Nonetheless, Embracing 52 and My 3 Words

I am starting this post, nestled up comfortably on the couch, during the weekend leading up to my 52nd birthday. I’m kind of excited, actually, for this birthday and year. This wasn’t quite true for my birthday in 2018. As a milestone year, turning 50 had a lot of pressure attached to it. Just like there were a lot of expectations from society that I would go to my senior prom or be married by 30 or have kids or spend my adult years living in a Southeastern Michigan suburb, I felt a lot of pressure to ‘do’ 50 a certain way with bucket list accomplishments, cool travels and mainly, fun. 2018 sure wasn’t havin’ it that way for me, though. I wasn’t dealt the world’s worst hand, but 2018 was sure a tough one for me and I definitely wasn’t in a position to keep up with the Joneses. I am reminded, however, of a few things. While I didn’t go to my prom, I did go to the prom of my high school sweetheart who was a year older than me. I did get married, just at 36. We don’t have kids, but I sure claim quite a few nieces, nephews and students as mine. Granted, we don’t live in Southeast Michigan, but I sure do spend plenty of time there! With all of that said, life is in a different place this year and I am feeling hopeful about 52 in 2020.

As 2019 started, I re-sparked my use of a Three Word Mantra to help guide me through the year. In 2013, thanks to the wonderful role-modeling of Phillipa and her blog The Feisty Blue Gecko, I found the idea of 3 self-chosen words helping to guide my path throughout a given year to be a wonderful lens to look at my life through. Here are my words so far:

I have had a personal calendar since I was a kid with one of those 2 x 2 calendars that Hallmark used to give away. By college, a larger, 5 x 7 calendar, that Mom picked up from work, replaced the Hallmark calendar. In 1997, while working as a regional recruiter at the Chicago Peace Corps office, our awesome manager, Kim Mansaray, had a trainer from Priority Management spend a day training us on how to use their system (think an option to Franklin Planner). While setting a good foundation, the training didn’t really take for me that first year. However, it did ‘take’ the following year when the same trainer returned and since, I have been using a more advanced planner system than a calendar. The fact that I haven’t thoroughly embraced Google Calendars, is another story.

During 2019, I found that I was able to track my capering, sponging and crafting throughout the year pretty well on a monthly basis in my planner–weekly, not as diligently. It sure helps with reflecting on the year!

I crafted by publishing 29 blog posts at Searching for EMWA and another 18 at A Home for the Family Tree. I also found a new opportunity along my teaching path that has been challenging and rewarding in most unexpected ways. I sponged by wiping away plenty of the clutter and absorbing the challenges that came my way. Capering my way through the year, there was a fun birthday date at the Wndr Museum and a trip up to the UP with Terry; adventures with Recovery On Water that included having too much fun with the St. Patrick’s Day Sprint for ROW, racing, and ROW Camp in Northern Michigan; as well as good times with family and reconnects with old friends.

I wrapped up last year’s post, with this:

And the idea, is that with time spent focusing on my sponging and crafting and capering this year, I seek to feel a little lighter; frankly, a little more successful; a little healthier; and a little more ok with my life than I have been feeling.

Overall, I enter 2020 feeling that I accomplished these goals. More successful? Finding a new job that is a definitely a better fit. A little healthier? No new medical issues and learning to deal with the hypothyroidism definitely counts.  More ok with my life? Yep.

And so in that vein, I present my 5th year of creating a 3 word mantra:




In the spring, Recovery on Water (ROW) brought in a renowned Masters Rowing Coach, ‘Coach K’, Reba Knickerbocker, to speak to the team with a couple of talks about rowing, competition (the ‘C’ word), teamwork and being a female athlete. One of the takeaways from her talk was the idea of rather than trying to balance your life, instead trying to find ‘life harmony’. There are always going to be times when things in your life are louder and so the idea isn’t to drown those things out, but to find ways to make that a part of your symphony’s music. I want to search for ways to harmonize my life this year.

Earlier, I mentioned I wanted to ‘feel a little lighter’ in 2019, but I didn’t choose it as one of my words. However, this year it feels like an appropriate word to focus on. I want to lighten my load in a number of areas. I’m still learning how to live with the fatigue of hypothyroidism and I’ve had to come to the realization that I can’t do everything quite the same way I might have in the past. I want to embrace making choices that allow me to live a full life, but also give me time to breathe and recharge.

However, that isn’t the only way I want to use the word lighten. I also want to be conscious of what I need to lighten or illuminate my path–to make it clearer. My first experience embracing this word in 2020? At the Morton Arboretum’s Illumination Experience Saturday night.

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Very cool birthday treat!

My third word is revitalize. There are a number of areas with this one, but basically, I want to reclaim some things that I feel I have lost, dust some areas off, reconnect with old friends, and set some goals. What is important to me? What needs some work? All of those things fall under revitalization.

And finally, a lagniappe.

Living in New Orleans, I first heard the word lagniappe used. A lagniappe is something given as an extra gift or a bonus, like a baker’s dozen. On top of my 3 word mantra, my lagniappe is that I embrace turning 52 with some goal setting. In particular, I want to write 52 blog posts, read 52 books, and connect with 52 friends/family members.

Time to get to work!





11 thoughts on “Nonetheless, Embracing 52 and My 3 Words

  1. Happy New Year, JoAnn. Although I don’t always comment, I find your posts very inspiring. I am glad you are embracing 52 and wish you a very happy birthday. I hope I am one of the 52 friends and family you catch up with this year! XOX


  2. I love your choices, and delighted hat he 3 word mantra is working well for you too. I love the idea of capering – what a great way to live 2019. I wish you a harmonious, light and vitalised 2020.

    And great to lear something new – I’ve never heard of lagniappe- what a wonderful word and idea.

    Wishing you a fabulous 52nd birthday, and many adventures through all your 52s ✨✨

    Philippa 🦎😊💕


  3. Love the throw back pics and the arboretum pictures as well —beautiful!!! Have a super 52nd birthday!!!!! I have never figured out a good three word mantra…thinking that
    f*** this sh** is not really positive or life affirming. 😳


  4. Pingback: Weekly Round-Up | Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer

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