Drumroll: My Word of the…Week?

Around the blogosphere posts have been filled with recaps from 2022, goals for 2023…and exciting reveals with “word-of-the-year” intentions.

I love these posts and tend to jump in with two feet. You want goals? I’ll give you 23. Highlights and favourites? Done. It’s the one-word theme that has a tendency to trip me up.

About 8 years ago, I jumped on the bandwagon and picked the word Simplify. At that point, we were living in a small, two-bedroom apartment that served as our home office, living space, and a storage facility for large work equipment (think eight drones; yes…EIGHT of them). Also, we had an infant and a preschooler. For obvious reasons, I was craving space and order and…simplicity.

And I think setting that word as a year-long intention did help. I wrote it out on a little sticker that I pasted to the front cover of my planner. Sure enough, I’d periodically take time to pause and say “no” to a commitment or “yes” to downsizing a storage tote in light of my goal to Simplify.

Last year I proposed the motto of Be Kind. I wanted to be kinder to:

  • my kids
  • my spouse
  • my friends
  • strangers
  • myself

Honestly? While I tried to exemplify kindness (hopefully at least quasi-successfully), I didn’t spend time reflecting on this being a year-long intention. It was a nice idea, but the impact may be debatable.

As I’ve been reading background stories and plans for “word-of-the-year” ideas (e.g: Jenny = Nourish; Gretchen Rubin = Wave; Elizabeth Craft = Scale; Sarah = Deliberate), I’ve smiled and silently cheered for each person and their decision, before realizing I wasn’t interested in coming up with my own word.


I was walking home from school drop-off on the first day back post-Christmas break. When I got to within eyeshot of our house, I could sense my body physically drooping (I even felt a bit light-headed) and I thought: Wow. I’m really tired.

It’s an abrupt transition to go from holiday scheduling, company, and home life back into school and work routines. I had a long list of tasks that needed doing, including the final dismantling of Christmas decor and organizing an important work meeting (for which scheduling has been a nightmare).

And in that moment I told myself: Elisabeth, be gentle with yourself this week.

Lighting bolt! I had a word for the week: Gentle.

I think one of my big hangups with a one-year theme is the fact that I may be craving polar opposite intentions during different seasons. Maybe I want to Think Big in January…and need to Think Small by April; I might want to go Fast and then Slow (I guess Pace could cover all the bases?). I might want to Expand in the New Year, but be craving Simplicity by the following Christmas season. Words like Adventure, Vibrant and Celebrate can be broadly applicable, but many choices seem a bit constrictive if life events throw a major curveball.

I wrote the word Gentle in giant cursive letters at the top of my weekly planner spread last week. This week, I chose two words. Rest and Restore. I’m still feeling a bit more tired than usual. Things are still slightly off-kilter from the holidays. I want to prioritize rest – and restore those things that need to be put back to rights (from routines to leftover holiday clutter – though, for now, the downstairs tree is staying).

Next week I may (or may not) choose a word but, where applicable, I really like the idea of setting short-term intentions.

Your turn. If you select a one-word annual theme, what word did you pick this year? Would you ever consider approaching this on a week-to-week basis?

Header photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

What Great Feature Might I Be Missing?

I’ve written before about our unwavering love for the bottom-loading water cooler we have in our dining room. After years of John wanting a water cooler (I always resisted because I thought they were a) ugly, b) physically demanding, and c) an inefficient use of space – but, let’s be honest, it was mostly because I thought they were an aesthetic eyesore) I surprised him with one (a sleek bottom-loading Whirlpool version, to counter my concerns) for Christmas 2019.

Best. Gift. Ever.

We source most of our drinking water from a local spring (we use tap water, too, but it is heavily chlorinated so, for drinking purposes, we really appreciate having the option of ice-cold spring water); aside from the one-time investment to buy the cooler and refillable water jugs – and some minor electric consumption to run the cooling functions and pump motor – this appliance is a daily, inexpensive source of practical joy.

We’ve never used the water heating capabilities – though we have friends that rave about using the warming function to quickly steep an individual cup of tea. We’ve used it solely as a water cooler. No fancy bells and whistles.

And it has been great.

Then, one day in mid-December, out of the blue, I walked into the dining room at night and THERE WERE LIGHTS ILLUMINATING THE DISPENSER AREA. John had gotten fed up with trying to fill his water bottle in the dark and flipped a switch on the back of the water cooler and – Voila! – there were lights.

Wait. Our water cooler has lights?!

Can I just say how wonderful it is to use the water cooler in the early morning hours or after dusk and not have to turn on an overhead light? Also, at any time of day, these lights make it so much easier to tell when a cup/thermos/water bottle is full. Spilling incidents have dropped precipitously.

And the sad thing is, this capability is prominently named in the product description: “Whirlpool Black & SS Water Cooler Bottom Load Self Clean with LED Lights.”

Now, will you please excuse me while I go fill up my water bottle under the soft glow of warm-white LED lights…

Your turn. Have you ever used a product for years before discovering a “hidden” capability or setting that revolutionized some aspect of your life? Do you read user manuals when you buy a new item to get a well-rounded view of what a product is capable of? Do you think there is an item in your life for which you’re not taking full advantage of features?

Here are a few of my favourite Apple-product features:

  • If you double-click an AirPod, it will skip songs (a single click pauses/unpauses; a press and hold switches between transparency and noise-canceling). This feature is amazing when I’m exercising and don’t want to handle my phone to switch up the music.
  • Triple clicking on the home button of an iPhone turns things grayscale (a commonly mentioned “hack” for making phone time less visually appealing; bright colours are more addictive than gray).
  • A huge thanks to Kaelyn for alerting me to the fact you can track screen-time use on an iPhone widget. I am really appreciating having this stat on my landing page!

Header photo by Laura Mitulla on Unsplash

Some Mary Oliver Poems

I was introduced to the work of Mary Oliver through a snippet from her poem The Summer Day, which closes with the line: Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

Years later, when I was ruminating on a conversation about the power of asking Why Not?, I read the following:

Then a wren in the privet began to sing.

He was absolutely drenched in enthusiasm.

I don’t know why. And yet, why not.

Her tiny passage about a wren was the last nudge I needed to start slowly picking away at various collections by this Pulitzer Prize-winning poet.

Without any more preamble, here are some of my recent favourites – a few poems in their entirety and, from others, little snippets that made me stop, think and/or say: Wow.

From Freshen the Flowers, She Said:

a bounce upward at the end to let them take
their own choice of position, the wheels, the spurs,
the little sheds of the buds.  It took, to do this,
perhaps fifteen minutes,
Fifteen minutes of music
with nothing playing.

I loved – and instantly recognized what she meant – by that last line: fifteen minutes of music with nothing playing.

From Where Does the Temple Begin, Where Does It End?

There are things you can’t reach. But
you can reach out to them, and all day long.

This World

I would like to write a poem about the world that has in it
nothing fancy.
But it seems impossible.
Whatever the subject, the morning sun
glimmers it.
The tulip feels the heat and flaps its petals open and becomes a star.
The ants bore into the peony bud and there is a dark
pinprick well of sweetness.
As for the stones on the beach, forget it.
Each one could be set in gold.
So I tried with my eyes shut, but of course the birds
were singing.
And the aspen trees were shaking the sweetest music
out of their leaves.
And that was followed by, guess what, a momentous and
beautiful silence
as comes to all of us, in little earfuls, if we’re not too
hurried to hear it.
As for spiders, how the dew hangs in their webs
even if they say nothing, or seem to say nothing.
So fancy is the world, who knows, maybe they sing.
So fancy is the world, who knows, maybe the stars sing too,
and the ants, and the peonies, and the warm stones,
so happy to be where they are, on the beach, instead of being
locked up in gold

My favourite, again, was her closing; imagery of stones on the beach, blissfully content in the absence of gold. Gold glitters, but it can also trap…

From Snow Geese:

I held my breath
as we do
to stop time
when something wonderful
has touched us
as with a match,
which is lit, and bright,
but does not hurt
in the common way,
but delightfully,
as if delight
were the most serious thing
you ever felt.

How does she manage to always finish her poems in such a magical way? I guess this is why she was a Pulitzer Prize winner…and I am not?!

The Wren from Carolina

Just now the wren from Carolina buzzed
through the neighbor’s hedge
a line of grace notes I couldn’t even write down
much less sing.

Now he lifts his chestnut colored throat
and delivers such a cantering praise—
for what?
For the early morning, the taste of the spider,

for his small cup of life
that he drinks from every day, knowing it will refill.
All things are inventions of holiness.
Some more rascally than others.

I’m on that list too,
though I don’t know exactly where.
But every morning, there’s my own cup of gladness,
and there’s that wren in the hedge, above me, with his

blazing song.

Other favourites:

  • From Luna: I live in the open mindedness of not knowing enough about anything.
  • From The Old Poets of China: Wherever I am, the world comes after me. If offers me its busyness. It does not believe that I do not want it.
  • From Mindful: Every day I see or I hear something that more or less kills me with delight; [I] instruct myself over and over in joy…of the ordinary, the common, the very drab.

Your turn. Are you a fan of Mary Oliver? If so, do you have a favourite poem?

Header photo by Benjamin Voros on Unsplash

Just Use the Bigger Bowl

My mother – a truly wonderful woman – has the frustrating habit of always trying to fit too much into a too-small bowl.

Salad is the biggest culprit. She has a stacked set of glass bowls she loves to use for salad (a side dish that shows up at most meals in her house). Invariably she will choose the smallest bowl and fill it so full the lettuce and other veggies are perfectly flush with the top rim of said bowl. This means when someone goes to toss the salad, a random assortment of ingredients will fall out onto the counter/table/floor. Or, it will take 10 minutes to toss a simple salad because you wind up mixing in each carrot shred individually to avoid making a huge mess.

I’m not sure why she does this? It takes the same amount of effort to wash a small bowl as it does a slightly larger bowl.

Alas, I do it too. I’ll try to gauge whether leftovers from supper will fit into the smallest version of a storage container. I have the fridge space – why risk it?

Just a few weeks ago I started to measure out a sauce in a 2-cup glass measuring cup. I added in the first few ingredients and then realized: the total volume of the recipe was more than the volume of the measuring cup – and that didn’t even factor in the need for buffer at the top to stir!

I swallowed my pride and poured everything into a 4-cup measuring cup. Predictably, it was a cinch to mix and pour the sauce…except now I had to wash both a 2- and a 4-cup measuring cup.

So, when in doubt, I’m telling myself: just use the bigger bowl.

Your turn. Do you ever try to use a too-small bowl/tote/box when it would be so much easier to opt for a container with buffer?

Header photo by Dee @ Copper and Wild on Unsplash

My “Ordinary” Might Be Your “Extraordinary” (And Vice Versa)

About a month ago I mentioned offhand how we had spent a happy twenty minutes cracking open fresh chestnuts as a family. This wasn’t a particularly noteworthy activity – we have cracked open hundreds of chestnuts over the years – but I appreciated the diversity of colours and patterns in this particular batch.

A reader (Hi NGS!) commented on my nonchalance in describing this experience as she has never seen a chestnut in the wild!

Where we live, chestnuts are commonplace each fall. Even though they’re ubiquitous, we certainly do appreciate them, especially for their entertainment value. For years we would cart around hard, spiky chestnuts for the kids. There were several chestnut trees along our typical walking route and we’d grab a handful for whatever child was stroller- age to play with – and try to gently open – on the ride. I have pulled 100s of chestnuts out of strollers and preschool bookbags (visiting chestnut trees was often the focal point of fall adventures for their various preschool groups).

But NGS’s comment left me thinking about how easy it is to assume that a particular item or experience is the norm for others. I’m used to extreme seasonality – hot summers, beautiful fall foliage, and miserable ice/snow storms. I can’t imagine living in a place where those fluctuations weren’t part of the regular rhythm of the changing seasons. But, for many people, snow is never part of their reality. (Now that sounds appealing.)

While I appreciate the whimsical joy of opening up chestnut casings, it is a relatively “ordinary” activity. For someone else, it would be markedly novel; and somehow that realization is strangely thrilling.

Your turn. Do you have chestnuts where you live? Can you think of something that feels commonplace to you that would be exotic/unusual to someone else?

Header photo by Bas van den Eijkhof on Unsplash

What Makes You Feel Special?

It’s interesting what things can spark the feeling of being special. Weeks ago I was visiting a friend – of Soup and Sandwich fame – and when I went to use the washroom I stopped to appreciate the guest towel.

Every time I visit she leaves a perfectly folded towel on the edge of the sink for me. It has a little palm tree on it and seeing it there waiting for me to dry my hands always makes me smile. Imagine – someone took the time to put out a special towel just for my benefit! It’s a small gesture in the grand scheme of things, but it never fails to make me feel special.

Your turn. Can you think of a seemingly insignificant item/action that makes you feel special?

Header photo by Diana Light on Unsplash

Weighing Judgments

I can’t remember where I read the following quote (it might have been Brené Brown?) but it went something along the lines of: Care the most about the judgments of people who care the most about you.

(Side note: apparently both spellings are correct – judgements and judgments – though I’m still not sure which one looks “right”.)

This advice came at an opportune time; I have been ruminating over some unpleasant feedback I received relating to a tricky interpersonal situation. My tendency is to avoid conflict. At the end of the day I want to make – and keep – everyone happy with me. (Oh how desperately I want everyone to be happy with me!)

But here’s the thing, if someone is critical or hurtful or we simply don’t see eye to eye on a matter, I need to weigh my response in proportion to that person’s investment and overlap in my life.

I need to care the most about what the people closest to me say – what’s their feedback? Is the negative information I’m getting from a socially-distant person in line with what I’m hearing from those who love me, who have my best interests at heart, and whose input I most value?

In this case, the feedback didn’t align. While this doesn’t mean I should totally disregard the negative feedback (there are elements of truth to it, I admit), I need to weigh its impact on my decision-making accordingly.

Easier said than done, of course. But it’s likely wise, moving forward, to care the most about the judgments/feedback of people who care the most about me.


Header photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

I Can Drive A Car (And That’s Awesome)

The other day I was driving somewhere and suddenly thought: Isn’t it wonderful that I know how to drive a car! While this isn’t an ability I spend much time thinking about – and, family roadtrips aside, one of the perks of living in a small town is that we don’t have to do much driving – it is a very useful life skill.

I know several adults that don’t have their driver’s licenses. They rely on parents and/or spouses to drive them wherever they need to go. It seems to work for their individual situations, but I cannot imagine a life where I didn’t know how to drive.

So, today, I’m feeling very thankful that I have access to a vehicle and the cultural autonomy to drive freely!

Your turn. Have you ever thought about how useful it is to know how to drive (especially if you have easy access to a vehicle)? It really is a tremendous privilege!

Header photo by BÜNYAMİN GÖRÜNMEZ on Unsplash