Friday, March 11, 2011


I've never been one to choose a "word for the year". You may have talked to or read other people who do this: something, in a word, to focus on for the coming year. For me, this is too close to making a New Years Resolution, something I run away from annually.

Mainly because I try to avoid failure.

But this year, I started thinking about it a bit, just as a game. What word would I choose for this year? Laundry? That seems to dominate my time. Candyland? Also takes up more than its fair share of my days. Maybe sleep? that often sought-after but seemingly unattainable dream when you have three kids six and under. After about all of 5 seconds, I had moved onto something else. Probably choosing which setting to use on the laundry machine.

And then I had a new neighbour over for tea.

Her name is Shahi. She and her family just moved here from UAE. I decided to pull out the proper teacups instead of using usual pottery mugs. I served cake on pretty china plates.

As I passed Shahi her cup, she said: "These are so pretty. People don't put importance on beautiful things anymore. Everything is about function. It's sad that we are losing beauty from our homes and lives like that."

I haven't gone a day without thinking about that since. She's so right. We so often give over to function over beauty. I have a sideboard full of china and teacups and silver and crystal. It gets used at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. Or if we forget to run the dishwasher.

I decided that my word of the year would be Beautify. In fact, this may become my word for the next several years, if not my lifetime.

Being frugally minded, this doesn't mean I will be spending money to beautify my home and life. It means I'll start giving more playtime to the beautiful things we already have. I now have at least one cup of tea a day in a proper tea cup. I try and move things around occasionally to take better notice of some of the pretty things I own. For example, my friend Michelle was visiting last week from Waterloo. I put all the little travel size shampoos and soaps for her in a gorgeous silver bowl that we received as a wedding gift but normally sits collecting dust on a dark shelf in our family room.

It might seem like this all seems so superficial. But what I notice is that other people notice when there is beauty around them - they can be simple things, or simple actions, but they can have a profound effect on how someone's day goes. Seeing beauty and appreciating beauty is fundamental to human nature. That's why we make art, go to art galleries, garden, go to parks, cook lovely meals, make pottery, knit, sew, have meals together, read and write.

As I thought about beautifying more, I knew this should and would extend far beyond material things. I'm making an effort to beautify life.

I'm a patient mother - quite patient, in fact - but I can always improve and I'm making an effort to do that.

I'm baking more (gluten-free, mind you) than I have in the past two months so there is always something homemade to be had as a snack or small dessert.

My letter-writing project (sadly behind right now) is an additional effort to add a small amount of beauty to other people's lives.

I'm knitting for other people.

Emily and I have started a creative project that is almost finished that will add a bit of beauty and several smiles to the people around us. It's also given us something really fun - and therefore beautiful - to do together.

I've started ironing clothes. If you know me, you'll know that is nothing short of a miracle. But it is rather nice to not look like you slept in your clothes. You know?

Beauty is how you decide to define it. After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I can see beauty - or opportunities to beautify - all around me. How about you?


Shan said...

Love this!! I think my word for this year has become simplify, but now I think it should be beautify and simplify. Great post!

Roberta S said...

Karen, I came upon your blog quite by chance. But how I enjoyed it. I have pretty things I don't bring out often enough and what a pleasantness cames with thinking how I might beautify each day. And the little touches other people do when I am a houseguest make me feel my visit is important and appreciated. Lovely post.