Reviewing 2015: A Lot to NOTICE

I usually can fit a year’s worth of observations and reflections into one journal. Last year, however, I needed all of these:

Three journals for 2015

Three journals for 2015

The word I chose as a theme for 2015 was NOTICE. Apparently, there was a lot to notice.

This next week I will be re-reading all three journals. I also have a pile of other reading to do.

2015 letters from friends and family

2015 letters from friends and family –the email inbox contains more

I want to NOTICE not just in the moment but also across the span of a year. I love spending the week after Christmas in reflection. You know where I’ll be, don’t you?

Yes, that’s right. I’m sitting here in the red chair now, just being. I’m thinking about a word for next year. I’m looking for CONNECTION (my word for 2014) and trying to NOTICE in the present the theme that may be trying to break into my life from the past. I’m listening, also, for a call from the future.

Since I have a lot of reading, meditating, and writing to do, I’ll sign off here.

I’d be greatly honored and helped if you’d share any practices you do at the end or beginning of the year. Do you review the year in any way? Pick a theme word for the year (and if you do so, how do you decide on it)? If you already have one, I’d love to hear it. Or add a link if you’ve written about it.

Shirley Showalter


  1. Marian Beaman on December 30, 2015 at 10:04 pm

    How is it that I’m # 1 in line to comment here. Well, I’m at the computer and just finished my monthly practice of entering data on Quicken for our home/business expenses. Now it’s done for 2015.

    This year I’ve kept three journals: my gratitude journal which I write in daily, another journal kept in my bedroom for when I feel the need to rant and into which I tuck ticket stubs and other mementos, and a third journal recording thoughts about my memoir writing process (about 4-5 entries per month).

    I have decided on a theme word for this year, which I’ll unveil in my next blog post. Last year’s word was Advance. I probably need to do an inventory as you are doing and track my progress. Today I mentioned to Cliff (I thought casually) that we need to set goals for 2016. He blanched and looked like he wanted to turn tail and run. But then I said maybe he could draw pictures – ha!

    • Shirley Showalter on December 30, 2015 at 10:10 pm

      You are always welcome at the #1 spot, Marian. Thanks for starting us off. I love the idea of a gratitude journal balanced by a rant journal. 🙂

      Tell Cliff I want to see the pictures he draws for 2016. What a great way to ENVISION a year!

  2. Linda on December 31, 2015 at 11:12 am

    I’d like to know more about this one word for the year theme. How does this work? I think I’ve heard about that before, but don’t think I ever had it explained, or else I don’t remember it any more. Thanks!

    • Shirley Showalter on December 31, 2015 at 11:37 am

      Linda, it’s very easy and highly flexible. I’ll just explain my own process a bit more and invite others to add their suggestions. Thanks for the question.

      I first review the past by re-reading my 2015 journals, making note of highlights and lowlights. I observe myself following or not following my theme of last year NOTICE.

      Then I look ahead to what is calling me in the new year. What theme might help me focus? I look at calendar, and I read the letters from friends and family, noting their joys and concerns.

      I spend time alone and in prayer for past and future, while focusing in the present. I ask for a word.

      Sometimes more than one appears. But in the end, one has always emerged.

      Does that help?

  3. Bill Sanger on December 31, 2015 at 11:28 am

    I suppose my word for the new year would be “TAX”. Not a word most people want to hear. The reason I choose that word is that in December and January we begin reading tax law and preparing for testing in anticipation of the coming income tax season. I am a volunteer with AARP Income Tax Services and we prepare, free of charge, tax returns for certain groups of individuals. Last year I believe AARP prepared over 51,000 in Virginia and over 2 million in the US all done freely. I really enjoy doing this and enjoy meeting lots of new people.

    • Shirley Showalter on December 31, 2015 at 11:36 am

      Bill, you make me chuckle out loud. TAX as word of the year. Yes indeed!

      What a fantastic SERVICE you and others are providing. Studying the fine points of the law in order to help others fill out the dreaded forms. God love you.

      Blessings in the new year. Even after April 15. 🙂

      • Linda Rush on January 4, 2016 at 4:34 pm

        Bill made me chuckle out loud too, mainly because I am in the same process as he is. However, being newly retired, I am preparing to be a first-time volunteer for AARP Tax Aide Service; it sounds like he has done it before. I’ll have to ponder on if I want TAX to be my word for the year but probably not.

        • Shirley Showalter on January 4, 2016 at 6:00 pm

          Hi Linda. I’m glad you enjoyed Bill’s word and that you too are preparing to offer tax prep services to folks who can’t afford an accountant. What a wonderful gift and good way to keep your skills brushed up.

          If you pick a word for this year other than TAX, come back and let us know. I’ll be revealing my 2016 word on Wednesday.

  4. Laurie Buchanan on December 31, 2015 at 12:50 pm

    Shirley — The covers of your journals match your personality—VIBRANT! And I love knowing that you’re sitting in your RED chair.

    Like Marian, I’ll reveal my 2016 focus word in my next post. For me, a good portion of wrapping up a year involves looking at the current word (Flow) and what I’ve learned from it. And the “why” behind the focus word I’ve chosen for the coming year.

    More importantly, it’s a time when I offload any baggage (body, mind, spirit) I may have accumulated during the course of the year. I examine it carefully (again, looking at the “why” behind it), thank it for what it’s taught me, and then release it so I can hit the ground running in the new year.

    • Shirley Showalter on December 31, 2015 at 1:53 pm

      What a wonderful practice to add to the discussion of end-of-year rituals, Laurie. As always, you add wisdom and light.

      I hope Linda, above, reads your post because you offer two ideas I didn’t mention directly above.

      Can’t wait to read about your new word.

      And here’s to you and yours in the New Year. Clink!

  5. Dolores Nice-Siegenthaler on December 31, 2015 at 1:22 pm

    To find my word, I took a mini online retreat with Abbey of the Arts.

    My word for 2016 is: WRITE.

    I’ve also made a collage to point me in that direction. In my collage are bare feet dangling in water, and the vantage point is from under the water. Also is the building where I attended church for the first 18 years of my life, and a picture of my sister, Vivian, silouhetted, from the back, as she steps from a fence post on to a mountain (yes, it’s a fun, and not photo shopped, optical illusion) in Virginia.

    Happy New Year.

    • Carrie Ann Lahain on December 31, 2015 at 3:10 pm

      Thanks so much for the reference to Abbey of the Arts. I’ve just signed up for the Monk in the World (8 week) course. I’m working through the first lesson and I already feel how this material and insight might help me shape 2016.

      • Dolores Nice-Siegenthaler on December 31, 2015 at 3:36 pm

        Another Monk; glad to be connected in this way.

      • Shirley Showalter on December 31, 2015 at 4:19 pm

        I love when one reader helps/finds another! Write on!

    • Shirley Showalter on December 31, 2015 at 4:18 pm

      I wish WordPress allowed images in the comment block like Facebook does. I’d love to see your Collage, Dolores. It sounds like you are getting ready to write about a story deep in your heart.

      Thank you for adding the link to Abbey of the Arts. I was also happy to see you connect here to Carrie, another Monk.

      Write, write, write. I stand here cheering you on, knowing it will be hard work and also that you have everything you need inside you.

      Blessings in 2016.

      • Dolores Nice-Siegenthaler on December 31, 2015 at 7:26 pm

        I’ll post my collage on FAcebook tomorrow…New Years Day.

        I accept cheerleading relating to my writing. Thank you.

  6. Merril Smith on December 31, 2015 at 2:04 pm

    I love your words, and I like imagining you in your RED chair–which if you have finished reading comments and journals, then you’ve READ them. 🙂

    I have never chosen a word for the year, and I don’t really reflect upon the past year, or make resolutions, for that matter. I guess I reflect upon things at odd moments–or when I write blog posts.

    • Shirley Showalter on December 31, 2015 at 5:08 pm

      I have indeed READ them, Merril. I started at sunrise and am finishing at sunset. Appropriate, don’t you think? I’ve done a lot of reviewing. Walked four miles with Stuart and will possibly stay up tonight to “watch football” with family. Not sure if I’ll make it to midnight, however.

      You definitely reflect on things in your poetic blog posts. That would be another way to review the year. Have you ever gone back through the last 50 or so?

      Off to read your latest! Happy New Year!

  7. Carrie Ann Lahain on December 31, 2015 at 2:18 pm

    My word for 2016 is “Essentialism.” I became enamored with the concept over 2015 when my husband’s cancer (diagnosed in 2012) progressed to a point where it seemed like a speeding freight train heading straight for us and the long, happy life we’d planned together. I had to pare back and pare back to the bones of my professional and personal life. When Mike died on Nov 7th, everything kind of stopped and yet (if this makes sense) rushed in on me. Details. Details. Details. It will be two months on Jan 7th, and as sad as I remain, the “emergency” portion of this journey is winding down, and I’m now faced with being on my own for the first time since I was 15 years old. A widow at 46. Half of my self GONE. How do I even begin to process this? I figure that I’ll rebuild my world the same way I survived 2015…focusing on the essentials. Fitting together one meaningful, well-considered block at a time. I don’t know how much time I’ll get to enjoy here on earth, but I’d like to actually notice it as it passes. I’m hoping this focus on essentialism will help me learn to pay closer attention to the moments and hours gifted to me.

    • Shirley Showalter on December 31, 2015 at 5:22 pm

      Dear Carrie, your words make me want to reach through this screen and hug you. Such raw, recent loss. 2015 will always be tinged with back crepe.

      Your question,”How do I even begin to process this?” seems like the only question anyone in shock could ask.

      I love that you have found a word ESSENTIALISM to help carry you through: “I figure that I’ll rebuild my world the same way I survived 2015…focusing on the essentials.”

      Please know that you have a friend who cares at the other end of this blog. I have been very close to two other young (not yet 68 :-)) widows in the last two years. I’m learning a lot about the depth of suffering they are experiencing.

      I highly recommend Elaine Mansfield’s blog and book about the loss of her husband seven years ago. Elaine often comments here. She will understand in ways others can’t.

      Wishing you healing even in the midst of grief that never goes away.

  8. Sherrey Meyer on December 31, 2015 at 8:23 pm

    Shirley, it is pure joy to envision you in your red chair. And with three journals! I bought journals for 2016; and I’ve never before journaled. Yet in 2016 I have committed myself to journaling in three ways. First, I miss the gratitude journal I began I began keeping when I retired in 2006. For some reason I just stopped. I’ve not felt full of the Gifts of the Spirit since. So with tomorrow I begin anew.

    Second journal is a new experiment in a study of Scripture. I came across this system last week called “verse mapping,” and I am intrigued. Too much to explain here but that’s the second journal.

    And lastly number three is for my writing and me. For jotting what I’ve “noticed” during the day that might lead into a written piece, or perhaps it was just a meaningful something I spotted around our community.

    I am currently writing about my word for 2016, but I don’t mind sharing it with you and anyone who reads the comments. I have chosen INTENTIONAL. Like our friend, Laurie, above, at the end of this year, I desperately needed to let go of several things, hurtful family things I thought “belonged” to someone else’s actions. But in hindsight I saw otherwise. So I sat and pondered those incidents and actions involved and realized that I too had been part and parcel to the hurts. Yet I was the only one who could let go of my baggage and move forward in some way to heal this family. In realizing this, I also realized that in being intentional in our actions, we can likely avoid hurtful words and actions from seeking air and coming into being. Thus, the birth of my word for 2016. It will also apply beautifully to something new I’m trying but that’s best left as a surprise for my post next week. 🙂

    • Shirley Showalter on December 31, 2015 at 8:48 pm

      Have fun keeping track of all three journals, Sherrey. 🙂

      I mean that. Journal writing especially should be for one’s own self and should be allowed to change as our needs change. Remember the diary we all wanted with a lock on it?

      I see you as very INTENTIONAL always, but especially so in 2016. So glad you have the courage to let go of baggage and to own your part in the hurt.

      Can’t wait to see your surprise!

  9. DoraDueck on January 1, 2016 at 9:45 pm

    Your post inspired me yesterday, Shirley, to read/look through my 2015 journal (I wasn’t able to re-read everything but certainly got the sense of the year past) and reflect and also consider a word for 2016. I’ve only done that once or twice before, but this seemed a good prompt to do so again. So thank you! My 2016 word is “threshold” because we are planning some significant changes this year (husband retiring, selling house, etc.) and somehow that word captures where I will be perched for much of it, in-between, both leaving and entering, both ending and beginning, both fear and anticipation. Scary and exciting.

    • Shirley Showalter on January 1, 2016 at 9:52 pm

      Any inspiration that these posts engender is a gift back to me, Dora. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      Threshold seems like the perfect word for the liminal spaces you describe. I like the fact that you see yourself as perching rather than standing.

      May surprisingly beautiful vistas await you while you perch and as you enter a new year and a new stage of life.

  10. Marylin Warner on January 2, 2016 at 12:56 am

    This post–and the comments–really have me thinking, Shirley. I have reread my journal entries from 2015, and my theme of Gratitude made me grateful again as I relived the moments.
    I’m still struggling to find my word for 2016.

    • Shirley Showalter on January 2, 2016 at 10:19 am

      I’m thinking too, Marylin, and I wonder if the difficulty in choosing a new word might be that the old one was so powerful?

      Might you consider keeping GRATITUDE because it still names what you most want and need to be in this year?

      Just a thought from outside.

      I’m not yet sure about my own, and I know that I want to keep on NOTICE-ing. That word kept popping up in my journal throughout the year.

  11. Richard Gilbert on January 2, 2016 at 10:06 am

    Neat, Shirley. My word for 2016 is gratitude. I want to think of things I’m grateful for before getting out of bed each morning.

    • Shirley Showalter on January 2, 2016 at 10:28 am

      Such a simple practice, yet not as easy to do as we often think. Meditators have a mantra: rise, pee, meditate.

      You can reverse the order, and if you forget, you get a second chance when you remember the mantra. 🙂

      Barbara Ehrenrich challenges us to go beyond gratitude. Or expand its meaning.

  12. Gwen Stamm on January 2, 2016 at 12:45 pm

    Your practice of reviewing the past year’s journals and the new word that you allow to emerge for the new year has got me thinking and reflecting, and reading all the comments here, too, if only in this brief time!

    Often the last couple of months of each year, this one being no exception, has me spinning, and it takes some time to quiet myself, relax, and reflect a bit before hitting the ground running again.

    I have a large assignment in front of me in the next while (not sure how long it will take) of a poetry/art book, coming up with calligraphy and illustrations to reflect that poetry. Right now it feels rather daunting, as “blank canvases” often can! What marks on paper to begin with? What will be essential and what will not be, what remains and what goes, while working on this? And perhaps there are other helpful questions to be asking. I suppose it’s a lot like writing a novel or memoir!

    I’m not sure yet what word might be helpful for beginning and carrying on this creative venture. I think of “play” as one, as it helps me to release my need to control too much; a sort of letting go during the process. I know that one of the hardest things for me is to get started! Fill up that canvas, keep on drawing, as a couple of instructors would tell us art students to do. At the same time don’t “deaden” or overdo the art (whatever that means!). I don’t know if “play” is the word for this time, but right now, that seems to float to the top! “Discipline” is another word that’s right up there with “play.” I used to dislike the word discipline, but have understood its rightful place. These two words almost seem to be in tension with each other!

  13. Shirley Showalter on January 2, 2016 at 2:05 pm

    Gwen, I am sure you will be inspired to create a wonderful book, but I also know the “blank canvas” problem.

    You made me chuckle when you talked about the advice from experts: just plunge in and don’t do too much. They may not be opposites in practice, but they certainly sound contradictory.

    The same with PLAY and DISCIPLINE. They too sound like opposites. But we need them both as “makers.” I’m sitting here in the red chair pondering with you. Maybe you need a block with play on one side and discipline on the other and blank sides all around. When you have played enough, turn the block around and start applying the practices that shape and hone — and get you to your “canvas” on a regular basis.

    Whatever you decide to do, I hope you will share something of your process and your product. I have absolute confidence in you!

    Blessings in 2016!

  14. Loretta Willems on January 2, 2016 at 4:54 pm

    Gratitude. I’ve resolved to spend my waking moments each morning calling to mind all the good in my life and then resting in those thoughts for a while. I want to carry that sense of goodness with me all through the day, live in it, work in it.

  15. Shirley Showalter on January 2, 2016 at 9:29 pm

    What a lovely description of a daily practice, Loretta. Resting in thoughts of the good — a wonderful way to experience the best in life. I write these words as I too rest. May your year be made sweeter and stronger through your waking slowly but intentionally.

    • Loretta Willems on January 3, 2016 at 6:11 pm

      Thank you, Shirley. I pray this year brings rich blessings to you and your family.

  16. Glen Nafziger on January 28, 2016 at 1:53 pm

    The idea of a word for the year was new to me, so it has taken me a long time. The word is presence or presents.

    Gabby Castanon, a sophomore Goshen College student, wrote the Advent Devotions for Dec.12, 2015 “Presence is the greatest Present”. Truly God’s presence in Jesus was the greatest of Presents to the world.

    Then, while visiting a friend in the rehab section of Fairlawn Haven, a retirement complex at Archbold, Ohio,
    the chaplain happened to stop by. He pointed that my stopping to visit was a gift. My presence was a present!
    My challenge for the year is to give more of my presence
    to those who are alone and lonely.

    Was this perhaps a small bit of serendipity?

    • Shirley Showalter on January 28, 2016 at 2:20 pm

      Glen, I just love that you have been contemplating this question for a whole month. You have been patient and kind and now you have a gift to give to others.

      I was reminded of the RSVP message: “Your presence is our present.”

      One of the things that happens when someone gifts us the gift of presence is that we feel lifted up to be our best selves. As you continue to visit the sick and the lonely, I hold YOU up. And I know there will be serendipity enough for both of us.

      Thanks for coming back and reporting in!

  17. Glen Nafziger on February 21, 2016 at 11:21 pm

    I”m a little on the slow side but this comment fits here. After all Serendipity is the word for the whole year.

    I may have come up with a new simplified definition.

    Serendipity: God having fun.

    • Shirley Showalter on February 22, 2016 at 1:10 am

      Love it, Glen! Will share with our tour group here in New Zealand.

Leave a Comment