Sunday, January 05, 2014

ML's Thinking Ahead to 2014--I'm Not Calling These Resolutions, Either

Franki's thinking ahead post threatens to makes me feel like an underachiever, but I refuse to go down that road. Sometimes we lead, sometimes we follow, and sometimes we cheer from the sidelines. It's all good.

When I look forward to 2014, I don't see so many obvious signposts. I see (or want to see) fairly calm water and steady paddling. I see more poems written, more exploration with art, a greater focus on the books I want to read rather than keeping up with the books "everyone" seem to be reading. There is no particular map, because I want to be more open to the moment at hand.

Which brings me to my One Little Word. My very first OLW. A word that seems selfish compared to the active words others have chosen, like MAKE and WONDER and CHOICE.

My One Little Word is BREATHE.

I met my OLW on New Year's Eve.

We were due to leave for our traditional New Year's Eve dinner in an hour and a half. True to my "cram-it-in-get-it-done" mentality, I decided that I had time to make the cheesecake for New Year's Day dinner before we left.

And I would have, if it hadn't been for the smoke. My cheesecakes always leak a little between the bottom and edges of the springform as they bake. There's always a little smoke as this "juice" burns off the foil on the bottom of the oven. This year, for whatever reason, there was a LOT of smoke. The smoke alarm went off. The cat ran panicked to the basement to hide and cover his ears. We opened all of the windows and brought fans up from the basement. AJ grabbed the ladder and yanked the wires out to turn the smoke alarm off. I pulled the foil out of the oven (spilling much of the "juice" on the oven floor) and put fresh foil in.

Moments later, there was even MORE smoke, boiling thick and black out of the oven vent. Apparently, it was not a good idea to leave all of that "juice" under the new foil.

This time, I turned the oven off and scrubbed as much of the charred blackness off the oven floor as I could, being careful not to burn the rag or my hands. Then I turned the oven back on, put the cheesecake back in, and texted our friends to tell them we'd be late.

All the while, I was beating myself up. Why had I thought it would work to get the cheesecake made on such a tight schedule? The house smelled HORRIBLE and it was all my fault. WE would smell like smoke. I terrorized the cat. I spoiled the group's New Year's Eve dinner plans because we'd be late. It was all my fault. I was a failure.

AJ talked me down. Advised me (not for the first time) to just BREATHE. It was done. I couldn't go back and change it. It would all work out. It wasn't that bad. It was kind of funny, actually, if I would just let myself laugh. Even the advice to BREATHE was funny, because all we could smell was cheesecake smoke.

But the cheesecake smoke made me realize that I needed the word BREATHE in my life for an entire year. I need a year of slowing down and focusing on the moment at hand, not getting myself all worked up about what's ahead, or all wrought up about how the things behind me played out.

I need to be right here, right now.

BREATHE will help me to stay in the moment, take joy in the now.
BREATHE will help me to celebrate being alive.
BREATHE will help me focus in a sensory way on this amazing world
in which we live.
BREATHE will help me listen more and talk less.
BREATHE will remind me of cheesecake smoke and make me laugh,
all year long.


  1. Funny story! Yes, I agree with your OLW it happens to be a mantra of mine! Now to help others to embrace our OLW! Best to you in 2014

  2. Breathe was almost mine! I say it to myself all the time. I am wondering if breathing is part of grit… thanks for sharing!

  3. Mary Lee,
    Finally! I now know your word so I can breathe a little easier (couldn't resist).

    BREATHE is perfect. In this fast paced world taking time to BREATHE is something we all need to do. I think you've chosen a tough word though. It's hard to not focus on all there is to do or the way things have played out. Being in the moment is always one of the hardest parts of being.

    Loved this: "Sometimes we lead, sometimes we follow, and sometimes we cheer from the sidelines."


  4. Oh it is a wise word Mary Lee. Breathe. I like it.

  5. BREATHE - this post me WANT to take a deep breath! Like Cathy, I also loved the lines "Sometimes we lead, sometimes we follow, and sometimes we cheer from the sidelines. It's all good."

  6. I liked the same line about cheering from the sidelines that caught Cathy's eye -- you're so right :-)
    When I was a teenager, my dad always told me to take deep breaths to calm down and thinks straight. Good advice at any age!

  7. Breathe - so important. I often find myself caught up and stressed out. The reminder to breathe is the reminder of the bigger picture. Great advice.

  8. Mary Lee, many of your reasons for choosing BREATHE were similar to mine for choosing BE.... that need to slow down and take life as it comes. This is something I'm not good at... I tend to go full-throttle all the time and end up missing out on the good and beautiful things in life.
    Have a happy 2014!

  9. Funny how we need to be reminded of the essentials - like breathing. I mean breathing as in the way you've written about it - stepping back from the moment to size up what's really important and what can be dismissed. Like an overdone cheesecake, a smoky for now house. Even the cat will recover, Mary Lee. Love your OWL!

  10. Breathe. Just breathe. A terrific word. We go back to school tomorrow and the boys left last night and there are a million things to do and everything feels in total chaos. And then I make a quick stop by your blog and read this very important reminder! May 2014 hold lots of time for deep breathing and lots of moments that take your breath away! Happy new year, dear friend!

  11. Yes! A good word for many I think. When I look ahead of things I have to do, I get stressed, then just take a deep breath & start, & it's never as bad as projected! You chose perfectly Mary Lee, & I imagine lots of good tastes came from that ill-gotten cheesecake!

  12. This is so much like my daughter! She has had that OLW for years but she took it a step further last year and had it tattooed on her wrist in beautiful cursive. Now she just looks at her wrist and stops to breathe! A great word for us all!

  13. I can smell the disaster in your post. I can hear the laughter as you realize it's all OK. Breathe is a great word for all of us. Breath is like prayer.

  14. I can relate. I hope you could have a good laugh afterwards. My word last year was mindful and this year it's believe.

  15. Love this, Mary Lee. My OLW for 2014 is reach...

  16. Anonymous9:02 PM

    I love your list of how remembering to BREATHE will help you throughout the year. My cheesecake leaked onto the cookie sheet that was under it and we had a kitchen full of smoke last week, too! It tasted delicious, though :-)


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