Monday, January 3, 2011

Un Bon Mot

The fabulous Leanne, at From Chaos Comes Happiness, chooses a new inspirational word each year to guide and encourage her journey. This year, she has chosen believe: "focusing on Believe . . . believing in the things that are important. Believing in the dreams. Believing in today. Believing in tomorrow. Believing in You. Believing in Me." A beautiful word, full of so much potential!

And then she asks: "... what Word will lead you in 2011"?

Well ... I hadn't quite thought about it before this! But truly, in one moment there was utter clarity. My word was given to me without my having to seek or contemplate or debate. It was there, waiting for me.

I used to be the goal-oriented kinda girl who made resolutions every year. One year I decided I'd waited long enough and wanted to study Italian; I loved it, even though I can't remember most of it since I didn't even finish a year of it. But I did it! Having also studied French for more than 10 years, Latin for 2, Russian for 1, and learning to recognize Hebrew letters and sound them out, I am a tremendous fan of learning languages. I would like to refresh my French, really learn Italian, and learn Yiddish -- one of the most colorful and distinctive languages there is! Maybe some day there will be opportunities and time.

Another year, I vowed to read one book each week ... and I did it. I didn't read short paperbacks, either; I read an 800-page Harry Potter book and great American novels (literally!) and biographies and a book about languages on the verge of extinction, for a total of more than 15,000 pages. Now I get so caught up in work and errands and chores and writing and whatnot that I am embarrassed to admit that it's been a long, long time since I've read as much as I'd like to. (And considering that I have a degree in English Language and Literature, I really do like to read!) When I finished Rhoda Janzen's Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, it was only the second book I've completed in about a year. I've started many, but just couldn't quite see them through.

You see, "real life" has been rearing its ugly little head since 2005, with my 18+ year marriage ending, several of my dearest loved ones being seriously ill, having gone to work .... Being a stay-at-home mom who worked on school auctions, who entered and won numerous cooking contests, and who had control of her life is just a figment of my increasingly feeble memory now.

And so, my resolution became the same each year: survive. That's all I asked of the universe. Make it through the year reasonably intact, with loved ones still here, no bankruptcy or destitution, no creditors hounding me, no legal actions, no injuries ... just endure and try to keep my home, my car and my sense of humor. Don't make things any worse, 'cause I learned that just when you thought they couldn't get worse they would. And for several years, I've managed to keep that resolution while always hoping for more.

This past year, Jeremy earned his G.E.D. and even a verbose chickie like myself can't begin to express my pride!!! He has overcome more challenges than anyone who's almost 20 should ever have had to face. I also found Tom, just when I'd started contemplating whether I would live the rest of my life alone and have to figure out how to do so, sociable being that I am. 2010 was pretty good to me, overall, despite the normal burps and hiccups of life. I survived, and even exceeded that lowest of low expectations.

And so, where do I want to go in 2011? What do I want to accomplish or achieve or aspire to? What word will guide and encourage me through my own journey, as "believe" will do for Leanne???


1. to supply with nourishment
2. educate
3. to further the development of : foster

I am, at my core, a nurturer. Jeremy tells me all the time that I should have been a social worker and get paid to be the one that people talk to, the one who listens. People tell me things with no thought to boundaries or social niceties; I am often astounded at how they bare their souls to me, sometimes seeking advice and sometimes seeking just a kind heart to unburden themselves to. I'm not quite sure what they get for their investment, but they seem to feel they've found a genuine confidante. I do my very best to take care of them, and to share of whatever wisdom I may have garnered from my life experiences. Why else have those experiences, after all, if not to help someone else in similar circumstances???

Now, when we review the first of the official definitions from Merriam-Webster we all have to laugh -- of course I nurture people with nourishment! I feed people, whether it's dinner or birthday cake or cookies or chicken soup or accommodations of their special (religious- or health-oriented) diets or whatever. A friend of former Gourmet editor Ruth Reichl once said: "Cooking for people is giving them a piece of yourself." I give my heart to people when I nurture them with my cooking. But I try to nurture both through sustenance and also through genuine caring, encouragement, support, positive attitude, friendliness ....

I also try to educate, especially through this blog. Whether I teach you how to cook something wonderful, or show you a new food that you'd never heard of before, I hope that you learn from me. While my primary goals are to build community and to bond over food, albeit virtually, I also want you to take something useful and helpful away with you after you've read my day's shpiel.

But mostly, 2011 is a year in which I need to focus on the third definition of "nurture" -- furthering development. Whether it's encouraging a friend, growing a garden, supporting a loved one, helping causes that are near to my heart, working towards a goal, or -- most radical notion of all, admittedly! -- taking care of myself.

Perhaps, rather than grazing at my desk every day, I'll punch out and take 20 minutes to sit and eat a proper lunch. I've taken to walking a mile home, when the charming Michigan winter isn't too unbearable, if my bus doesn't meet its connection after work; it's a nice way to decompress a bit at the end of the day. I'm also looking very forward to warmer weather when I can walk downtown to the Farmers' Market on Saturdays.

I'd like to go to the Detroit Institute of Arts, the University of Michigan Museum of Art, and to the Toledo Museum of Art, as well as to smaller galleries and exhibits, on a more regular basis. I'd like to surround myself with the beauty and fragrance of flowers; that would be expensive every Shabbat, but maybe make a point of it every few Friday evenings for particularly special dinners ...?

I'll try to nurture my health, too, although I do some exercise and I already eat lots of fruits and vegetables and whole grains. I have to admit, hanging my head in shame, that when I had my mammogram in December it had been at least 2 years (closer to 3 and possibly 4, really) since my last one. Although breast cancer doesn't run in my family at all, waiting for the results put the literal fear of God into me about being more conscientious and not letting daily life and others' needs get in the way of my medical care. (I passed inspection, by the way ... whew!)

And what about spirituality??? I like attending the end of services at the synagogue (it's mostly in Hebrew, but the sermons are valuable and given in English), and especially staying for the kiddush ([KID-ish] = lunch) where I can schmooze and socialize with my friends, which I find restorative. I should do that more ... I haven't done it for ages. I should read a bit each night, and maybe even just sit and stare into space while letting my mind run free rather than thinking about impending tasks and chores. I need to nurture all aspects of myself, including my dreams.

Un bon mot is French, meaning "a good word." (I can pronounce it with quite a good accent, but am incapable of figuring out how to note it phonetically; Merriam-Webster isn't so hot at it either, unfortunately, or I'd just copy and paste its attempt.) Nurture is un bon mot -- a good word -- and it is a noble concept. May I focus upon it and take care of myself when I feel stressed or depleted or put upon or subjected to too many demands. May I remember to nurture people, animals, ideas, projects, tomatoes, and also myself. If I don't nurture myself, after all, then how can I possibly have anything left for nurturing anyone or anything else ...?


Robin said...

I must say that I was relieved to see that some of this nurturing was going towards YOUR spirit. I read your word and sighed inwardly and thought "uh oh." She already does that 24/7. What is she thinking???? It was a relief to keep reading and see that nurturing your own soul and cultivating the wonderful person that is Mary, instead of focusing on everyone else, is a big part of the plan for 2011. With that in mind, I can get behind your theme word of NURTURE. I read Leanne's post, too. I am still pondering my word. Right now the best I can come up with is PERSEVERE, but that sure sounds tough. I was hoping for something better. Another blogger friend posted something using the word THRIVE as her motivation for 2011. She isn't one of Lianne's followers, but I do like the sound of that one better. I think I can get behind THRIVE. At least I want to get behind THRIVE. I am still limping after being dropkicked and feel a bit bloodied and worse for the wear. I will let you know when I settle on a word. And I am open to suggestions.

Unknown said...

What a great word you've chosen, and from what you said, it's the perfect one for you. It sounds as if you were able to really open up and release some of the thoughts and feelings you've had hidden for awhile. I wish you the best of luck as you seek to obtain your goal, and have faith that you WILL succeed.

Unknown said...

I think that's a perfect word for you to start 2011 off with. At least from what I know of you through your blog. What a great way to search your sole too...gonna have to figure out what my word will be!!

Rachel (Diary of a Recovering Chocoholic) said...

I think you've found the perfect word! Best of luck on keeping it in mind and following through!

Karen Harris said...

And I am just vowing to clean out my fridge! Well said Mary and no doubt you will achieve. Best of luck with all your goals in 2011.

Bibi @ Bibi's Culinary Journey said...

What a great idea to pick a word to be an inspiration for the upcoming year.

Happy New Year!

Cranberry Morning said...

I can see that nurture would be exactly the right word for you to focus on, Mary. It's easy to tell that you are a nurturer by nature, through reading your blog in 2010. I look forward to reading about your life in 2011. You're a joy.

Leanne said...

MARY MARY MARY! I'm consistantly NURTURED and inspired and motivated and educated and enlightened by YOU! I thank you for not only joining my "Word of the Year" quest, but for mentioning it here (I am humbled...)

I must also tell you that I have learned so much about you through this post - and I admire the strength and courage you have in life. So good, dear. So good.

I agreed with Robin's comment - dear, you nurture all the time here! It's a perfect word for you, and I look forward to great things in 2011 from my very favorite food floozie! Happy New Year my dear friend!

Unknown said...

Hi there,Im your newest follower , I found you on making friends Monday blog hop. Id love if you could come by and follow me back

Kiersten @ Oh My Veggies said...

Your blog is so cute--the name alone is just perfect. :) I'm a new follower from Making Friends Monday. I would love it if you'd follow me back!

Katina said...

What a perfect word! Best wishes for 2011 you are well on your way sista!

Karen Mortensen said...

I love this idea. I am going to steal it. Is that okay?

Miriam said...

You're a beautiful person Mary and I'm so glad that I get to be your friend, even if it's only through blogging. It sounds like you have a fabulous year ahead of you :). Best wishes from Miriam@Meatless Meals For Meat Eaters

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