month or so, and see how much delight I’m allowing into my life. Since I am the “gatekeeper of delight,” so to speak, here are three ways I’m exploring the concept:

Instead of blindly rushing through my day, I have made deliberate attempts to slow down both my movements and my thoughts so I can pay better attention to the details. That first sip of coffee in the morning—delicious! How relaxed and strong my body feels after yoga class. The deep pleasure of climbing into bed at the end of the day. I’m blessed with more delightful moments than I recognized.

It can feel really selfish to seek out delight, but I am letting go of the guilt feelings that arise when I “indulge” myself. Last month, I made the mundane more delightful by picking up a cinnamon dolce latte and a new book to read while I waited for an oil change. I played music every chance I got—using my iPod while vacuuming and mopping and listening to Pandora while working in my office. I’m also making sure I take short breaks during the day, rewarding myself when I complete a task, especially if it’s one I don’t enjoy. When faced with any choice now, the go-to question is, “Does this delight me?”

I’m also working on becoming more mindful of ways to share delight with other people, through acts of kindness, thoughtful words, or sharing something (book, movie, website, food!) that will bring pleasure to someone else. There’s much delight in sharing delight!

So far, the first life lesson “delight” has given me is this: It’s OK to enjoy my life. To take delight in simple pleasures and everyday adventures. I don’t need to feel guilty or uncomfortable because I have such a good life when so many people do not. It has been repeatedly pointed out to me that my suffering or unhappiness doesn’t help anyone else. In fact, it can add to the unhappiness of those who care about me. Instead, I dare to feel more delight, more happiness, and to spread it to others every chance I get.

When and how do you dare to feel delight?


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.