Tag Archive | New Year’s Resolution

A Long Talk with My Dog – the best way to begin the New Year.

Floey looking at camera

Floey jumped down from the couch, stretched her whole body, and sauntered over to me. I was sitting at my desk. She plopped herself down right next to me. But instead of resuming her nap, she looked up at me and asked, “What are you doing, Mom? You look like you’re just staring off into space. What’s on your mind?”

“I’m just thinking about something I said, or rather, didn’t say yesterday, and I kind of regret the conversation.”

“Who were you talking with?”

“I went downtown for a haircut late yesterday afternoon.”

“Yeah. I remember. You took me out for a really quick walk, and then you left. Were you talking with the person who cuts your hair?”

“Yes. She cuts my hair really fast – like in ten minutes. But despite her cutting speed, she likes to talk with me the whole time she’s cutting. I don’t know how she can concentrate on getting my hair cut right, but somehow she does.”

“I wish my groomer was fast like that. She always takes at least 45 minutes, but she gives me a bath, blows me dry, trims the hair around my ears and paws, and gives me a pedicure. She talks to me, too, but I know she’s concentrating really hard on everything she does to me. At least she ends the grooming session with a really good treat. Do you get a treat?”

“No, Floey, I don’t.”

“That’s too bad. Well, what are you regretting about your conversation with your haircutter?”

“We really don’t know each other very well, and our conversations are usually just typical small talk – the weather, how our dogs are doing, any new restaurants we’ve tried, and so on. Yesterday she asked me if I have any goals for this new year. I told her no.”

“You don’t make New Year’s resolutions any more, so you don’t have goals, do you?”

“Well, sort of. Six years ago I changed from making New Year’s resolutions to choosing a special word to concentrate on all year long. The first special word I chose was JOY. Every day in 2014 I thought about finding JOY somewhere in the day. I loved the positive energy that came from finding JOY throughout the whole year. The next year I chose the word GRATITUDE. That was just as inspiring. In 2016, my word was KINDNESS. The next year was HOPE. And last year my word was PEACE. Every year has been really special by having a deliberate focus.”

fullsizeoutput_200f“I remember, Mom, in January of 2015, shortly after you adopted me, you explained “special words” to me, and as a young pup of less than a year old, I chose my first special word – LEARN, because I was going to concentrate on learning all I could to become the best companion to our residents that I could be. Remember, Mom?”

“I sure do, Floey, and you have learned a lot. Everyone agrees that you are our best caregiver of all.”

“Thanks, Mom. But let’s get back to your conversation yesterday. Why are you feeling bad about it?”

“Well, Floey, I should have told the person who cuts my hair (and the customer and hairdresser at the next chair who were listening to us) about how uplifting the practice of focusing on one special word for a year can be. Unlike when making a New Year’s resolution that you know will get broken before the end of the year, when you choose a special word, there can only be positive outcomes – the more you think about an inspiring word, the more inspired your life will be, even if you miss a few days of thinking about it. At least that’s been my experience in the six years I’ve been doing this.”

“One year, Mom, remember I chose a bad word. I chose the word MEOW because I was going to try to learn how to communicate better with the cats in the neighborhood. But the cats didn’t want to get to know me, so I eventually changed words. I borrowed your word of KINDNESS, and tried to be kind to those cats, even though they didn’t deserve it.”

“But even that worked out for good, Floey, because you focused on being KIND, and that enriched your life, didn’t it?”

“I guess so.”

“Anyway, I wish I’d taken the initiative yesterday to explain my approach of choosing a special word every year. Maybe the women in the salon would have liked to try out this practice for themselves.”

“Mom, tell me what you wished you had said to them. How did the word PEACE work out for you in 2018, and what’s your word for 2019? Is that what you wanted to tell them?”

“I guess so. One of the special things I did last year to deepen my understanding of PEACE was to look for all the hymns I could find with PEACE as the theme. I selected 16 of those hymns to include in my next book of hymn reflections. Dona Nobis Pacem, Let There Be Peace on Earth, Peace in the Valley, Make Me a Servant of Your Peace – those are just a few of the hymns that focus on the PEACE of God. I loved doing that study.”

“How about your word for this year?”

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“As I was thinking about what word to choose for this year, I realized that the themes of the four Sundays in Advent are HOPE, PEACE, JOY, and LOVE. I’ve already chosen three of the four themes. LOVE is the only one I haven’t focused on yet. The more I thought about it, I realized the most concise phrase that summarizes the nature of God is GOD IS LOVE. I guess it’s time I try to deepen my understanding of God’s LOVE. So LOVE is the word I chose for 2019.”

“That sounds like a good word for you this year. Do you know if Mim has chosen a word?”

“I think she said her word is going to be PATIENCE. We’ll have to ask her more about why she chose that word for this year when she gets home. How about you, Floey?”

“I chose the word LISTEN. I’m really good at listening sometimes, especially to our residents. But other times, I just block out voices and other noises I don’t want to be bothered with. I have such good ears, I should make better use of the gift of superior hearing that God has given me. I’ll listen for birds, chipmunks, music, the wind – whatever sounds are out there – maybe even for you when you call me to come…”

“Well that would be wonderful! As soon as I know that you listen well enough to always hear me when I call you to come, we can start going to the dog park!”

“That’s great! This is going to be a really good year!”

“You’re right, Floey. And thank you for listening to me now. Talking about what I wish I’d said yesterday makes me feel better. Thanks. You’re already a good listener. You’re off to a good start with your new word!”

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A New Year… A New Word!

2018 is the fifth year that I’ve chosen a special word to be my focus for the new year. Unlike making up new year’s resolutions, choosing a special word can be an inspiration for the whole year, not something to measure yourself against until you fail, and then forget about. At least that’s how it’s been for me.

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Last year my special word was HOPE. I chose that word because I was worried about the future. The 2016 elections were so negative. How would our politicians ever be able to work together again for the good of the country? National and even local politics are not usually such a strong influence in my personal, everyday life, but last year was different. I was really scared about many things happening in our country. I needed to have HOPE that things could get better.

One of the first things I did to try to better understand what was going on nationally, was to read Hillary Clinton’s book, What Happened. It was a fascinating book, and much to my surprise, it was the first thing to begin to restore HOPE for me. To view her perspective on what some of the opportunities are for making the world a better place for everyone to live in – all countries, all races, all religions, all socio-economic groups – was inspiring. Even though she lost the election, she didn’t give up HOPE. She realized that she needed to refocus, to figure out how else she could bring about some of the improvements our world needs. And she kept her HOPE that improvements could happen, even with the political situation as it was. Definitely an inspiring book!

2017 ended for me with another great book on HOPE, Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope, by Joan Chittister. This book is actually more about struggle than HOPE, because struggle is where HOPE is born. There’s a lot to think about in this book, and I’m sure I’ll read the book more than once.

I actually considered holding onto the word HOPE as my special word for another year so that I could study in greater depth the relationship between struggle and HOPE in my own life personally, as well as in the political, economic, and moral struggles our society is engaged in these days. But, then I remembered that every word I’ve had as my special word for a year stays in my mind with heightened awareness – I think forever! I still look for JOY in every day (my 2014 word). My 2015 word of GRATITUDE comes to mind every night when I go to bed and think of what things I’m especially grateful for that day. My 2016 word of KINDNESS has me thinking every morning about what opportunities I may have that day to be especially kind to someone. There’s every reason to believe that I’ll continue to think about the relationships between the struggles I’m facing and how they will strengthen the HOPE I want to see grow. I’ve decided to choose a new word for 2018. I may come back to HOPE, or any of my other special words some year, but not yet.

A special word that’s been creeping into my thoughts that last few weeks is PEACE. Not so much “peace” in the Middle East, or with North Korea, or Russia, (although that would be great), but “PEACE” – the word that I used as a closing on my Christmas Cards. The PEACE that is the calmness that I feel when I sense that God really is in control of everything. The PEACE that St. Paul wrote about to the Philippians:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. [Philippians 4:4-7 NRSV]

I guess these verses really encompass all the special words I’ve been focusing on over these 5 years. Maybe I need to spend some time thinking about my “special word vocabulary” as it continues to grow.

May God’s PEACE be with you. Happy New Year!

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Winter sunset at Christmas Mountain

New Words for 2015

After one year’s experience, I’ve decided that I really like the idea of having one special word to focus on for a whole year, as an alternative to making New Year’s resolutions. Last year’s word for me was JOY. Knowing that JOY was what I would concentrate on every day from January 1, 2014 through December 31, 2014 helped me to recognize and appreciate how much JOY is in my life. It was an inspiring year.

Joy Cross and snowy pond

 

For 2015, I’ve chosen the word GRATITUDE. I’m quite excited about what a year focused on gratitude is going to look like. To give myself a preview of some of the things I might think about, I googled the word gratitude. This is some of what I got:

  • Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgiving, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings. (William Arthur Ward)
  • Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. (Melody Beattie)
  • It’s not happiness that brings us gratitude. It’s gratitude that brings us happiness.

Gratitude fall scenery

But I’m jumping ahead. I have a whole year to mull over this word.

Mim chose the word WAIT, with an emphasis on patience while waiting. She’s planning to re-read Holly Whitcomb’s book, Seven Spiritual Gifts of Waiting to get her started. I googled WAIT for her, as well, and came up with a quote attributed to Corrie ten Boom, “God has perfect timing; never early, never late. It takes a little patience and faith, but it’s worth the wait.”

wait-for-the-lord

 

Floey chose the word LEARN. Although she has already learned a lot in her first 11 months of life, she is determined to become the smartest dog and best four-legged caregiver possible. In addition to her on-the-job training at Country Comforts Assisted Living, she started a formal class last night. Floey, Mim, and I went to “Beginner” class at PetSmart in Madison to work on canine manners. She’s already good at SIT and DOWN, but she needs to learn more about STAY and COME. She also wants to learn leash etiquette. When Floey and I were talking about her word, she quoted Pablo Picasso, “I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”

Learn

With our new words rolling around in our minds, Mim, Floey, and I are charging ahead into 2015. We’ll keep you posted on what impact GRATITUDE, WAIT, and LEARN have in our lives throughout the year.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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Mim-Floey-Marian in my first selfie.

 

New Year’s Resolutions

A Conversation with Abbey

Well, Abbey, it’s already January 2, 2012, and time to continue our conversation from last week about the changes in our lives in 2011, and New Year’s Resolutions for 2012.

I’ve been thinking a lot about whether or not to make any New Year’s Resolutions this year, and I don’t think I will. I don’t like the whole idea of New Year’s Resolutions. It reminds me of Lent – giving up something I really like, you know, like sneaking food off the kitchen counter. Giving up that is giving up one of the special joys in life.

New Year’s Resolutions can be about more than just giving something up, Abbey. Think about something that would make your life better, and think about what could you do all by yourself to make that happen. You know what the ten most popular new year’s resolutions are according to About.com?

  1. Spend more time with family and friends.
  2. Fit in fitness.
  3. Tame the bulge.
  4. Quit smoking.
  5. Enjoy life more.
  6. Quit drinking.
  7. Get out of debt.
  8. Learn something new.
  9. Help others.
  10. Get organized.

Okay. I choose number 5. I’m going to enjoy life more this year. Kitchen counter, beware!

Oh, Abbey. It’s fine to enjoy life more, as long as it’s not at the expense of someone else. You know how it upsets Mim when you take food off the counter.

You’re right. How about if I let the Grandmas sneak food to me. They love to do that, so that’s helping others as well as increasing the amount of joy in my life. How about you. Did you make any new year’s resolutions this year?

Yes. I made a couple. My first one is number 10 on the above list – to get organized. I know you think of me as pretty organized, and I am quite organized in lots of things. But keeping my office picked up is always on the bottom of my to-do list, and I seldom get that far on my list. I only get to it when my office is so cluttered I can’t work. This year, I’m making it a priority to clean up my office every Saturday, so I have a fresh start for the new week.

That’s a good one. Last night I could hardly find a spot to lie down near the patio door.

That should cease to be a problem in 2012.

You know, now that we’re talking seriously about some changes we’d like to make in our lives, there’s something else I’ve been thinking about. You talk a lot about going away on retreat to have some quiet time to reflect on the meaning of your life, about God, and about other things. I’ve never done that. I think I’d like to try it. Can I go to Whispering Winds sometime with you to experience a personal retreat? It’s hard to pray and meditate at home, without being distracted by something. Like last night, I was lying on the floor in the kitchen, thinking about this conversation we would be having this morning, but then I looked up and saw one of the grandmas sitting all by herself in her chair in the living room. I knew she needed to have me close to her, so I went over to her and sat next to her so she could pet me. Now, don’t get me wrong, I really liked doing that. But it distracted me from thinking about God-things.

Normally, we don’t allow dogs at Whispering Winds, but I think we could make an exception for you, considering the circumstances. I could let you stay in my room at Whispering Winds, so guests with allergies wouldn’t have problems. I’m glad you’re thinking about how important it is to have time to be still, away from distractions, to listen to God. Maybe your New Year’s Resolution could be to go to Whispering Winds for a day or two each quarter throughout the year.

That’s great. How about starting this Wednesday! I can hardly wait for some quiet time.

I’ll have to check the calendar, but I think that will work out okay.

By the way, speaking of finding time to listen to God, I also made a resolution related to that for 2012. You know how I read the book, Jesus Calling, almost every day last year. This year I’ve chosen another book to read every day. It’s called A Year with Jesus by Eugene H. Peterson. He’s the author of The Message, that very down-to-earth paraphrase of the Bible.  The foreword to the book begins with this paragraph.

The goal of spending a year with Jesus is to learn how to pray. Our prayers do not start with us. They start with Jesus. Before we ever open our mouths in prayer, Jesus is praying for us. Despite much talk to the contrary, there are no secrets to living the Christian life. No prerequisite attitudes. No conditions more or less favorable to pursuing the Way. Anyone can do this, from any place, starting at any time. But it is only possible through prayer. We can only pray our lives into the way of following Jesus.

I expect this book will be as helpful to me this year as Jesus Calling was last year.

That sounds good. So now we both have New Year’s Resolutions for 2012. Let the year begin!