The Untold Stories of the Word of the Year

“Challenge.  It’s my word for 2015,” she said.

At that moment, for reasons I cannot explain, we knew that the conversation to follow would be memorable.  It was just clear that the four of us had moved from frivolous, fun, no-direction chatter to a much higher, sequential, magical plane.  We were about to discuss life and its importance. And from my vantage point, we weren’t disappointed with what followed.

Her plan was to select one word.  Just one word.  She would use that one word as a guide, a beacon for her journey from January until December.  She offered no additional rules, and asked if we wanted to participate.  Just choose one word and keep a steadfast focus on that word until the end of the year.  We all nodded in agreement.

In less than one week, my three friends had landed on their words: Challenge . . . Change . . . Zen, all intriguing, inspiring, daring, complex choices. But, within the same week,  I was still in some type of holding pattern.  Wordless.

Along with starting off 2015 searching for the right word, it just happened that I had been reading some very interesting writing.  A blog, familiar to me in the year past, was detailing circumstances in countries beyond my experiences.  The topics varied from post to post with what I identified as a golden thread of humanity holding it all together.  I would see the photos and read the words, and quickly my mind was blurring with thoughts.

Suddenly, I had a plethora of potential 2015 word possibilities: free, help, center, food, happy, others, world, poverty, irony, give, get, lost, woman.  The more I read, the more words floated to the top.  Now, my problem was no longer a lack of words; it was finding and selecting the right word from the crowded list.

Hmmm . . . what to do . . . .

Though my friend provided no particular rules, by default there seems to be a couple.  First, the one word that I choose must fit all occasions.  It must be able to balance between moments of distinct joy and happiness as well as moments of considerable pain and sadness.  The word must be able to lead me to new adventures, remind me of the difference between good and evil, give me an anchor when I need it, and allow me to laugh, love, and learn throughout an entire year.  It should be bold, blessed, and at times, comical . . . humorous . . . fun.   It should have an intent.

Even with knowledge and consideration of such rules, the days of 2015 began to pass in rapid succession without me finalizing my pick.  I truly was headed towards a million choices and not the selection of one, floundering in a pile of words, until . . . today.

In an odd moment early this morning, I found my word.  I happened to be walking through a snow-covered field at 7:45am.  It was a quiet moment.  The snow had settled, the morning had no wind, and the hour was too early for any traffic. The sun was peeking over a ridge of barren trees and a lonely bird swooned overhead.  It was a picturesque moment, an outdoor winter splendor.

A Crazy-Funny Winter Moment

A Crazy-Funny Winter Moment

Regardless of the extent of the beauty before me, my attitude was not following in kind.  My feet were cold, my shoes were wet.  The 6+ inches of snow buried the trail for my walk, and each step felt like I was trudging through cement moments before it solidified. My iPod blared out all the wrong music, but with a temperature below zero, I wasn’t about to remove my gloves to change it.  And the struggle in walking through the mounds of snow was causing me to be what I thought was late for my eventual rendezvous with my family – who were all comfortably inside about two miles away.

In that moment, at that time, just as my frustrations were nearly getting the best of me, it happened.  After nearly fifty days and after some interesting thinking on my part, I found that one word that I could hang my hat on for the rest of 2015.  As a matter of course, the one word is actually two, but its essence fits the bill.

So for 2015, I am going with crazy-funny.

For good or for bad, I have a tendency towards the serious side of things.  No doubt, I often see the world as having many challenges and problems.  And I know, deep in my heart,  that I must do all I can to help solve and resolve issues that press at all humans.  I must focus on the greater good at all times, lending all of my talents and treasures to such. It is easy to know that I all should do so.  But it is difficult to follow through with that focus for all of us. –  always.

That’s where my word crazy-funny works for me.

As I seek the greater good, I can see that it is important to laugh – laugh at myself, at life, at the crazy-funny situations that happen each moment.  This morning, I had chosen to walk to my destination through that snow-covered field.  I should have known that the entire experience was going to be nothing more than a crazy-funny circumstance and have expected nothing more.

Once I started to laugh at the strange pickle I was in, (wading through piles of snow with an attitude that was creating a huge weight around my neck), my trek became my pleasure.  It was a classic crazy-funny moment.  It just depended on how I looked at it.  Seeing it as crazy-funny made it so.  Still the same amount of snow, still the same distance, still the same challenges with walking, but it was all different because of the way I interpreted it.

I am hoping that my word choice will allow me  – and force me – to look at my 2015 with a truly different vision. Here’s hoping that I can hold onto the crazy-funny year ahead of me!











A Few Words / Lots of Photos

I have been blogging for a little more than a year – and usually I find a photo that, for me, generates 1000 words.  I am stepping outside of my box a little. Following are five videos – of varying length – with lots of photos, a little music, and very few words. Not sure why I have changed the format for this post, but I hope –  for those visiting my blog –  that one photo, one minute, one moment generates many, many thoughts, ideas, words. (Please note:  This attempt is my first in terms of using video.  All suggestions would be welcome!)

The Music . . .

Barry, John. (1986). Out of Africa: Soundtrack from the Motion Picture. N.L.: Geffen Records.

Carpenter, Richard. (2004). Karen’s Theme. On Carpenters Gold 35th Anniversary Edition. N.L.: A & M Records

The Cranberries. (1998). Dreams. On You’ve Got Mail (Music from the Motion Picture). N.L.: Atlantic Recording Corporation.

Durante, Jimmy.  (1998) You Made Me Love You. On You’ve Got Mail (Music from the Motion Picture). N.L.: Atlantic Recording Corporation.

The Philadelphia Orchestra & Normady, E. (2001). Clare de lune. On Ocean’s Eleven (Music from the Motion Picture).  N.L.: Warner Bros. Records Inc.

The Pearl Harbor Firefighters

WOW.  I look at this picture and am speechless.  WOW.  There are certainly a thousand words in me that describe what I am thinking, feeling, seeing when looking at this photo, but the first word coming to my mind is . . . WOW.

WOW.  The sirens must have been blaring . . . fires roaring . . . death and destruction surrounding all. For all I know bombs were still falling.    The sky above looks to be full of hazy smoke, most likely residual from the deadly attack.

Though the three faces that I can see look intent, it is the hands of all the women that truly show intensity.  All fingers holding onto a 1941 fire hose with all the power they found deep within themselves.  Side by side each hand forming a chain of strength enabling the women to hold on . . . tight . . . knowing that their success could save lives.  WOW.

And the courage of these women.  Their ‘caution to the wind’ actions – working to save the lives of others while their own lives could have been in danger – shows courage.  Their fight to contain a stronghold on a monster hose knowing quite possibly that their physical strength only existed due to their number – shows courage.   Their desire to help those in distress – placing their own needs second – shows courage.  I often wonder what my response would be . . . only hoping that I would be a person capable of fighting fires.

Their faces are mesmerizing.  Their eyes seem to be willing the stream of water to reach its destination.   Their jaws are rigid with determination, desperation.  And though the ground below their feet appears to be slippery and unstable, their legs are planted firmly, muscularly on the dock, no trembling or quivering . . . hoping against hope to end some type of eminent suffering . . . to bring some type of calm to the firestorm. WOW.

Within twenty-four hours, President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed the nation telling all that December 7th, 1941 would be “a date which [would] live in infamy.”  2,401 Americans were killed.  1,282 were wounded.  188 U.S. aircrafts were destroyed.  Family members, friends, colleagues, co-workers, and buddies – all walks of life were among those who perished.

Though I was not alive, I am sure that the United States stood still on that day . . . at that time . . . at that moment.  And although there is plenty of movement in the photograph, to me it renders an eerie, chilling stillness.  It is a quiet portrait, wordless.  The women are frozen in time, perched on the edge of the harbor, working with dazzling silent commitment.

WOW. I stare at this image and my mind wanders to what may have happened in the frames before this shot or what may have happened in the frames after it.  How did these women assemble?  Who called them to this duty?  Why them?  What was the chatter among them?  What were their skills . . . their strengths?

For some reason, after a good length of gazing at it, I want to know their names.  Who are they?  Where are they now?  What was their connection to this particular moment other than being in Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941?  What doesn’t this photograph tell me about them?

So often as tragedy strikes, the sharing of detail is too difficult.  Sometimes, it is only through pictures – like this one – that those of us on the outside catch a glimpse of what those folks on the inside experienced.  The United States may be blessed to have this piece of history as documentation of the attack on Pearl Harbor – for part of infamy is remembering a moment such as this, for better or for worse.

Interestingly, the composition of the Pearl Harbor firefighters reminds me of another popular photograph: Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima.  A Pulitzer Prize winning photo taken by Joe Rosenthal in 1945 during the Battle of Iwo Jima, it depicts six United States soldiers raising the stars and stripes in victory on Mount Suribachi.

The two photos were taken less than four years apart – one in agony and one in victory.  Both capture heroic actions – one on the part of a group of young women and the other a group of young men.  Each photo defines what I consider to be patriotism . . . our drive to protect freedom, our concern for each other, and our common goals as a nation.  Today – both photos are inspirational: they are true commentaries on the American spirit.

Though I was a very young child at the time, I have often heard, studied and can recall the words of President John F. Kennedy via his inaugural address in 1961 – a mere twenty years after the attack on Pearl Harbor:  “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”   These words often give me guidance as I work through the challenges of daily life.

As the challenges unfolded on December 7th, 1941, I can’t imagine that the women in the photograph had any time to ask themselves or anybody else what they should do. No time for conversations or debate. Rather, I have a feeling that some type of instinct drove them to the precipice of the harbor, directed them to find a way to battle the torrent blazes around them, provided them with the courage to persist, and encouraged them to stand firm in their attempt regardless of the horrific circumstances of the day.

I just thank my fifty lucky stars for what these women did for their and my country.