Monday, January 31, 2011

Gratitude Journal #76

Today, I am grateful for George's latest recipe, steak fried rice. Yum.

Today, I am grateful for indoor heating, especially with a huge winter storm headed our way.

Today, I am grateful for our crazy golden retriever. She eats icicles, digs holes in the yard, and chews the corners off all our dish towels. She also sheds love like fur everywhere she goes.

In discussing the differences between golden retrievers and Labrador retrievers, Tom Davis wrote, "If Labs were people, they'd be the surgeons, accountants, attorneys, and CEOs--successful, yes, but a little, um, predictable. Goldens, in contrast, are right side, Type B dogs: imaginative, mellow, enemies of routines. Theyd be dancers, musicians, poets, artists--quirky, fun-loving, and full of surprises. You'd want a Labrador to handle your money, but you'd want a golden to throw your party. A couple hours into the festivities, it'd be the one wearing the lampshade." Other than Davis' use of the word mellow, this fits Daisy perfectly. I imagine in about six years, she'll mellow out a bit, just like Hoover did. But for now, she's a crazy icicle-chewing party-girl.

Today, I am grateful to two women, Patti M. and Miriam H., for their thoughtfulness.

What are you grateful for today?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

James Taylor and Reynolds Price

If you've never heard this song, please listen. Reynolds Price collaborated with James Taylor on the lyrics, and it's my favorite James Taylor song. Given how much I love Taylor's music, that's really saying something!


Friday, January 28, 2011

Words, Words, Words, about Words

"The power of words can brighten the dark places and bring sunshine and healing to a wounded heart." Michelle Cox

I described the words Reynolds Price used to encourage me in a dark place on Monday's post. Now it is your turn. Whose words have brightened the dark places in your life?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Things on Thursday: A Poem

Nick brought this home from school yesterday. He had done nothing but complain about the poetry unit his English teacher subjected them to, but this is what he got out of it.


My dog's Daisy
She's gold
She retrieves
I come home and she danced
On my face

My dog's gold
Not silver
Not bronz
Not pewter
Not copper

My dog's hyper
She plays all day
Some days...
I play with her

My dog's gold
Not silver
Not pewter
Not copper

Aside from the awesome poem and portrait of Daisy, allow me to point out the excellent penmanship. I didn't know he was even capable of handwriting this neat, yet there it is.

I'm going to frame it as eternal proof to him that poetry is cool, and so is fine penmanship.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Weekly Giggle #26

Our weekly giggle is brought, yet once again, by Lowering the Bar, that extremely funny legal blog I keep sending you to. Seriously, you should just go ahead and subscribe to it so you can get weekly giggles daily.

Both cases he mentions in today's post (linked below) are funny only because no one was seriously hurt. Please also click to his link on the Fountain Lady because, dang, Lowering the Bar gives excellent advice on how to deal with the embarrassing situations we put ourselves in. I'll give you a hint: it's not what either the gun safety expert or fountain lady have done.

What NOT to Do at a Gun Safety Class

Monday, January 24, 2011

In Memoriam: Reynolds Price

In the spring semester of 1986, the novelist, poet, and scholar Reynolds Price returned to teaching at Duke University after having had surgery to remove a 10-inch tumor from his spine. He taught his usual two classes: a writing workshop and a literature class on John Milton.

I sat in the front row of his Milton class.

On the first day, he rolled into class and parked his wheelchair at the large desk. Everyone was quiet. We were in the presence of a Duke legend, someone famous, someone who had a serious list of publications to his name, someone who’d been interviewed on NPR. Mr. Price—not Doctor Price or Professor Price—lived up to the legend. I’d heard stories of his wearing a black cape with red lining around campus in his younger years. He needed no such props in 1986. All he needed to do was speak.

His rich voice drew his audience in. When he read Milton, I heard the poetry. When he read his own poetry, I found a twentieth-century poet that touched me. When he described the horror of staring out a locked window at a beloved running down a sidewalk toward an unseen patch of ice, I felt that horror.

When he talked about how ridiculous Tina Turner was to be prancing around on stage in skimpy costumes at her age, I agreed with him. After leaving class, however, I realized how judgmental he had been. I thought if I had a body like Tina Turner’s at fifty, I wouldn’t mind flaunting it. But coming from a dignified man who used to strut around campus in a red-lined cape but was now in a wheelchair, the judgment fit.

And that is how he taught me an important lesson in perspective.

On the first day of class, Mr. Price laid down the rules, which included zero tolerance of tardiness and mandatory class participation. The tardiness rule didn’t bother me in the least. I, ever the geek, arrived early to every class in college. But in those days I didn’t open my mouth in class. I was terrified of saying something stupid because my father habitually critiqued my “performance” after he heard me speak in social situations. Everything I said fell short of my father’s expectations. His criticism had paralyzed me, making it impossible for me to speak up in any class, much less one taught by someone famous.

I still remember the day I wanted so badly to answer one of Mr. Price’s questions. I knew my answer was intelligent and meaningful. I knew he would appreciate it. I was sitting right in front of him as he glanced around the room, anticipating a response from one of his students. I started sweating, my hands started to tingle, and I saw stars. Literally saw stars. I had to put my head down. Another student answered the question, and I felt shame and humiliation for my weakness. Mr. Price, after all, never humiliated students for their comments, never made them feel stupid even when they were wrong. He wanted us to participate so much he made participation one-third of our grade. He wanted to hear us.

It wasn’t his fault I could hear my dad saying, “Well, that was a stupid thing to say. You really blew it.”

The space shuttle Challenger exploded that semester. I don’t remember Mr. Price’s exact words, though he spent a large portion of class that day reflecting on it. I do remember leaving class feeling a sense of perspective for the event: the enormous personal tragedy of individual lives lost, the enormous loss to our nation, and the enormous price of the human desire to take risks in search of knowledge and experience. In Mr. Price’s voice, the Challenger disaster became one more important story woven into the larger, longer, tragic, and beautifully connected story of humanity.

At some point during the semester, Mr. Price had an accident and ended up bedridden at home. The English department tried to set up a two-way sound system at his request so he could teach from his bed. This was the 80s, long before teleconferencing became routine. The sound system didn’t work right so Professor Stanley Fish, another famous Milton scholar, taught for a few days. When Mr. Price returned to class, we all breathed a sigh of relief. His warm, confident voice made Stanley Fish’s voice seem coldly intellectual, useful in its own way but hardly one to inspire a personal connection to the poetry of a dead blind man. Also, I couldn’t see Professor Fish teaching from his bed while flat on his back in pain. Mr. Price, however, really tried.

His published books include volumes of poetry, short stories, novels, and personal essays. His examination of the Gospels is on my shelf to reread as I start a year-long study of Jesus. But my favorite book of his is A Whole New Life. His clear voice communicates what it is like to become a gimp (his word) after years of striding confidently through life. In the preface, he writes,

"[The book's] aim is to give, in the midst of an honest narrative, a true record of the visible and invisible ways in which one fairly normal creature entered a trial, not of his choosing, and emerged after a long four years on a new life—a life that’s almost wholly changed from the old. The record is offered first to others in physical or psychic trials of their own, to their families and other helpers and then to the curious reader who waits for his or her own devastation…. In my worst times, I’d have given a lot to hear from veterans of the kind of ordeal I was trapped in."

I’ve kept the book like a talisman, mandatory insurance for the time of my own devastation or that of a loved one, because another thing Mr. Price taught me is that stories, if you let them, can heal both those who tell them and those who listen.

Last Christmas a dear friend gave me a book called Simple Little Words. It’s a collection of stories by people who heard a few simple, yet transformative, words at critical points in their lives. As I read the book during the Christmas break, I thought about those people who had spoken simple little words to me. Mr. Price was one of them, although his words to me were written (how fitting!) rather than spoken.

Because I knew my class participation grade was a disaster, I worked hard on my term paper and final exam. My paper was titled “The Balance of Sound and Sight Imagery in 'L’Allegro' and 'Il Penseroso.'” Doesn’t that catchy title make you want to read it? When I finished typing all 15 pages of it on my electric typewriter (because only nerds used the computer lab in the mid-1980s), I didn’t just hope it was good; I knew it was good. In fact, it’s the first paper I ever wrote that I knew was good. But was it good enough for Mr. Price?

When Mr. Price returned the term papers, I was too nervous to read the grade in front of him and went out into the hall. I saw the A first, and then I read his words. “Susan—a really elegant paper—richly attentive & clearly stated. Thank you.”

My high-school senior English teacher had told me I could write, and Mr. Price's simple little words, especially that underscored thank you, made me believe it, and they made all the negative words my father had spoken begin to fade. It took years for that story of healing to write itself, but I am grateful to Mr. Price for his words that helped me through that story.

I was one among thousands he taught in his fifty years at Duke. He did not know me, the silent one sitting right in front of him that spring semester of 1986, and I didn’t know him, not personally. But his influence changed me. He showed me how powerful a voice can be for good. He showed how personal battles—Adam and Eve’s temptation, Milton’s blindness, astronauts’ deaths, a cancer patient’s determination to keep living and writing and teaching, a girl’s search for self-confidence and a voice of her own—were part of a larger story of transformation, growth, recovery, generosity, kindness, and hard things.

Legends are people with strong voices, and Mr. Price had a very strong voice that wasn’t silenced twenty-five years ago by a 10-inch tumor. That voice isn't silent now that he is gone, either. His stories and poems remain accessible and helpful, a gift from a generous man to anyone willing to listen.

I’ll close with his words from “First Green,” a poem from The Use of Fire.

All ancient hopes are not, by nature, lies.
The dream of green does not preclude new leaves.

The fact that here in drystick winter
We long for spring, new life on limbs,
Does not mean spring will not transpire.

That intricate all-but-smoke of green
On the smallest trees at the riverbank
(Their upmost hands) is only the billionth
Promise paid—resurrection,

Frank hint of endless rounds in steady light.


Today, I am grateful for Mr. Price, his life and his writing. What are you grateful for? Who touched your life a glancing blow that sent it rolling off down some useful path?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Gratuitous Daisy

Puppy Sleeping in the Morning Sun

Words, Words, Words about Endurance

Watching the Facebook updates for my friend Mary as she underwent two surgeries in two days at the Cleveland Clinic this week has me thinking about endurance. Mary's fight with colon cancer began last spring. Another friend has been battling cancer of the appendix for almost two years. Another friend had breast cancer a few years ago and is doing well now. A friend's mother battled colon cancer for ten years...ten years she would not have had if she had not endured, not fought, not turned a deaf ear to her doctors' words of hopelessness.


“There is a strength of a quiet endurance as significant of courage as the most daring feats of prowess.” Henry Tuckerman

“Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope." Romans 5:3-4

"One man scorned and covered with scars still strove with his last ounce of courage to reach the unreachable stars; and the world was better for this." Don Quixote

“Endurance is not just the ability to bear a hard thing, but to turn it into glory.” William Barclay

I endured depression. I am enduring the challenges of having a child with autism...endurance which, quite frankly, hasn't felt very hard because, unlike with the depression, I'm not enduring this challenge alone at all. It's not locked in my head but in my heart, which is walking around outside my body in the form of an adorable, sweet boy. God, George, and dozens of doctors, teachers, therapists, family, and friends are right beside Jack--and beside me, too. But I also wonder if my positive attitude toward Jack's diagnosis and the overall ease of this endurance are not the result of the lessons in endurance I had in my youthful battle with depression.

What have you endured that made you stronger? It doesn't necessarily have to be tragic or a life-and-death struggle, either. I have friends now who are enduring deployment of loved ones, adjustments to living in a new place, the looming empty nest, the long grief for loved ones, and the search for career following divorce.

Please share your story of endurance and hope.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Things on Thursday: Word Mole

If you have a Blackberry or other device that allows you access to this game, DON'T GO THERE!!!!!!!!!!!

I'm thinking in letter tiles now. Even when I'm not playing, my brain has a tendency to get stuck in a loop: S-T-A-R is there a T? How about a T-E-D? No? Just an S? Shoot." Both George and I have dreamed about this game. Before dinner, we both hunch over our phones touching letters and mildly swearing when our words are rejected. When a child comes up and asks what's for dinner, we respond without looking up, "Noodle Dream. Now go away."

Does this mean we have a problem?

Well, duh.

This game is highly addictive and extremely frustrating. I don't know what dictionary it's using, but some fairly obvious words aren't recognized (cob, glint, sot) and some words that aren't words are (SOS, LOL, VIP...they're abbreviations...and who heard of IX? Seriously?). When I get desperate and the timer is running out, I just touch random letters and submit them. Sometimes, it gets accepted. Sometimes not. That's how I found I-X. Also, no swear words are recognized, which is highly inconvenient when the letters K-U-C-F form a tidy square.

Word Mole is why there's no essay this week. Well, in all honesty, Word Mole is only partly to blame. We can also blame the last three-day weekend that's being followed by a four-day weekend because of a snow day (Mother Nature, I'm peeved at you) and a teacher work day. I've not been able to listen to my favorite band--The Quiet--lately. I need The Quiet to write. I don't need The Quiet to play Word Mole.

Now, go away. George's high score is higher than mine. Must. Fix. That.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Count Me In

Heather Armstrong's blog makes me so happy. Today's post couldn't have been better timed, either, since I'm coming off a three-day weekend during which my children bickered nonstop, the dog ate several dish towels, my husband talked at the dinner table about popping zits, and my head exploded like the much-discussed zit several times.

The Quiet

Monday, January 17, 2011

Jack's Weddell Seal Report

Jack has to do a report on Weddell seals. The report must include one paragraph on the seals (topic sentence, three facts about the seals, and a closing sentence with a particularly cool fact about the seal) plus a drawing of the seal in its habitat. Jack's special education teacher said he should need no accommodation to complete the project.

We collected our facts and composed the paragraph, and then I asked Jack to get his 120-count crayon box and draw a picture like the one I printed off the internet, which was of a Weddell seal lying on ice with snowy cliffs in the background.

About twenty seconds after he put crayon to paper, he announced, "I'm done!"

I looked at the picture. It was green. A green angel with wings standing on two legs in a green box.

"Weddell seals don't have wings!"

"Yes, they do!" he said.

"They don't. And they don't stand on the ice. They don't have legs."

"YES. They do!"

"Bring me your crayons. You're doing this again."

Why do second-grade teachers do this to parents?

Gratitude Journal #75

Today, I am grateful for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I am grateful for his life, his dedication to fighting injustice with nonviolence and Christian love, and his unfailing courage to lead the way to freedom for so many in a nation that saw him as inferior simply because of the color of his skin.

Let freedom ring. Let it ring. For everyone. Amen.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Words, Words, Words from Jon Katz

"In our life, the information culture makes itself useful not by informing or educating us, but by warning and alarming us. All of life, it seems, is a warning to be discovered or delivered. It would be nice if there was a Life Center [as opposed to a Storm Center], issuing warnings and alerts like this: 'Hey, great news. It will snow tonight and tomorrow, and be incredibly beautiful in the morning, and great for walks, games and beautiful scenes. And lucky kids will get off of school and lucky people will get off of work.'" Jon Katz

Yes. information is meaningless without perspective, and I appreciate Jon Katz's perspective. So why does the media always opt for the negative perspective, the panicked perspective, the doom-and-gloom perspective?

That's a purely rhetorical question.

NEWSFLASH: The Life Center just issued this alert: "It's going to be a wonderful weekend with lots of opportunity to live, laugh, and love. So carpe diem!"

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Things on Thursday: Books I've Read

Here's a picture of some of the books I've read in the last year.

I liked all of these to varying degrees, though I admit that When and How to Use Mental Health Resources (a textbook for Stephen Ministers) was hard slogging.

What did you read in the last 12 months that stuck with you? What are you reading now?

I'm considering becoming more active on the website Goodreads. I think it will be a fun way to help me live out my Word of the Year: Learn. Do any of you use it? Care to share your thoughts?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Daisy in the Snow

This is today's second post. Please scroll down for this week's essay.

The clump of snow over her right eye sort of reduces the dignity of the pose, don't you think?

George and I marvel at what a gorgeous 9-month-old puppy Daisy is. She's beautiful, yes. Dignified? Well, in appearance, but not in personality. In personality, she's a dopey, rambunctious ray of furry golden sunshine.

We wouldn't have her any other way.


Over the weekend, I read a blog post by V-grrrl that struck a harmonious chord with my recent reflections on the Word of the Year project. At the end of the post, she writes, “Maybe we need to respect, not despise, the unfinished business in our lives and see it not as a failure, but as evidence of a life fully lived and explored. In the process of running in circles, we are also covering a lot of ground!”

I like this. As someone whose hyperactive brain is always hatching far too many grand schemes for a single human to accomplish in one lifetime, I like the idea of shifting perspective so we see our unfinished business as proof of richness and the limitless possibilities of life, and not evidence of insanity or inadequacy. Truly, the world is such a fascinating place how can people not want to explore subjects as diverse as Roman aqua ducts, the symbolism of sacraments in medieval romance poetry, and string theory?

V-grrrl's comment is directly relevant to our Word of the Year project. Part of my perceived failure the past two years has been a belief that I need to accomplish my word, like it's a goal rather than a guideline.

Then, last night, I read Chapter 5 of Gretchen Rubin’s book The Happiness Project. The Happiness Project, in case you didn’t know, documents Rubin’s year-long attempt to find practical ways to apply the latest happiness research to her life.

Will wonders never cease? There’s happiness research. The psychological community finally realized that it needed to study happiness just as seriously as it has studied neuroses, psychoses, anger, fear, and other negative stuff. Perhaps by studying happiness, we might better understand how to get over, under, or through the bad stuff of life.

But it’s hard to take happiness research seriously. I mean, how do you quantify happiness? Can it be charted and graphed and referenced with jargon? Sure.

But it takes all the happiness out of it.

Rubin’s book, however, shows how the research can be played with in our lives to make them happier. And Chapter 5 is all about how Rubin tried to have more fun because having fun is a part of happiness. (Research was done to figure that out.) In thinking about what Rubin finds fun, she explores how she enjoys children’s literature a bit more than literature for adults. She writes,

“But my passion for kidlit didn’t fit with my ideas of what I wished I were like; it wasn’t grown up enough. I wanted to be interested in serious literature, constitutional law, the economy, art, and other adult subjects. And I am interested in those topics, but somehow I felt embarrassed by my love of J. R. R. Tolkien, E. L. Konigsberg, and Elizabeth Enright.”

While I’ve never hidden my love of Tolkien or the Harry Potter series, I strongly relate to Rubin’s desire to be grown up enough in her reading. A year ago, I bought Proust’s Swann’s Way, the first book in his magnum opus, Remembrance of Things Past. I’d always thought my ignorance of Proust was a gaping hole in my literary education, and after reading the fascinating book Proust was a Neuroscientist, I felt compelled to fill that hole. A year after purchase, however, Swann’s Way rests unopened on the bookshelf by my bed. I've read a LOT in the last year, but somehow, Swann's Way never made it off the shelf and onto my bedside table.

So does the shelved state of Swann’s Way constitute failure on my part or does it simply provide evidence of the richness of my interests in books? I suppose the answer depends on what I do with that unopened book. Right now, it represents potential knowledge. Will I learn something interesting? Will reading it be fun? I don’t know. Not until I crack it open and give it a try, which I suppose I'll do sometime this year in my pursuit of my Word of the Year: Learn.

Last week, I took Ovid’s Metamorphoses to my bedside table and have started reading it as the beginning of my Learn journey. If you are wondering why in the heck I'm reading a really long poem written by an ancient Roman poet, you've clearly forgotten that I am a geek...and not just any geek, but a geek completely obsessed with all things medieval. Metamorphoses had a huge influence on medieval literature, and while I'm familiar with a lot of the mythological stories it tells (thanks to my fifth- and sixth-grade obsession with Greek and Roman mythology), I've only read around in it, not all the way through it. Given that part of what I want to Learn this year is new stuff about the Middle Ages, Ovid's seminal work (pun intended) seemed a good place to start.

At first, though, it felt like a chore, and I wondered why I was doing this to myself. Was this really a fun thing to learn? But now that I'm into Book II, Ovid has pulled me in to the world of lust and deception and infidelity and hubris and revenge and weird transformations of beautiful young girls into laurel trees and giant bovines. I'm not, however, feeling more grown up reading it. In fact, I'm feeling very much like a dirty-minded teenager thumbing through romance novels for the dirty parts. Only in this book, pretty much the whole thing is dirty.

And dang, that is fun!

Proust, however, may not have the same adolescent appeal. Perhaps there will be a different appeal to reading Swann's Way, something equally fun but more grown up. If there isn't, I'm not going to waste my Word of the Year on it. Life's too short to read unappealing books when you don't have to, even if they are brilliant works of literature and you feel like you're supposed to like them.

To wrap up all this rambling, let me say that V-grrrl, Gretchen Rubin, and Ovid have helped me shift my thinking about the Word of the Year project to a happier, healthier, less serious perspective. I don't have to Learn grown-up stuff unless it's fun. There's lots of stuff that's not grown up at all that I don't know, and it's okay to pursue learning that stuff, too. There's not time for learning everything in my life, so I'm going to focus on what's interesting to me, FUN to me, and let the rest go.

I'd love to hear about whatever is helping you get going with your Word for 2011. Please share!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Gratitude Addendum

Last night, I cooked. Shocking, isn't it? After all, George does most of the actual cooking around here. I just reheat.

Anyway, I made a fabulous dinner: homemade boursin cheese on toasted baguette appetizer, broiled salmon, mashed potatoes, broccoli. In the middle of cooking, I started to feel sick and by the time I fixed everyone's plates, all I wanted was to go upstairs and curl up in the fetal position, which I did.

A little while later, Jack came to check on me. He can't stand for me to nap or be in bed when everyone is up. I had him fetch his school book so he could read to me, and then George joined us and said a little dramatically, "I guess I'll have to make my own sandwich for tomorrow." I still felt crummy but as Jack wasn't going to leave me alone, we went downstairs...where I saw a totally clean kitchen. AWESOME!

So yesterday, I was grateful that George cleaned the very messy kitchen and made his own sandwich. And today, I am grateful that I feel much better and have his left-overs from the weekend so I don't have to cook again for the rest of the week.

Which is a good thing because, clearly, cooking makes me sick.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Gratitude Journal #74

Today, I am grateful for prayer and for all the people who are praying for my friend Mary, who is having surgery on January 18 for colon cancer. Here's a picture of Mary with her husband Keith from our adventure at Ironman Wisconsin in 2009. If you pray, please pray for Mary.

Today, I am grateful for paper.

Today, I am grateful for coffee, because without it, I'd still be asleep.

Today, I am grateful for snow shovels. We're going to need them.

What are you grateful for today?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Words, Words, Words for the Year

"The Old Year has gone. Let the dead past bury its own dead. The New Year has taken possession of the clock of time. All hail the duties and possibilities of the coming twelve months!" Edward Payson Powell

"Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right." Oprah Winfrey

Here are the words I have so far. Let me know if you want to add your word to this list!

Me: Learn

George: Relax

Mom: Practice

Starla: Leap

Sue B.: Celebrate

Francie: Appreciate

Sue: Satisfied

Susan K.: Bigger

Lisa: Free

Linda R.: Enjoy

Claire L.: Delegate

Mickey: Acceptance

Cheryl L.: Create

Karen L.: Reflection

Marilyn: Believe

Amy: Positive

iriseyes: Act, Kind

Mari: Expand

Susan: White Space

Angela L.: Nature

Courtney L.: Write

Ginny: Focus

Nicole: Unrepentant

Janet: Trim

Kathy: Redefine
Now, the next step is to decide how to implement your word. Sue B has already started to celebrate by soliciting birthday cards for her husband, who will turn 90 in February. If you would like to contribute to her celebration effort, please let me know!
Please share your word (if you haven't already) and how you plan on getting started with it for 2011.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


If you’ve been reading Questioning for the past two years, you know I have made attempts at having a Word of the Year.

The first year’s word was Simplify.

Let’s just say that sometime in July of 2009, I gave up on Simplify; accepted the crazy complexity of life, the universe and everything; and embraced the word Chaos.


Last year’s word was Write.

Sure, I wrote—just not what I had planned to write. This should have left me feeling like a failure but didn’t, though I am at a complete loss to explain my extreme ambivalence about that.

Given my lack of success with the whole Word of the Year idea, you might be surprised to read that I’m taking another stab at it. This year’s word, however, was carefully chosen to guarantee success. I thought hard about what I do basically all the time with very little effort. Breathe came to mind. Breathing is good. I could breathe all year and feel quite successful.

Then, I berated myself for being an underachiever. I mean, seriously, we breathe in our sleep. Not much of a goal in that, now, is there?

Finally, I settled on Learn.

As you know, I'm an unapologetic geek and therefore addicted to learning anyway, so motivation is not a problem here. Please note that I have not said exactly what I will learn. I don’t know. That’s sort of the point, actually. It's the serendipity of the whole exercise: you never know what you'll learn on any given day.

For instance, a few weeks ago, I watched an utterly fascinating show about ancient Roman engineering. I learned a lot about how amazing the Romans were at building stuff (aqua ducts, the Coliseum, domes) and watched modern engineers try to duplicate their methods. It was the best two hours of television I’ve watched in a long time, and I just stumbled across it while channel surfing.

A couple night's ago, Mom, George, and I were watching television, and we all three learned that eels have a second jaw that shoots forward from behind their front jaw and pulls food into their throats. That's how an idiot diver lost his thumb while feeding an eel.

I'm not sure what I'll do with this nugget of knowledge because I would never be caught allowing an eel to grab my thumb in the first place, but learning isn't necessarily supposed to be practical. It's just supposed to be cool.

And easy, too, because there is so very much in this world that I don't know. I can't help but bump into new stuff to learn pretty much every single day. So that’s what I plan on doing.

Now it’s your turn. If you had a word for 2010, what was it and were you true to it? What will be your Word for 2011? Please share. As you let me know, I’ll update the list below.

2011 Words
Me: Learn
George: Relax
Mom: Practice
Starla: Leap
Sue B.: Celebrate
Francie: Appreciate
Sue: Satisfied
Susan K.: Bigger
Lisa: Free

NOTE: The complete list of words is on THIS POST.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Gratitude Journal #73

Today, I am grateful for school. Who said, "If it weren't for schools, the insane asylums would be full of mothers"?

Today, I am grateful for my mother and a girls' day out.

Today, I am grateful for George's chicken and dumplings and his new culinary invention from last night. I'll be reheating all week.

Today, I am grateful for a new year, fresh slate, clean plate, blank page, new calendar, new word.

Today, I am grateful for a return of my writing muse. She's been missing for a while, but I believe she's back.

What are you grateful for today?