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What I DON’T Know About my Word of the Year

January 2, 2020
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Choosing a word is not new to me. Some years, my friends and I deliberate for weeks, trying to find the most appropriate guiding word for the new year. We offer suggestions, look at lists, and think long and hard about what word embraces our moods, hopes, and visions.

This year, I took a different approach.

I found a word that popped from a long list of words. I didn’t think about it. I didn’t ponder or gauge or assess the definition it might or might not deliver throughout the year.

Sometimes, going with our gut and following our intuition provides powerful and significant meaning—more meaning, perhaps, than any analysis could provide.

My word is harmony. I don’t know why. I don’t know if it will relate to my work or my family or my health or music or if I should actively be seeking more harmony in my life. But I’ll find out. When we choose to embrace the unknown and follow some sixth sense the universe sends our way, magic can happen.

Do one of these words pop for you?

Be                                Seek                            Bliss                            Grow

Joy                               Rise                             Survive                        Intuition

Thrive                          Bounce                        Peace                          Value

Gratitude                    Meditate                     Intention                     Love

Appreciate                  Harmony                     Shine                           Balance

Connect                       Bold                             Wander                       Imagination

Dazzle                         Clarity                          Organize                     Strong

Faith                            Adventure                   Breathe                       Create

 

Don’t think about it—just go for it. A guiding word for the year can deliver magic.

I’m ready, you?

 

 

 

 

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Favorites from 2019…

December 11, 2019

Books, books, books: Merry, Happy Everything! Below are a few of my favorites books of the year (some were published before 2019- it just took me until now to read them). They are in no particular order.

Young Adult

Shout: Laurie Halse Anderson

Poet X: Elizabeth Acevedo

Middle Grade

     -The War That Saved My Life: Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

     -To Night Owl From Dogfish: Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer

     -Eventown: Corey Ann Haydu

     -Benefits of Being and Octopus: Ann Braden

Adult Fiction

     -The Water Dancer: Ta-Nehisi Coates

     -Circe: Madeline Miller

     -The Great Alone: Kristin Hannah

     -The Friend: Sigrid Nunez

     -The Nickel Boys: Colson Whitehead

     -A Gentleman in Moscow: Amor Towles

Non-fiction and Memoir

     -The Honey Bus: Meredith May

     -The Distance Between Us: A Memoir: Reyna Grande

     -The New Jim Crow: Michelle Alexander

book page

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5 Parallels Between the Reasons to Vote and the Reasons to Write

November 6, 2019

Yes! Oh No! After an election, voters may feel a tirade of emotions, including elation, anger, sadness, joy, or disgust. Much like writers careening through their journeys, voters ride an emotional roller coaster every two to four years. And although the darker moments can be draining, neither the voter nor the writer should quit. Ever.

A vote in the United States is exactly what defines our country. Freedom. The right to express oneself was hard-earned—for Blacks, for women, and for the white men escaping the king’s laws during the dawn of our democracy. Voting is a privilege and a responsibility, but it’s more than that. Voting is voice.

A writer, too, has voice. Words on the page are executed, hopefully, with passion and organization. Not every writing piece will be well received. Not every candidate will win. Rejection and losing stink. But it is what makes a writer, a person, and a country grow. After a devastating loss, there are two choices: to quit or to pick up the pieces and persevere. So goes it for a well-seasoned writer.

Below are five parallels between the reasons to vote and the reasons to write.

Reasons to Vote

  1. your vote is your voice—you do make a difference
  2. votes lead to policies that will affect your community
  3. it is your right and responsibility
  4. prevent fascism and corruption
  5. become empowered and heard

Reasons to Write

  1. your writing is your voice—you do make a difference
  2. writing leads to words that will affect your community
  3. it is your passion and your prayer
  4. prevent junk reads and fake news
  5. become empowered and heard

Non-action never wins.

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The Sky and the Page

May 29, 2019
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Photo by Ákos Szabó on Pexels.com

 

To escape annual May snowstorms (truth), I find ways to write and work away from home. Although it would be lovely to hop on a plane and head somewhere exotic, I usually settle for something a bit more realistic.

Like Nebraska.

This year, after I finished grading papers and wrapping up the semester, I found a small space to rent on a Mennonite organic popcorn farm. Who knew? But the cabin was the perfect size and place for a writer on retreat. In addition to a chair and a bed, I had a small desk and an outside picnic table perched under a tree filled with songbirds. The property came with two happy dogs, chickens, cows, a couple of old barns, and gracious hosts.

To break up the writing, I took long walks down dirt roads. Sky surrounded me in every direction, and it wasn’t hard to imagine pioneers plodding across the prairie in their covered wagons. Not much changes on the prairie.

Except the sky.

The sky in Nebraska was nothing short of spectacular, opening itself with outstretched arms. Birds welcomed the sun in the morning and sung it goodnight in the evening when the colors changed from dusty blue to violet black. The wind whipped across the grasslands. Throughout the day, clouds came and went, gathered and scattered. In the distance, lightning struck, and rain fell.

As I wrote, the sky became my metaphor for the page.

The morning skies ushered the sun, and my day began with hope. As my shoulders warmed, my writing worked. But later, I struggled for the correct word, the just-right sentence. Thoughts jammed inside my head like the clouds cramming together to block the sun.

I slammed my computer shut. The rain came. Finally, when the smell of sweet grass filled the air, a fresh idea, a different twist and take on the story, came to mind. My fingers flew across the keyboard as the shape of the sky transformed into something new, something breathtaking.

During my stay, the pattern of change repeated itself. When the rain arrived, or the sun seared, I took breaks. I played with crayons and read stories. I napped. When my thoughts struggled, I moved. I walked and ran and drove across the prairie, and eventually, new ideas appeared. Allowing myself space to stand back gave me and my work renewed life.

The Nebraskan sky spoke to me. I surrendered to its never-ending bursts and applied that to my work. I paid attention to the way the sky, my writing, and my life transformed throughout the day. Harmony. My work had its challenges, but like the sky, I had amazing moments, stretching far and wide.

Both beauty and words arrived.

 

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Road Trip Stories in the South

April 8, 2019

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Last week, I had a most excellent adventure. First, I met my oldest and closest friends in New Orleans and then road-tripped with my 88-year-old mom through the South. Both pieces were extraordinary.

My friends never disappoint. Sure, we’ve grown older; our legs more tired and our wrinkles much deeper. We’ve raised kids and dogs and worked and suffered. We’ve become strong, independent women who know a thing or two, and yet, have plenty to learn. We’re a complicated crew. Because of my gals, I’ve learned that relationships take effort. I’ve also learned, the best ones are worth the investment.

As lives change, friendships shift; but once together, my friends and I remember. We remember big hair, Bon Jovi, shoulder pads, banana bike seats, pool parties, and Schaeffer Light. Now, we roll eyes, remembering the jocks and the burn-outs, the teachers and the coaches. We remember laughing. We remember predators. We remember love. Mostly, we remember our stories. Together; eating and drinking and dancing like fools, we make more moments to remember. Stories.

After my friends, dispersed, Mom arrived. Because her grandma was a suffragist and taught her to demand social justice, Mom taught me the same. We headed for Montgomery where much of our nation’s horrific history is recorded. We sat with ghosts. We studied at the Legacy Center, listening to stories of incarceration, injustice, lynching, and death. As white women raised in America, like it or not, we’ve benefited from slavery’s dark legacy and the Jim Crow laws that followed. After many museums, we sat with ourselves; sorry and ashamed. Mom and I had long talks about racism, social injustice, and the history that got us here. We committed ourselves to listen better. Act more. And to speak about what we learned; sharing both the stories that were told and the stories that disappeared.

By the end of my adventure, I realized, not for the first time, how quickly life moves; how tragic and joyful it can be. In the time we are given, relationships and stories transform life, making it either better or worse.

Stories.

For me, I hope to create a life where I live a good story, I write a good story, and I listen to all the stories I can.

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Quotes (for me and maybe for you, too)

February 10, 2019
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As the light slowly begins to return to the Northern hemisphere, so does change. At least for me. For reasons I’ll write about soon, these quotes speak to me, and I hope, for you as well.

Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns.

–Anne Lamott

The root of the problem lies in the way we deal with change. Most of us feel soinsecure that we want to create a structure around us makes us feel safe and then wedon’t want it to change. Any change increases our uncertainty and our confusion andour inadequacy. And it frightens us

Think of how bizarre that is, because you are a part of nature. Look out there, and youshow me something out there that isn’t changing. The nature of things is that theychange, including us. Do you see how you’re in a losing strategy if you pit yourselfagainst change? See, it’s a losing game.

-Ram Dass

The road to something is the start of something.

–K. GiselleBasilwango

…Only we can create that change—with skills like cooperation, community, cohesion, collaboration—that will see us through this dark night of the planet’s soul. The roots of each word is “co”, meaning together. Only with others can we create a kind, flourishing world. However (and this is hard), it means banishing the idea that your outrage and effort alone can fix this. It can’t. Only together can we right the wrongs, heal what has been broken, and over come the obstacles ahead. Together.

-JenHofmann jen@jenniferhofmann.com

 

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What Rudolph Taught Me

December 15, 2018
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It seems as though Rudolph has been thrown off the sleigh. In current times, some folks cry for the cartoon to be banned, claiming that it’s filled with prejudice and insensitive behaviors. If Rudolph were written today, I might agree.

But it wasn’t.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeerwas written in 1939 and first hit television in 1964. The show should be appreciated in the contextual times it was written.

When I was little, Rudolph was my favorite Christmas show. I loved the bouncing bumble who scared me and then endeared me. I loved the land of misfit toys. I loved the tiny cozy cabin and the terrible storm. I loved the jingle of Santa’s sleigh as he crossed the moon’s path.

But mostly, I loved Rudolph.

The heart of the story focuses on a character who doesn’t fit in, because he’s different. He’s teased and taunted and ridiculed because of his nose, but also, because he’s an independent thinker who believes in a greater truth than what’s been told. It’s a hero’s journey of perseverance and self-discovery. It’s a story about prejudice. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer helped me understand that being different can and should be championed. Rudolph resonated with me because even at a young age, I understood the inequity and unfairness in the world. Without realizing it, at age four, I became a champion of social justice.

We all have hidden and not so hidden obstacles to overcome. Some folks have harder lots than others. In a world that desperately needs more compassion and understanding, it’s important to fight for freedom for all. At least, that’s what Rudolph taught me.