What’s the Word?


For a couple years now, I’ve been spending the first few rings and a ding after the New Year’s come calling, hibernating. Partly because I’m not really made for the winter. But mostly because I like to take a little time to flip through the brand spanking new calendar. Partly to count down the days till summer. But mostly to dream about where the new year will take me, and to plot a course to try and make them come true. “Always aim for the Moon, even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” I like that quote. It eggs me on. And I love being egged on. Anyway, my friend Julie Sweeney is the one who got this particular egg rolling for me a couple of years ago. In her post to uncork 2012, she suggested thinking of “a single word to represent a focus of intention for the new year.” That year was easy. I don’t know if it was cheating or not, but a couple of dear friends had given me the word RIPPLE, independently, and within days of each other. So I went took it as a beautiful sign and went for it. Last year was also a piece of cake because my sweet Amanda gave me the word WELL, which she had gotten for me in a prayer. This year has been a little scary because I’ve had to come up with my own. (If you’ve ever asked me to make a decision, like where we should go out to eat, you know what I mean;) (Also, there are just so many fun words out there. How to choose? And not hurt all the other words’s feelings!) So I’ve been thinking like crazy here in hibernation speed.

CourageAmanda and I have spent quite a bit of time talking about our words for the year. I was a little torn between a couple I had been flipping coins over: Heads was COURAGE; tails was Still… (with the ellipsis, because I have a thing about ellipses;) Anyway, the reason I was thinking about still… was because I’m still… here… which is a gift, I know. It delights me, humbles me, and scares the shit out of me, all at the same time. I’ve lost and continue to lose so many beautiful friends to this bitch of a disease, and every time, it rips out my heart and leaves me lonely. It’s a terribly delicate matter, balancing this grief, with the deep gratitude I feel for the gift of being here, still…. I don’t want to waste such a precious gift. Which is probably why I have such a hard time sitting still….


The reason I almost didn’t choose COURAGE was because I was afraid. It’s such a bold word. I wasn’t sure if I really have the heart. I’m still… not sure. But something clicked when I sat down to write a sonnet for the New Year, to help work out my thoughts for this piece. When I told Amanda that one of the words I was considering was courage, she lit up bright like the sunshine we’re missing here in Cincinnati, since it lives in Denver, because that’s the word she chose for herself! When I asked her to tell me why she chose it, she simply said, “I know I’m gonna need a lot of courage this year” moving away from home, starting their once upon a time in Denver. I kind of feel the same way, coming back home, starting our once upon a time in an empty nest. Bold or not, I definitely need some of that courage, in all caps. For this empty nest phase, and because, still…. That ellipsis is a pretty groovy diving board, off into a New Year, but the more I thought about it I realized how audacious it would be to take a leap off an ellipsis. You’d pretty much have to fly or you’d end up splat landing on one of the never-ending dots. And you’d have to know how to land too, or you could squish one of the dots, or worse, knock them out of line.


So heads it is. COURAGE. Appropriate, methinks, since heads up is kinda like saying “Chin up.” Which it takes courage to keep it up sometimes. I don’t look at it like tails lost either. Tails kicked my ass. But sometimes we all need a little kick in the as to encourage us to keep our chin up. Or at least I do sometimes. Normally, I think I’m kinda happy-go-lucky. As far as the lucky part, I don’t need much encouragement in that department since I’m pretty much the luckiest girl in the world. As for the go part, ask Dave, I don’t need any encouragement in the go department. I. Love. to travel. Have a wonderful case of the wanderlust. As far as the happy part, well, I feel like I’m one of the happiest peeps I know. Part of that lucky part undoubtedly plays in here, since I come by it honestly, via the disposition I was created with. Still, I struggle with staying encouraged all the time. I think I’m a pretty decent encourager of others. I am super easily encouraged, but discouragement sometimes also happens. Usually I can reason with myself and find encouragement in the Bible or really any true words that speaks courage to me, whatever the source. But sometimes finding encouragement is the part where I struggle. Probably because I get tired sometimes. I do have a pretty epic chin (that I can do a pretty good Stan Laurel impression with:p Sometimes I guess I just need somebody to speak courage into me, to lift my chin up, to kick me in the ass when needed, to tell me to “Go Bold, baby”, to dare me to be daring, to egg me on toward audaciousness.


This is why I chose COURAGE for my word this year. I’m gonna need a boatload of it. (Especially right now, with these inner ear issues continuing to make me feel like I’m on a boat.) I’d love to hear all my lovely peeps’ words and the whys. Please feel free to share in the comment section. And link your blogs if you have one. Then we can egg each other on! Who’s in? What’s the word?

Here’s my sonnet, to wrap up my thoughts on my word.

The Year of Courage

(Sonnet #2014)

I know fear. Needle sticks of the red devil

Swung me low but only broke the wishbone.

High Five! …6…Time to pick up sticks. Revel—

Put ‘em together. Make a beat of my own.

I know fear. Been stoned on chemo cocktails—

The bar tab broke me but I had a lampshade

On my bald head. Devil was in the details

But God bent down and scribbled in the sand.

I know fear. A 6-letter word, NINE points

Tried to end my SCRABBLE career: “Game Over.”

But the fat lady didn’t sing Wa-wa-once

And I still have words to play, moreover.

Words to overflow my thought clouds: “Fear Not”

Splashing into my word bubbles: “Friend, take heart.”

One comment

  1. susan scheponick says:

    I love you Joules! This made me smile and think you so many things!! Love….Betty….You! thank you so much for sharing and I’ll get back to you on my word :) xoxo

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