Saturday, December 30, 2023

New Year Intention/s: 2023 Into 2024



The first is the main idea I'd like to keep simmering on the back-burner of my mind for 2024, and underneath are two additional concepts, all of which I think will help me in being who I want to be during the coming new year and beyond. I will also bottom-line-on-top what I've light-heartedly come to label the Erinn Kellie Liebhard OS (Operating System :)), and further explain below why I've opted to do so, as well as more about the above guiding concepts:

Consciousness | Love | Vitality | Purpose 

Kindness | Simplicity | Curiosity | Creativity 

Reflection | Connection | Movement | Food | Outdoors | Aesthetics

. . .

Thursday, June 15, 2023

"The Simple Pleasures"

There it is.

That word again.


"The Simple Pleasures."

I've been thinking a lot lately about how Niko coming onto the scene has really enhanced this sense of actively appreciating "the simple pleasures" in life.

The feel of the gas below my feet (or bum!). The breeze. Going for a walk. Going to the library.

It's almost as if the limitations created by having a kiddo to care for have opened up a world in which doing less is acceptable.

Ok, arguably having kiddo around doesn't have me "doing less" in every sense of that phrase. I am/ we are putting to bed, waking up, brushing teeth, lotioning, putting on whatever cream should be combating his eczema NOW, changing diapers, preparing and feeding meals, playing, bathing and doing whatever other kittle kid care and engagement is required for an 18 month old.

All of that said, my feeling of myself "doing less" remains, and not in a bad way!

Today, I will have done all that. Beyond that, 'all I'll really have done' was take a lovely trip to the library, during nap time watered the plants, cut my finger nails, a little meal prep and cooking and this writing, whatever we (Niko and I) get up to this afternoon (maybe a walk and a little playground time), plus dinner and bedtime. Surely I will do something after that - maybe watch a little TV with Kris, put together a new outdoor umbrella we ordered, or read.

Looking up at the above paragraph, it strikes me that it's still A LOT, what I will have done today. Perhaps more what I mean is "is what I'll have done today 'Enough,' as in 'Good Enough." 

And honestly, I have a much easier time giving a resounding "YES!" to that question than I ever expected I would. And this is what I mean by simple pleasures.

Nothing in the 'what I'll have done today' paragraph is extraordinary.

Does it need to be?

I think I am just feeling really grateful for the various zoom-outs with which Niko's presence has asked me to engage. It feels so good to lean into the whittle-down. We get up. We eat. We play. We eat again. I do some things I'd like to do - like cook and write - while he naps. We play again. We eat again. He goes to bed, and I connect with Kris or a friend, or take a dance class, catch a dance show or relax. That's what Tu/ Th are often like.

That's to say that all the above writing does not necessarily address what my life is like on M/ W/ F, and often Saturday and Sunday. About half the time, Saturday and Sunday are also like that. Sometimes they are not, because Kris and I work weird jobs. I am ok with it. In fact, I love it. Knowing most Tu/ Th will be like what I described above is part of what is allowing me to manage when the weekends are not weekends. And going hard on M/ W/ F.

I think I have, surprisingly, felt more balance than I have for a very long time, since mixing into my life paling around with my Niko love. Along with that has come a surprisingly-sizable-to-me amount of space for simple pleasures.

Like writing this while he naps :)

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Fuck Your Stanley Tumbler

And also your plants.

I know. I came out hard and fast with this one.

This post probably should have been titled “An Anti-Love Letter From an Elder Millennial to Gen Z,” but it would still be harder than I intend. And too generalized.

We all know we cannot sum up an entire age band of people within a set of tidy assumptions (right, we know this?!), I'm just trying to be funny. Kind of (did it work?!).

Seriously though, as a person with a bit of a YouTube habit (I say a bit because I keep it under control!), I find myself hyper-amused by the shit younger folks seem to need - or at least what the YouTuber stereotypes are. And specifically how those stereotypes fan their way back out into real life.

I see this a lot in the seeming obsession with plants in younger folks. That said, perhaps this is a 38-year-old tapping into her curmudgeonly side, getting testy because she herself cannot seem to keep the most robust of houseplants alive! Perhaps it's a good thing that this is a younger-person-fad I don't really want to get into. I am perfectly happy with my three long-term houseplants I think I water once every few weeks (even less than I did before kiddo came onto the scene), and my handful of potted outdoor plants that demonstrate the minimum modicum of annual landscape care I've come to expect from myself.

But, ah, the Stanley Tumbler. WHY?! As someone who owns two Hydroflasks (a cute, squat yellow one for my coffee and a larger white one for my water), the 'it beverage containers' (geez, that's a THING?) of five years ago, perhaps I don't get the right to ask this question. But really, I purchased them sheerly out of functional desires, I promise! 

This Stanley Tumbler thing is large. It's ugly. It doesn't seem real functional, at least for MY purposes. But hey, to each their own? I would say it just surprises me the amount of cash people will drop on this shit, but the person writing this is the same person who happily drops $120.00 on a pair of athleisure pants (again, purely functional, I promise!). 

As it turns out, this is just another ramble that affirms the age-old truth that we all indeed live our own lives. I think I just find it amazing that in todays seemingly more and more culturally hegemonic world, we all seem to want to own the same shit to express 'who we are.'

Has it always been thus? I guess all I can do is live a little longer, and a little longer, and keep noticing what I notice to try to get to the bottom of this and other questions.

Will I ever? I sort of doubt it.

Is that totally magical?

Yes. Totally :)

Monday, May 29, 2023

The Smell of Simple

The smell of simple.

In this month of May (which I deem 'Bonus Month,' as it's that extra-feeling sweet-spot between Spring and Summer), I often find myself really enjoying the smells I'm experiencing when I'm out on walks. It could be because they - the flowering trees and bushes, sunshine beating down on the ground, wet dirt - are just objectively pleasant. I don't think it's just that.

I correlate these smells with my youth, and that imbues them with the best kind of nostalgia - the kind that surfaces memories and therein feelings of life being just . . . simple.

I recognize that this is not a universal experience - life is not always as simple for children as it ideally should and could be. I'm fortunate enough to say that my experience of childhood was simple in all the best ways, at least the way I remember it!

I remember rolling around in wet dirt with my brother and painting spots of it onto him and saying he was a cow. I would say 'Hey, we were just weird,' but there should be plenty of space for such behavior to be considered normal for a kid! I remember the sounds of the Spring bugs lulling me to sleep and wake. I remember warm Summer days in my room, running a fan and my pre-teeny-bop music and contemplating the next way I'd rearrange my room (for the third time that month :)). 

These memories are certainly not all smell related. In fact, some are very sound and touch oriented. But smell was what got me going on this track this morning. On my long and leisurely walk through our neighborhood and beyond this morning (thank you Kris!), I found myself really enjoying my sense of smell, and noticing how what I was smelling seemed just like what I recall smelling in late Spring/ early Summers of my youth. So how does 'Simple' come in? A couple ways.

First, I think my mind registers these smells to a feeling of 'Simple,' and perhaps carefree, because the first times in my life I was really noticing and registering these smells were times in which I had less to worry about. Less to think about. Less responsibility. 

I don't think I mean to frame this as BETTER necessarily. I LOVE the senses of knowledge, curiosity, responsibility that have continued to grow as I've gained life experience. I think I just mean to say that same sense of 'Simple' can perhaps be found, in its own ways, in  any stage of life.

To have responsibilities does not mean you have to WORRY. To have knowledge does not mean you must try to know ALL. To be curious does not mean you have to follow EVERY curiosity that edges in. I think 'Simple' applies here because it's a helpful guide to putting your energies toward the responsibilities, curiosities and ways of knowing that MATTER MOST to YOU.

There is a certain comfort in knowing that no one can know all. In this way, there is certainly levity to wondering about something, and then letting that wonder pass without deeper pursuit. For example, this morning on my walk I found myself curious about what it would be like to watch birds more carefully. To be a birdwatcher! Shortly after that, I found myself appreciating that curiosity and the people that choose to follow it, and then letting it blow away in the gentle wind. I know that my time is a limited resource, and that I'd rather spend it going on walks that let my mind wander (toward thoughts like this!), rather than walks that are focused on appreciating birds, even though those would probably be lovely!

That's the 'Simple' in it. Do I sometimes find myself longing for those 'simpler times?' Perhaps. But when I dig deeper into those thoughts, I find that I don't want to be 5, 10 or 15 again. I just want the feelings of simplicity that came with those times. And I do experience those feelings, in their own 38-year-old ways, because I am conscious and consistent in my desire for and work to cultivate them. It's why I carve out time to go on said walks and do this writing.

I will say that a thing I don't quite have down yet, and wish to, is the ability to experience these smells and have the requisite thoughts they generate - those daydreams of 'simpler times' to take up only a brief time within my mindspace after they arrive, in favor of leaving the rest of the real estate to the present. If I haven't written about this exact topic before, I know I've at least thought about it many times. And every time, it takes me all this processing to arrive to what I did above and will say in fewer words now: 

Nostalgia for 'simpler times' is an excellent reminder to appreciate what was and evaluate and action upon what you want now and later. 

She can be concise. When she wants :). I've never claimed this blog space to be a place in which conciseness is my main aim! 

If I were to revise that statement to include the desire I just articulated, I might say:

Nostalgia for 'simpler times' is an excellent reminder to briefly appreciate what was, and to then invest some time into evaluating and actioning upon what you want now and later. 

I think that's the first thought of the three big ones from my walk, summed. Now, quickly, to the others.

"Benefit of the doubt." Another concept I'm near positive I've written about before (or at least thought about many times). I'm not quite sure the etymology of that statement, but regardless, feel it doesn't read and hear as positive as I believe it means to. From my itty bitty just now internet research, it seems its got origins in English and American legal practices, which makes sense - innocent until proven guilty and whatnot. I just think it has a negative tone, almost as if it's framed around needing to doubt, or around guilt as the natural presumption for everything. I think I'm realizing this thought process all goes back to my Belief in 'Kindness.' 

In the sort of situations in which 'benefit of the doubt' would be applied (and in general, I suppose!), I wish to apply 'Kindness,' not 'Hey, maybe they are NOT guilty.' Just last night, I saw a diaper sitting on the concrete base of a lamp post in one of the parking lots we walk through to get to the Saints stadium. I pointed it out to Kris and said something like "Geez! Who would do that?!," to which he responded something like "Erinn, not everything happens with poor intentions." Hearing him say that made me feel embarrassed that my brain had gone directly to presuming ill will.

I think it must be easy for humans to default to these ways of thinking, and that it is harder, more conscious work to actively pursue thought processes framed around kindness, and presuming positive intentions rather than negative. I think this is the kind of thought-practice that is worth the extra bit of thought-work it takes, as its result is felt (and in that way, tangible) positivity that can and does ripple out. Just thinking about what an impact this would make if all humans had the space and made the choice to think this way gives me goosebumps. 

From both privilege and work, I have the space, and I am trying my best to make the choice. I'm glad I have people around me who remind me to keep doing it when I err, as I am indeed human :)

Another topic that sprung to mind during my walk this morning that I want to unpack: "You're a young country." This idea came up in an article I was reading this week (I want to say it was a clothing style article?!), and it has really gotten me thinking. In the grand scheme, in the 'it's all relative' of it all (another thing I got thinking about this morning), we ARE. While enough time has passed for us to have collectively, throughout our history, done some egregious and amazing things, not enough time has passed for us to be able to measure our history in the same way as say Croatia or Greece. Pondering this provides me some comfort in a time in which it feels like "the greatest country in the world" (like, why do we even need to think and say that? It's NOT a contest) is struggling with how to grow toward a 'more perfect union.' In the grand scheme, maybe we just need some more time. And maybe we need to be less obsessed with 'being the best,' in favor of moving toward that 'more perfect union.'

I so appreciate that phrase, because saying 'more perfect' implies that perfection will never be reached, but that we can try, and that we should. A 'more perfect union' is one that actively makes space for everyone to be supported and appreciated. I believe, I have to believe, I wish we all would believe, that damn near EVERYONE is DOING THEIR BEST. If we all really believed that, I think we'd collectively find it simpler to help everyone along the way to that 'more perfect union.'

While I didn't seek out to 'America' my reflections this morning, I am grateful they went there on this Memorial Day. If we have to keep dealing in bodies, and it seems we do, moving beyond just 'feeling grateful' for the sacrifices of our countrypeople who have been lost to war requires that we ALL ACTIVELY work on ourselves as individuals, as much as our time and energy allows, to really seek out that 'more perfect union.' We cannot leave it up to lawmakers to solve it on just the larger scale. Our small-scale, every day matters. And I always begin where I can with immediacy. My me. Here we've come, right back around to leading with Kindness, and asking oneself to let that develop beyond.

Ok, one last small thought before I close up for the day: WHY is it that I reflect with writing on a regular basis, not movement? I think it's perhaps because writing, for me, requires only time, energy and focus (only, ha!). I often find myself thinking that 'Movement' reflection (or creation of output, I suppose) requires other bodies and studio space (and eventually, somewhere other people can watch it)? I think I'm realizing that it's about mindset (as so much often is): I see my writing as Reflection, not creative output for others to take in. Perhaps if I made space for movement to be that too, as I did during the height of the pandemic, I would find myself moving for reflection. 

I do find this here and there - I found it in the Improv class I took on Wednesday, but I do think I desire for it to be a more regular thing. So here I go, doing it. Down to the basement to action on this.

Simple :)

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Keep It Simple

Surely, in the 16 years (16 YEARS?!) I've had this public-facing place to write, I've titled a post this way. I'm not gonna take the time to look back and check, but I say this because the guiding idea* "Keep It Simple" has been a big one for me for a long time.

(mug given to me by my daddoo :))

As a curious person who tends to think deeply about everything (I checked my initial thought to write "who overthinks everything," which I don't think is true/ paints my intentionally in a negative light, and I don't need to do that to myself!), over the years it has become increasingly important to me to check in on this idea pretty regularly. If I don't, I tend to overextend myself, and stray away from choosing actively and often to stay focused on and appreciate the moment at hand, the practice I have been working hard in my adult life to build for myself. If I don't remind myself that the best way to really appreciate and enjoy my finite time is to keep how I use it 'Simple,' my curiosity and think think think would cause me to want to do everything and do it 'perfect' or 'the best.'

And that's the crux: 'do everything,' 'perfect' and 'the best' are NOT things. They just aren't. In a world with so much to offer, there is just no way to 'do everything,' and there is no one 'right' way to live. These seem like simple (see what I did there?) adages to understand and live by, but I've found them pretty rigorous to actually put into practice. While I don't subscribe anymore (I came to find it tedious and honestly, self-aggrandizing after awhile), one take-away from listening to "The Minimalists Podcast" is that "Simple isn't easy" (I concept I believed they noted as coined from someone else, but this source is where I picked it up). 'Easy' just means the path of least resistance. 'Simple' means uncomplicated. 

To me, keeping my life uncomplicated means to lean into the things that really inspire me, bring me joy, allow me to contribute . . . 

My innate and cultivated sense of wonderment with the world ('wonder' being my chosen word for this sense over the word 'curiosity,' which is also one I love!) is one of my favorite things about myself, but when allowed to run unconsciously through my life, it can cause me to be pulled in SO many directions (ex: "Let's go do this!," "Let's try this!," "Let's eat here!," "Let me also get some work done!," "If we hurry, we can also make it to this!" . . . all in half a day). While this can feel exciting, when done over and over and over, it can just feel unfocused and exhausting. I don't say this to squelch my (or anyone else's!) zest for life, but to remind myself that I am happiest and most balanced (and therein contributing beyond myself to the best of my ability) when I keep how I spend my resources of time, energy and focus SIMPLE.

For me, that looks like reminding myself of WHAT I really enjoy and WHY, so those ideas can keep guiding my choices. My DOINGS, as I have been calling them lately, to WHATS are:







I wish and work for these things to take shape in SIMPLE ways. Like:

Reflection: this writing session. 

Connection: having a bonfire with a friend in the backyard after Niko goes to sleep (or taking him to the beach near our house). 

Movement: Going on a walk. 

Food: Cooking a simple meal out of ingredients I keep on hand regularly. 

Outdoors: again, going on a walk.

Aesthetics: getting dressed for the day.

I'm realizing that I DO have to do more complicated things in order to prioritize 'Simplicity,' which, consequently, is first on my list of VALUES or WHYS (which also includes Kindness, Wonder and Creativity). Things like manage my time with care and create and enforce boundaries, even when it's difficult! These complicated things have felt worth it to me in my pursuit of keeping it simple, as they have allowed me to feel balance in my professional and personal lives, and to keep reimagining them in ways that let me experience the above WHATS.

Those WHATS or DOINGS are the interest-centers I've defined for myself over the years, which also let me bring to life my WHYS/ VALUES. And leading all of that are my BELIEFS or things I BELIEVE help me be the best human I can be: Consciousness, Love, Vitality and Purpose.

Ok, now that I've taken the long way around (i.e. through revising ALL of my guiding ideas, which I hadn't planned to do!) to my point, I'll come back to it: every year around this time, I seem to have to write about what I want from Summer to be sure that at the end of it, I feel like I got everything I wanted out of it. This is sort of strange because I claim that Summer is my least favorite season, yet I always feel this desire to treat it with care so it yields what I want from it! Summer in the Midwest DOES have a certain magic to it: days are longer, the sun is out, people want to connect, it's pretty easy to be outside . . . all of these things make me want to "do Summer right," (as in, right for me - again, there is no 'one right way to do things' she says to herself :)). 

To 'do it right' for me requires me to check in on all the above things so I can, ultimately, keep it simple, for all the reasons on which I've already waxed. So what's the Summer version of the DOINGS?

Reflection: writing | walks

Connection: bonfires | parents pools | visits with friends with Niko

Movement: walks | dance class | gym | hikes

Food: simple meals | new recipes after bedtime

Outdoors: walks | beach with Niko 

Aesthetics: getting dressed

There are two items in the Movement category that I really do want, one from Summer in particular (hikes) and one in general (gym) that I have been finding it hard to fit in. In fact, strategizing on how to do this while I walked this morning is what kicked off this whole train of thought. For hikes, I think it might just be permissioning myself to take a couple afternoons Niko is in daycare and I'm 'supposed to be working' to take myself somewhere. Close by is fine, but a change of pace from walking in the neighborhood is desired! 

As for the gym, it's been tough to fit in. I don't want to do it Tu/ Th mornings even though it would be easy to dump Niko into their childcare to do it, because I want those days for us. I just cordoned 6-8am M/ W from after Labor Day through State Fair for walk and gym. I will have to revisit this plan come Fall due to my teaching schedule, but that's part of the 'doing more complicated things to keep Simplicity possible,' in this case revisiting my schedule over and over and over.

And one thing I haven't wanted to admit in writing: I DO still want to go camping. I texted Sarah about trying for one night for us, and I think I'd like to find one night for myself. The night with her would be about Connection with a friend. The night on my own would be about Reflection for me. At one point, I tried the tactic of setting quarterly review days/ retreats of sorts for myself, and found that didn't really work for me schedule-wise. Plus, I don't need to set aside quarterly days: I reflect a lot more often than that (like now!). That said, I do think I desire the 'awayness' of it. Perhaps it doesn't need to be so rigid as to set four such times in the year, equally apart from one another, but to get out and have a day when I need it. Looking at my calendar now for a night I could make this work. 

Booked :)

I think I also came here to remind myself that there are many things other people would like me to do with my time during the Summer, and that I do not have to fulfill those desires if they don't fit in with what brings me balance. Nor do I have to figure out all of what I'll say yes to RIGHT. NOW (even though I feel that push in myself!). You can figure out what makes sense when those times come!

Alright, rambly. Wrap it up. Bottom line (which is also sort of on top): Keep it simple :)

*I also checked my initial thought to write "Mantra," which is a word that belongs to a spiritual tradition I can't even name and certainly don't practice!

Friday, February 10, 2023

Old Loves, New Loves

 I'm having a difficult time pinpointing when I fell in love with the music of Radiohead. It might have been at some point in early high school, when my brother was still at home and tipping me off to music he liked that I might (a thing he still does that I love :)). It might have been late high school - I feel like I remember bonding over a love of Radiohead with my now dear friend Adam when I met him on a national 4H trip my senior year.

I DO distinctly remember hearing "There, There" on the radio (sheesh, which station would it have been then?!) and thinking that it was just something else entirely. Something that grabbed my gut and smooshed my soul around. That sounds really dramatic. But isn't that what really good art is SUPPOSED to do to you? I've never claimed to be shy with my feelings :). Upon a little research, it looks like this single was released on May 26th, 2003, three days after I graduated high school. I think I marched out and bought the album its on - Hail to the Thief - right when it was released, as it came out two weeks later! I think I bought it, in a rash of buying several other CDs - that's right, CDs - at the Burnsville Best Buy. Not even sure it's still there.

The point of this diatribe is the NOSTALGIA that my love of Radiohead releases for me. But its not that simple - while their music is an Old Love for me, it is very much an Ongoing Love. While I get the feels thinking about how that album carried me through the Fall and Winter of my first year in college, I also get the feels thinking about how Kris surprised me with the disc of In Rainbows in Summer 2008, right before I flew off to live in Calgary for nine months. I get the feels thinking about when The King of Limbs came out in Winter 2011, and how the track "Bloom" was the soundtrack of my Spring that year, generating big creative ideas that I did not yet know what to do with (and did not yet have the resources to achieve - hell, I STILL don't have THAT kind of resources - I don't think any artist ever feels like they have the level of resource they could use, but I sure do have a lot more now than I did then :)). I remember the time I spent digging back into the earlier parts of their catalogue, discovering all this music that lit up my senses and put my insides to sound more than anything else I'd heard before. I remember A Moon Shaped Pool coming out in Spring 2016 and walking around my new neighborhood, freshly living in our house, exploring my surroundings and feeling thrilled that I had a Radiohead soundtrack with which to do so.

I may not be able to claim that I'm 'their biggest fan,' though I am proud to say that I did buy plane tickets to fly out to see them in Kansas City - their closest tour stop - right before my birthday in 2017, the one time I've gotten to see them live, which was MAGIC. There are many music videos I haven't seen. There are lyrics I'm not positive about (honestly, sometimes I like it better that the words at times are just collections of intention-charged sounds). There's an absolute treasure trove in the Radiohead Public Library that I haven't been able to explore. But my love for this music now has spanned almost twenty years. About half my life.

I thought, going into the show I am opening tonight, that creating the project would spur me to dig deeply into 'everything Radiohead I've missed,' but that hasn't been the case. I welcomed a New Love into my life in December 2021 - my Niko boy! - and the time palate I've had to dedicate to such projects has changed. On my walk this morning, which brought forth some serious pandemic full-circle-ness as I found myself taking photos of trees against a crisp, bright sunrise, I got thinking about how Niko was a mere idea when initial work on this project began. Maybe he wasn't really even a idea (at least one being discussed yet) - I think Music Lead Mike Lauer and I met in early 2020 for a beer to talk about this project, which we decided we'd do in February 2021. The dancers and I began online rehearsals I believe in October 2020, we filmed in January 2021 and released our Radiohead-inspired screendances in February 2021, the month  for which the stage show was originally planned.

Niko became a discussed idea in December 2020, when Kris and I agreed we'd start casually trying for a kiddo in the new year. I found out I was pregnant on April 4th - Easter - a day after I'd gotten flustered when dancer Kelli asked me at a video shoot if I thought I wanted to have kids! So the major work for the first iteration of this project all happened between when we decided to try and when we found out he was coming. The precipice right before the flurry of incubating my (our) most ambitious creative project yet. Likely ever!

This New Love - Niko - has certainly changed how my life works. But he has NOT - and HAS - changed 'everything,' as so many people told us he would. I still love Radiohead. But I can now love them in new ways. The ways I hear their music are still the same - and also different - because I have the New Love that informs how I listen. I'll go ahead and say that's a metaphor for a larger truth for me ;)

Old Loves. New Loves. Love.

Saturday, December 31, 2022

New Year Intention/s - 2022 Into 2023

It is once again that time, a period of each year during which I get very Reflective, and provide myself what I've sort of come to think of as my own personal "performance review." Since I don't have one place of employment that has a system for this, but rather, many - some that provide feedback and others that do not - I have found I need to take it on myself to be "reviewing" my own "performance." While this work seems to mostly stem from consideration of my personal life, I do find that my professional life is present in these thoughts, and that the ideas I generate are useful for all aspects of my life. I began doing a process like this each year in late high school, I believe. Over the course of time, it has become pretty codified for me: 1) Grounding Writing, 2) Looking Back (i.e. considering last year's New Years Intention/s (or NYI), 3) Evaluating (i.e. rereading all of my journaling and blog posts from the year through the lens of the set intention/s, 4) Parsing Out Themes (identifying the topics that just seemed to continue coming to the surface), and 5) Finalizing and Sharing. Steps 1-4 have happened over the last couple days and over the course of 18 pages in my handwritten journal. What's below (which has also taken me a couple days, on and off!) is Step 5: Finalizing and Sharing.

The ideas that emerged when I began creating New Years Intention/s (or Resolutions, as I called them when I began, but have since come to find that word to be too rigid) were pretty literal: drink more water, pack for travel more efficiently, etc. As time has gone on, they have become much more abstract, and in that, much more applicable to my life as a whole. Several of the emergent themes this time around are definitely not new, with some just packaged into different words, conjured by different feelings, applicable to different (and similar, honestly) situations. In a way, this is comforting. Just as there is a saying that "there is nothing new under the sun" when it comes to art making (or perhaps well beyond that, depending upon how you think about it), perhaps, when living a reflective live, the same themes continue to oscillate through life. This makes me feel, then, as though I've got some proven experience in meeting such themes head-on, like I am bound to be successful in meeting them again with different lenses, different scenarios. 

That said, some of the emergent themes do feel new (to me), or at least slightly road-tested but not completely embodied yet.

While I will consider both revisited and new emergent themes in more depth below, I want to put the bottom line of all this work on top, to make it easy for myself to revisit this writing and get from it what I need right away: From a year centered around REIMAGINING (the 2021 into 2022 guiding concept), I move from 2022 into 2023 centering:


After sleeping on it, I am realizing that Ephemerality leads the charge because it fuels every other theme that has presented itself for me this year:

  • Simplicity: Keep things simple because it's all fleeting.
  • Noticing: Notice and appreciate your surroundings because it's all fleeting.
  • Adaptability: Be adaptable to making the best of it, because it's all fleeting.
  • Patience: Have patience with it all, because it's all fleeting.
  • Trust: Trust in yourself - don't waste time not doing so, because it's all fleeting.
  • Me+: Live in and love your expanding self, because it's all fleeting.

One could say that these are just fancy ways of saying "Life is short," but I've never taken to that phrase. I think it often gets used to justify decision making that would hurt the person doing it in the long-term. To me, the wistfulness of Ephemerality suggests the kinds of Wonder I strive to regularly Notice and Create. It suggests that almost anything, any time, can be magical, and should be allowed to be seen as such. It also brings into focus the idea that nothing is permanent - not the moments we want to be over or the ones we want to last forever. This idea helps me find balance, both the in-the-moment and longer-term, while also experiencing the Wonder that is always on offer in life . . . if we go looking :)

Below are more musings on both recurring and 'new' themes that emerged from this past years worth of writings. I begin with the three recurring themes - Simplicity, Noticing and Adaptability:


While this concept has lived under several names for me over the years, it's long been present. It's driven me in the form of this precise word for awhile now, and has even made it into my codified 'Beliefs | Values | Manifestations,' a series of guiding concepts living though rarely shifting at this point of my life. As a person who grew up valuing efforts to try and do 'everything all the time,' I have come to find both value and exhaustion in this idea. I love this idea for its implications of zest for life, wanting to seize the day, the desire to squeeze every last drop of juice out of each lemon for the lemonade: I WANT that. I find it difficult in its implications of seeing and/ or desiring no limitations or boundaries whatsoever, of overextension - even for something/s good, endless (and therein unachievable) capacity. I DO have limited capacity. I DO have limited energy. This is human. My time, my energy, my attention, are renewable but limited resources. I am coming to learn that this is not sad or unfortunate: it creates the chance to get a sense of what your own capacity really is, and to apply it only to what you really deem valuable. For me, the process of whittling down the who, the what, the how of the ways I really wish to use my renewable but limited resources has been transformative to my ability to truly be present for and enjoy my life. While these ideas have taken many names over the course of my life, Simplicity seems to be the one that has, for awhile now, really been encompassing this concept for me. While driven by many things, a big driver of it this year, my first year having a tiny human entirely (and slightly less so with each passing chuck of time) dependent on me (and Kris :)), has been NIKO. While in some ways, it seems he has complicated life (routines, etc.), I have found his presence to offer much more Simplicity, because he is Numero Uno. With absolutely no doubts about it, he comes first. I would do ANYTHING (within my humanity) for him. I would get in front of any danger for that kid WITHOUT HESITATION. Count these ideas among the many having-kid/s-related items about which this year I've found myself thinking "Oh, NOW I get it!" This clarity of priority really has made so much for me so simple. When he is happy, I am so much more happy. When he is safe and taken care of, everything is fine. This is not to say that these feelings are a pass for not caring about what's happening in the larger world, or a pass for setting aside the other things that are important to me. What I mean to say is that he has simply brought a lot into focus and helped me to feel that when he (and the other people I love) are healthy, safe, loved, happy . . . everything really is ok. It's that simple. This sense of Simplicity has helped me continue to whittle at what is really most important to me in the who, the what, the how of the ways I really wish to walk through life.


Noticing, Wonder (the guiding principle that came out of 2020 into 2021's NYIs), Awareness, Consciousness, Liveness, Play . . . this idea has gone by many words for me, each of which have had their own connotation(s). Since 'Noticing' is the one that I seemed to write in my journal the most this past year, I'll go with that. Noticing the moment, my surroundings, the small things, the seemingly unimportant and everyday minutia that Niko seems to find FASCINATING. Wow, how I have appreciated him reminding me nearly constantly that EVERYTHING IS AMAZING. Everything is amazing if you let it be (just like "anything can be an aesthetic experience if you let it be," an idea I find myself considering at least a couple times a year). This past year, I had the pleasure of Noticing the sunlight on the grass, the texture of our stone fireplace, the feel of the feathers shed by my feather boas . . . all little moments when playing with Niko. He has been an incredible reminder that Noticing and appreciating the minutia is a beautiful way to fall in love with life everyday.


I actually think this idea has shown up under this exact word in my past NYI writings. It seems to have been an intention of mine, for quite awhile, to balance (another recurring concept) my tendencies toward planning, organization, order, with the ability to be flexible, open, adapt. This first year with kiddo really challenged my ability to adapt, in very positive ways that started to shift over into my professional pursuits as well. While I have long prided myself on my ability to adapt in the classroom while teaching to respond to the needs of the learners present, what we seem to be getting excited about, behavioral issues, it's felt harder for me to take that same sense of flexibility and apply it to my personal and back-end professional systems (ex: morning routine, admin workflows). This is indeed another Niko-driven intention: being present with and taking care of little man really tested my ability to "go with the flow," shift up my plans, be present for what was and is needed in the moment. While I consider my organizational capacity a major strength, I am learning that strength can only manifest when tempered with the ability to tap into the yin to its yang - Adaptability. 

The themes from this year's writings that feel somewhat road-tested, but mostly new included Patience, Ephemerality (which clearly took the cake), Trust and Me+. More on these below:


I've never really seem to be 'naturally' good at this one. I think it's that "squeeze every last drop" mentality that has - at least partially - aided in my go go go, faster faster faster, fit it in fit it in fit it in mentalities, from which a byproduct has been a poor sense of patience. Niko-Boy has really tested these tendencies. Everything from his sleep to his eating to his playing - so really, ALL things currently Niko - has asked me to slow down, repeat, do over, take breaths, etc. And it's all been SO much easier than I imagined for me to do. Going into parenting, I was aware that patience is indeed a virtue, but I thought I'd find it MUCH harder to actually tap into. Turns out that when I love someone with all my heart, it's much easier than I ever thought it would be to employ patience with them. It seems I needed this sweet-little-human-shaped reminder to have patience with everyone I love - Kris, my dancing body (and all of myself), my family, my friends, my colleagues. This growing ability is definitely fanning out into all corners of my life, and I intend to remain conscious about its presence so I can help this flourishing continue.


Much of my writing in this past year referenced the idea of 'seasons,' as in 'seasons of life,' as in "this is temporary," or "this is part of a larger cycle." I found myself simultaneously missing my daily morning walks while also wanting Niko to never get older so I could have every morning for the rest of forever be baby feeds and cuddles. In writing about this idea of temporariness, I knew that the popular term "seasons" wasn't it for me. In generating these NYI, I arrived at the idea of Ephemerality. The concept that everything is fleeting. Not being able to take a walk every morning right now, in the grand scheme of life, is fleeting. Niko being 9 months, 10th months, 11 months, 12 months was fleeting. EVERYTHING is. Keeping this in mind helps me remember to appreciate everything for what it is right now, because it actually isn't "always going to be this way," bad or good, challenging or comforting.


I believe I have actually touched on the idea of trusting myself in NYI past, but it's never been as prominent a theme. While I didn't actually write a lot - at least not directly - about this concept, it was baked into a lot of my ponderings, and came forward as a clearly important theme as I assessed my writing from the year for this process. When becoming a parent, I was really nervous about how I would "know everything I need to know" at any given time. While I have successfully managed to stave off the idea of being a "perfect mom" or "perfect parent" or "doing everything right" (fooey, all of it), I have been concerned about "knowing what I need to know." This past year has shown me that I DO know everything I need to know: I know that I LOVE him, and that leads me to everything else. While I may not have had a lot of experience with tinies before he came, I do know how to find out what I need to know. And when I/ we need to make calls on things, we are capable of doing so (reminds me of my near-the-end-of-pregnancy motto "Not ready, but capable"). Another way that the idea of Trusting Myself has been helpful has been in limiting how much information I consume about parenting and childcare. From the time I found out I was pregnant forward, it has been important to me to be very intentional about what type and how much information of these sorts I choose to take in: trusting my few, carefully curated information sources has been a practice in Trusting Myself, and so far, it has not lead me astray. Further, if I can Trust Myself in raising my kiddo, I feel I can (and should) Trust Myself with all things!


Another emergent theme that I didn't call out a ton, but felt and talked about a lot: the idea of "Me+." As in, I was very concerned about shifts in my identity when Niko came, and it turns out, just like when I moved in with Kris and when we got married (i.e. other major life decisions involving loved ones), as I've come to include the care and love of Niko into my life, I just feel like ME+. I feel like an expanded version of myself, like someone with an additional layer. Like . . . Me+! Turns out there is a lot of ME to go around ;). When Niko came, my heart just expanded to have the room it needed for him. I am still a daughter, sister, friend, partner, dancer, dreamer, cloud-watcher . . . I just happen to also be a parent/ mama now too. I feel that this year (like all other years), I have come further into the self I already was, learning more about who I am, and who I want to be. Niko coming along did NOT change everything (as some people would say to me before he did, which freaked me out, because I LIKE my life!): it changed some things, and other things have stayed very similar. It has been an utter joy and total challenge to figure out how Niko fits into the picture of my life. And as this aspect of life it continues to come into focus and life continues to twirl, something I'm starting to Trust is that along the way, I'll be Me+.

There are also a couple of literal intentions for the coming year that surfaced through my writing and thinking, to which I'd like to apply all of the above abstract themes:

More Three Time: "Three Time" is what I call time with Niko and Kris as a whole little fam. While Kris and I have gotten pretty good at carving out alone time for the other, and we get a decent amount of "Two Time" (him and me) after kiddo goes to bed each night, I am craving more Three Time. I have already thought about how we can accomplish this, and am looking forward to making it happen in the new year. 

More Dancing: A long-held desire. That said, I've come to realize that even when I feel I am dancing a lot, it never feels like enough. Because I LOVE it. So I start with this thought by acknowledging that. With that in mind, I have also been thinking about how I can accomplish this goal. I have already began working toward this by condensing some jobs - a good start. I may also want to open myself back up to the idea that self-directed movement practice in the basement (a thing I got very good at during the height of the pandemic) is still dancing. I look forward to seeing where this and the other tactics I've identified for bettering my 'not dancing to dancing ratio' take me in the new year.

To finish, I always find it important to boil these concepts into the existent soup of my life, or my 'Operating System,' as I've come to call it. The below framework has been a work in progress for many years, and while it continues to shift, those shifts have become pretty small in the last several years. In other words, I feel pretty confidently about the below serving as my guiding information for how to human.


Consciousness | Love | Vitality | Purpose


Simplicity | Kindness | Wonder | Creativity


Reflection | Connection | Movement | Food | Aesthetics | Outdoors 

From here, I consider how this year's musings factor into the above 'Operating System.'

  • Simplicity: Has its own place in the OP.
  • Noticing: Is a measure of Consciousness (and honestly, a deep relationship with Ephemerality)
  • Adaptability: I think this one is directly tied into Simplicity for me. Sometimes, in order to 'keep it simple,' one must adapt!
  • Patience: Consciousness and Reflection. A major area of learning from this past year that I can only imagine will continue. 
  • Ephemerality: This one is feeling like the honey of the bunch. It's not as though I've created an arbitrary rule that the product at the end of the NYI process MUST be one word, but it HAS been really helpful in these past years to me actually walking my talk in the coming year and beyond.
  • Trust: Love perhaps? Love of self?
  • Me+: Love. Vitality. Reflection. All of it. A lovely idea to have conjured up and to keep in mind.

Finally, taking ALL the above musing and channeling it down to an easy to remember guiding idea: that work - arriving to EPHEMERALITY - has been moved to the top. And with the bottom line now on top, I find myself closing up this round of NYI. I feel fulfilled, and ready to . . . Float? Glide? Bob into 2023? 

How about "roll among the varying types of challenging, beautiful, Ephemeral clouds 2023 is sure to bring"? 

I'll go with that :)