jennifer hanigan

a pinch of this and a dollop of that

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Drum Roll Please

As many of my readers know, I abandoned New Year’s resolutions years ago, and began to take up themes for each year instead.  But as this year’s end crept closer I began to worry that 2017 would be themeless.  Was I too content?  Not introspective enough?  Have I become too busy or hard-hearted? Why couldn’t I think of something I wanted to work on, some way to improve?

Then I discussed it with my closest friend.  Aren’t good friends amazing?  They know all about the icky parts of our personalities, and they love us anyway.  Mine reminded me that I’ve expressed frustration with my own tumultuous emotions (yes, I did just say that I have emotions about having emotions) and how to deal with them.

Now, I’ve been annoyed (another emotion…there are so many of them) with our societal expectation that we should all be hard and tough. I don’t think being sensitive is a bad thing.  You’ve probably seen the meme going around about kids being called cabbages instead of sissies if they cry?  “Don’t be such a cabbage!” it says, trying to be a positive force for gender equality.  This meme bugs me (is that an emotion?).  How about we let kids cry when they’re hurt or upset, and stop scolding them for how they feel?  How about we teach them to cope with and work with emotions rather than suppress them?  I often wonder if society could be greatly improved in this way.

And perhaps the problem with my own emotions is that I was never taught how to cope with them, or use them for some kind of good; rather I was taught to “be a brick wall” when people are hurtful, hide my feelings, positive and negative, and that’s not something I’ve ever excelled at.  I can try the holding-in thing, but oh brother, that never ends well!  There’s got to be another way.

So that brings us to the coming year’s theme: Practicing Peace. peace

I’m not sure how this will work out.  I’m not sure how I’ll learn or what I’ll learn.  I’m not sure how much of it I’ll be comfortable sharing here. I have no idea if I’ll succeed or fail.

But that’s why it’s a practice, right?

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2016 in Review

You might have wondered about the giant gap in posts between August and last night, and you also might have wondered whether my Year of Being Fearless worked.  No?  Well, I’m gonna tell you anyway!

I’m Type A to begin with, and I’ve been taught to Quantify All The Things, so gauging success at my annual theme is rough and uncomfortable.  But here’s what I know:

This year I sang–by myself, a capella–the National Anthem at two minor league baseball games. I asked for a raise. I flew to California to visit a friend I’ve never met. I bought a fringed skirt that I’m fairly certain was intended for women half my age, and I wear it at least once a week. I bought a new battery for my car and changed it myself. I changed out my bike’s tires, too.   I took a self defense class. I told a guy who was into me to get lost. I asked a really incredible guy out to dinner–and since I’m still not sure if he realized it was a date, I’m probably going to have to do it again! I got all political up in peeps’ Facebook feeds. I built the biggest dollhouse I’ve ever seen because, you know, I had woodshop once in the 8th grade. I went camping without planning a single thing, just trusted a friend and joined her (normally I plan my trips in binders with divided tabs).


I find my new bathroom inspiring.

And that gap? That’s because I convinced my oldest friend to leave our respective homes and get an apartment together.  I’d lived in my house for nine years, and I hate change, but my kids were grown and gone and it was time.  To make it happen, I had to get rid of two thirds of my belongings-something I found quite frightening. And let’s not talk about the hard deadline that an end-of-tenancy letter gives you.

So, a year later, where am I at?  This journey to freedom clearly isn’t over.  Whatever 2017’s theme will be (and I have no idea), hopefully it’ll be grounded on the truths I’ve learned here in 2016.

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And a Happier New Year

It’s that time of year again.  You know-the week between Christmas and New Year’s we’re supposed to spend contemplating our worst bits and developing a plan to attack them?  If you believe your Facebook news feed, this plan is inevitably a diet/exercise/weight loss challenge.  People, 2016 was rotten enough, let’s not set 2017 on a path to follow it.  We know that intentional weight loss is never a long-term solution, and can cause great harm.  Instead of temporary weight loss and continuing self-hate, here are 8 things you might want to gain in the new year:

A New Skill:  Always wanted to learn piano or saxophone?  How about a foreign language?  Physics? Gourmet or ethnic cooking?  Bowling?  A new year is a new beginning, and you can seize the opportunity.  My new skill for 2016 was woodworking, and I highly recommend it despite the blisters, scrapes, and bruises I’m now sporting.


I built this with surprisingly little help!  I’m very proud. And no, I won’t make you one 😛

New Friends:  Making friends is not easy, at least not for everyone.  If you, like me, have ever found yourself googling ‘how to make a friend’, make this your year.  A tip I recently received (not from Google because that stuff wasn’t very helpful): People like you. Really.  They aren’t hanging out around you out of pity.  Oh, and ask them questions.

Old Friends:  Okay, so you can’t really ‘make’ old friends, but you can make them a priority.  That person you want to see more of but never do?  Make it happen. During my Year of Intention, I set a weekly walking date with one friend; years later we’re still at it!  The conversations range from trivial to deep, and I hate it when we miss a week.

Cha-Ching:  Been meaning to open a savings account? Set up that Etsy shop? Update your 401k contributions?  You’ve got financial desires; pick a goal, make a plan, and own that crap. This year I set up a savings account at a bank wholly unconnected to my checking account, and I declined the debit card.  If I want to take money out, I have to show up when there are humans there, go inside, and fill out paperwork. I’ve yet to make a withdrawal.  Sure, that can make deposits equally as difficult, but it’s a good place to stash miscellaneous checks that I’d have to run to one bank or another anyway.

A Degree:  I’m sure I didn’t know, when I gave up on college over a decade ago, that I only had two classes left. I’m sure, because if I’d known, I’d have finished, right?  *Sigh* When I emailed the counselors a couple years ago to find out, it was a shock!  I finished just over a year ago, and it was a lovely gift to myself.  Do you have a partially finished program of study sitting somewhere?  Check out your options.  Need to get your GED, or been longing for that certificate?  At least get the scoop on programs, costs, and financial aid options.  Gotta start somewhere.

Insight:  We’re so busy these days it’s easy to shuffle from the morning alarm until it’s past time to collapse into bed without a single pause. When do we ponder the meaning of life?  Maybe this is the year you should start journaling, or working through the Bible, or a book/workbook on feelings, or seeing a counselor. Or join a support group or a book club.  Time to stop and ponder things, that’s what we’re after.


This is a halfway shot, because while I managed to make the climb in super cold temps, my phone was not so happy and shut down.

Victory:  I love conquering things. Okay, I love having conquered things.  The process isn’t always so fun.  Whether it’s climbing a mountain or finishing a particularly tough ride or race, or mastering a game or skill, whatever it is you want to win at, keep chipping away at it.  I finally conquered the local mountain hike this year, and have been back up several times. It always feels victorious (especially that 6 degree day in 10 inches of snow!).

A New You:  If you must, absolutely must, focus on your body, please focus on the positive.  Are you getting enough sleep, enough food, enough vitamins?  I know it can be hard to find good medical care–oh boy, do I know–but are you taking care of your medical needs? When’s the last time you took a candlelit bath?  Had a pedicure?  If you’ve got fitness goals, are they the positive kind, like ‘work up to lifting X lbs’ or ‘2 minute planks’ or ‘bike X miles’?  How about how you talk to your body?  Are you admiring it and thanking it for what it does for you each day, or is the conversation an unhappy one?  This can be changed, and you and your body will be better for it.

Here’s to a Happier New Year!