Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Slice of Life - 2015 OLW

I love participating in Slice of Life, started by Two Writing Teachers and writing a story, reflection, or musing at least once a week.
      I discovered OLW much later than many of the bloggers I know.  I first heard about it at a Debbie Macomber Fan Retreat with my mom.  Debbie talked about having a word to live by each year that came to her through prayer and scripture, and I loved the idea.  My first word, which I've actually had for a year and a half, was JOURNEY.  You can read about that choice here.  Poor Aaron Becker had to put up with my stalking for that time period because I loved his book and that word so much.  When I finally met him at the ALA Annual Convention in Las Vegas last summer, I felt like I had met a rock star.  I celebrated his book over and over again, and it became the symbol for my OLW.  The first half of 2013 and the whole of 2014 was filled with amazing journeys, and I enjoyed every one.  I said goodbye to JOURNEY in a Poetry Friday post with a poem.  I'll never forget my first OLW, and it will always remind me to enjoy every journey life presents. 

     But alas, it's finally time to choose a new OLW!  One Twitter friend suggested I choose QUEST, but I think it's time to leave poor Aaron alone. ;-)  My new word was discovered on Christmas evening.  We were driving home from dinner at my sister's-in-law, and I saw that one of my student's wrote a blog post on Kidblog that morning.  You can read it here (Spiritual Journey Thursdays were born from OLW!). I asked my husband if  I could read it aloud to him because I was so moved.  He responded by saying, "You know, you need to focus on things like that when school gets crazy for you."  I took that in, nodding in agreement.  He hears it all - the good, the bad, and the ugly.  There are things happening in education that can get the best of me sometimes, but he was right.  That student's writing and all the writing students are doing this year, books they read, stories they tell, the lives they share - those are the things that make my job a dream job, and if I focus on them, I'm so much happier.

     I realized a new OLW had made its way into my life: FOCUS.  I need to focus on what's important - not just at school, but in life.  There are so many distractions in this world - distractions that waste time, energy, and creativity.  I want to focus on students, family, friends, God, and the positive.  This is not easy.  JOURNEY was a little easier, to be honest.  I could just think about journeys as opportunities and adventures.  FOCUS is more, like my daughter, Libby, said a OLW word should be...an aspiration.  It's a discipline.  It's much easier to get caught up in the mundane, the fruitless, the anxieties, the negative, the overwhelming, than to keep FOCUS on a higher power and positivity.  Speaking of Libby, one of our biggest life events this year will be her wedding.  It's really important that we all FOCUS on the real reason for her wedding and enjoy every moment.

     Because I am who I am, my OLW needs to be sealed with a book.  Several days after Christmas I read Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord.  Photography played a central role in the story. Here is my Goodreads review:

I finished this book on my birthday; it was like unwrapping a gift. What a beautiful story! Lucy just moved with her family to a lake house in New Hampshire, and her dad, whom she admires, is frequently gone on photography assignments for work. She is a budding photographer herself, but needs approval from her father, which she doesn't always get. When a photography contest comes up that her dad is judging, she decides it's the perfect opportunity to show off her talent and hopefully get validation. Lucy befriends a boy who summers at the lake and lives with his grandmother in the next cottage every summer. He helps her with the contest (I know this is crazy, but at first, I missed the fact that the chapter titles coincided with the topics of the contest - don't make the same mistake), and together they look for the perfect shots. To complicate things, Nate's grandmother is showing signs of Alzheimer's, a long-time friend of Nate seems jealous of Lucy, and Lucy can't decide what to do since her father is the judge of the contest - should she enter under a different name? I thought this book had interesting topics for thought and discussion - should art always be honest? What if a piece of art hurts someone? "It was a truthful photo, even if that truth wasn't beautiful." Who owns art? "And whose photo was it? Did it belong to Grandma Lilah because she was in it? Or did it belong to me because I had taken it?" I even have a further question: Does it belong to the viewer of the photo? Would there be art without truth and honesty, even if it's hard to bear? There are further topics of when to say goodbye, what home means, what memory is, living in the moment, how to discover your gifts and talents, when to focus on what's important, and more. Have some tissues nearby for the ending. This book helped me cinch my 2015 One Little Word. Thank you, Cynthia Lord, for the beautiful gift of your art. 

     When I closed that book, I knew beyond a doubt that FOCUS was the perfect word, and that a camera was the perfect symbol.
 Cynthia, I will try really hard not to stalk you in 2015 like I did Aaron. ;-)
     One thing I'm doing to try to keep FOCUS is to take a photograph each day of something that is important to me.  Michelle Haseltine gave me that idea.  Thank you, Michelle!  I post it to Instagram and sometimes Facebook with #OLW and #Focus.  Another idea that came to me was to devote as many Spiritual Journey Thursday posts as possible with other bloggers' OLWs as the theme topic was all write about for that week.  I will be writing about FOCUS this week and what it means spiritually. We have quite a few weeks filled. I'm excited!   If you're interested in us exploring the spiritual aspects of your OLW, let me know your word, the week you want, and your blog link, and I'll add you!  The schedule can be found in the same post as above.
Here's to a year of FOCUS!!  I can't wait to see what it reveals.


  1. Great word and great story! Love that yours are so literary!

  2. Oh, I'm very touched. Thank you for your words and your beautiful heart. You can stalk me anytime. :)

  3. Your post was written with such a passion. It was a pleasure to read.

  4. Holly,
    I'm so excited that I also have the word "focus" for #OLW15! I can't wait to see your pictures and your focused journey as you travel through time!

    I love your focus on the "good things!"

  5. I love the link to the book, I really have to start reading YA again and middle grade again. It sound like a wonderful present...and a big gift to be able to use a camera as a symbol for it...love it! xo

  6. Great word. A colleague and friend of mine also chose 'focus', but for different reasons. I am eager to watch both of your JOURNEYS play out this year.

    I love thinking of OLW as an aspiration and a discipline, too.

  7. Focus is a great OLW -- I love your connection to Half a Chance and to photography. Can't wait to follow your journey with focus!

  8. I loved Half a Chance and meeting Cynthia at NCTE. I stalked her in the hotel lobby and took a selfie. It was awesome! Focus is a great word. Maybe one of my reaches can be to focus. Is that a stretch? I've been having fun with my students choosing their words this week. They are writing some great blog posts about their words.

  9. Great word! I love the book, art and faith connections. I will have to check out your Spiritual Thursdays, sounds like an inspirational link up. I am still considering my word(s), several choices have come to mind during morning devotional time, but I haven't fully decided yet. I love reading everyone's OLW posts though!

  10. Oh, well done...that is my OLW, too, for many of the reasons you share so eloquently.

  11. Wonderful post! I love how "journey" got you to your new OLW! I look forward to reading and writing more about my OLW in the next couple of weeks and "focusing" more on the spiritual aspect of my word. Happy New Year Holly!

  12. I'm so excited that you liked the picture idea!! Since I'm doing it too, it feels like I have someone to share this experience with...and that always makes things better! Love FOCUS and can't wait to see where it leads you this year!