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Lanny’s OLW for 2018

On April 21, 2017, I said goodbye to my mom for the last time.  For me, this has felt like the spiritual equivalent of being run over by a truck.  And so there has been a sense of “down,” a silent sadness I might say, that has been running in the background of my life since that terrible day.

For me, thinking about my One Little Word this year has turned into a contemplative search for a word that might serve to perhaps lift me up a bit, as well as those around me.  I began by considering the word “aspire.”  This word started me thinking about how, when we work to direct our hopes and ambitions in a new direction (that is, when we “aspire”), we often must actively seek to see things in a new way.  So perhaps I should choose the word “resee?”  How about “perspective?”  But none of those words were hitting the mark.

In watching Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s video, posted by Kathleen this week, I became inspired by the notion that we all ought to try to make the most of our time here.  After all, I’ve lost not only my mother rather suddenly, but my younger brother, too (car accident in 1997).  So the sudden and fleeting nature of life is something I know firsthand.

And then, arguably by chance, my word found me.  In a conversation with my wife, she reminded me of a practice I used to do every morning: recite all that I am grateful for in life.  Grateful.  There it was.

I realize that when we are grateful— really grateful in an intentional way– we advance ourselves in a new direction.  As tragic and horrible as my mother’s death was, I am so grateful I got to spend her final hours by her side.  Since I live on the opposite side of the country from her, it could have easily been otherwise.

These past few days, I have auditioned “Grateful.”  And what I’ve discovered is when something seems hard or perhaps not the way I would choose, in place of a complaint or expression of exasperation, I choose gratitude.  There is always something to be grateful for– I just have to find it.

As Amy Krouse Rosenthal and others remind us, we tend to find whatever it is we are looking for.  Our lenses act as a filter for what ends up in our existential fishing nets.  So finding what there is to be GRATEFUL for has helped me accomplish the goal of seeing things in a new way.  And who knows where this word will lead this year…

What are you grateful for?  Has your One Little Word found you, yet?



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Lanny Ball View All

For more than 27 years, Lanny has taught, coached, presented, staff developed, and consulted within the exciting and enigmatic world of literacy. With unyielding passion and belief in the possibility of workshop teaching, Lanny has worked to support students, teachers, and school administrators around the country in outgrowing themselves as both writers and readers. Working first as a classroom teacher, then as a coach and TCRWP Staff Developer, Lanny is now a literacy specialist, working and living in the great state of Connecticut. Outside of literacy, he enjoys raising his three ambitious young daughters with his wife, and playing the piano. Find him on this blog, as well as on Twitter @LannyBall. Lanny is also a co-author of a blog dedicated to supporting teachers and coaches that maintain classroom writing workshops,

37 thoughts on “Lanny’s OLW for 2018 Leave a comment

  1. I am very sorry for your loss. While reading your piece I recalled how many times I picked up the phone to call my mom after she died before remembering that she would not be there to answer my call. I am grateful for my parents. Good choice.


  2. Your word makes so much sense for you because of the hard year you’ve come through Lanny. It’s a really good one for all of us to keep in mind, even if it isn’t our OLW. The video Kathleen shared certainly did inspire many… Are you planning to keep a gratitude journal? I did that during a particularly hard year- kept it by my bedside and every evening wrote just one quick thought about something from my day for which I was grateful. I reread it often, even though it is from several years ago.


    • Thank you for your thoughts, Lisa. I love the idea of a gratitude journal! I definitely need to consider that as a structure for the existence of my word. Thank you for the idea 🙂


  3. This is beautiful Lanny. I lost my mother at the end of 2016 and my OLW for 2017 was so powerful for me because of that event. I hope that your OLW is as healing for you as mine was for me. Grateful for you!


    • Thanks for writing, Kim! It’s been so long since I’ve seen you! Hope all is well with you. I’m so pleased to hear you found this post inspiring. It is indeed a powerful word and one that I am hopeful will help to shift my perspective at the necessary times. Thanks again, Kim!


  4. I understand where you’re coming from, Lanny. I know 2017 was such a rough year for you. I cannot imagine the kinds of losses you’ve endured.

    For me, 2015 was a terrible year. I, too, chose gratitude to get my life back on track in 2016 ( It was a good word. It taught me to make the best of things even when I felt like pitying myself.

    It’s my hope that by having this word top of mind, you will have a better year.


  5. I was so sorry to hear of the loss of your Mom. That loss certainly shakes us to our core. Your word is a reminder that there is so much to be grateful for – if we only reach out. A special post.


  6. I so look forward to these OLW posts! And, like you, I try to find one for me that can help me navigate the year ahead. As I read the choices each of you makes, I try it on for size wondering if it will be the “just right” fit fo me. Although I’m not there yet, I know that I’m close. I try to remember to end each day acknowledging my gratitude for the moments of the day that went well and forgiving myself for those that didn’t. Thoreau’s framing gratitude with acceptance takes it one step further. Thank you for sharing!


    • You are so welcome! It’s such a lovely idea to end your day by acknowledging gratitude for moments that went well and forgiveness for those that didn’t…love that idea. Thank you for your comment.


  7. First of all, I am so sorry for your loss. My mothers (including mother-in-law) are still here and I am becoming increasingly aware that one day they won’t be. I want to embrace every moment we have together.
    Grateful is a wonderful word for daily life. I’ve ordered a happiness journal, one sentence a day, to help me see clearly every day what brings me happiness.


    • Thank you for your words of condolence, Margaret. Much appreciated. You are wise to embrace every moment you have with your mothers. I found myself doing that in my mother’s final years, and am so glad I did. It’s a deafening silence to have lost her, and I suppose there was no way to prepare for that. Best of luck to you with the happiness journal- wonderful idea.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I can relate to losing a parent and how deeply it affects the core of who you are. I lost my father over four years ago and it’s been a beautiful journey learning from the life he led and the gifts he left inside of me because of the man he was and the life he led. I am sure your mother would be proud and content knowing that she contributed to you living a wide awake life in which you are intentionally thinking positively by reminding yourself to be grateful each day. I need to really think about my OLW and grateful is a reminder I consciously use to get through negative thoughts. Yet, this year I am contemplating the word, “acceptance.” As a passionate elementary school teacher I find too many things out of my control and have realized I need to let go sometimes and accept to feel peaceful In place of frustration and often, anger.


    • Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment, Eva. I especially appreciate your pointing out that my mother’s life is something I may continue to learn from across the years to come, as you have from your father’s life. Acceptance sounds like it could be the right word for you this year. Happy New Year, and thank you again for your words.


  9. That video Kathleen shared the other day is so powerful. Certainly got me thinking and reflecting a lot too, those seven words (make the most of our time here), pretty hard to ignore how on point they are. Your olw certainly honors these words. If you can be grateful, even when its hard, you’re making the most of your time. I think your word landed just at the right time.


  10. Grateful, I think, might be the one word that encapsulates the most important undercurrent for truly living. It allows a person to live every moment more deeply and invites healing, peace, grace, joy … wishing you all of these this year.


  11. Lanny,
    Grateful is a superb word and will cause you to be intentional in your thinking. It’s easy to let the “down” creep into our souls in times of sadness and harder yet to actually count our blessings because it feels like a cloud has covered our vision.

    This . . .”These past few days, I have auditioned “Grateful.” And what I’ve discovered is when something seems hard or perhaps not the way I would choose, in place of a complaint or expression of exasperation, I choose gratitude. There is always something to be grateful for– I just have to find it.” Your choices will guide you in 2018. There will still be hard days, but you will choose to move on!

    Best to you and your family in 2018!


    • Thank you so much for your thoughts and kind words, Fran. I know you know well of the loss I speak of, as you too have endured it in your own life. But I believe you’re right about the intentionality this word will bring (I just finished writing a song called ‘Intentionality’!). What is your OLW this year? I must visit your blog or check our comments to see! Thanks again, Fran.


  12. Start each day with a grateful heart. It sounds like you are living this expression- an outlook not all in situations like yours are able to do.
    I hope grateful serves you well this year.


  13. I am so sorry about your mother’s death. My died at age 61, in 1997. It’s hard losing a mom. Sounds like you were lucky to have a wonderful mom, who brought you joy.

    Love your olw. Mine is reframe, which is used similarly to grateful. I shall reframe situations/attitudes to help the habit of thinking positively. When teaching 5th grade, I had two different frames in the room. We practiced reframing situations/attitudes by holding them up and looking through them while we tried to ponder a situation differently. I haven’t tried it with first graders, but I need to. This week it shall happen!


    • Thank you for your condolences, Karla. I am sorry you lost your mom at such a young age. It is, indeed, very difficult to lose a mom. Your word and idea for reframing situations and attitudes is quite lovely! Good luck with your first graders and this coming calendar year. Thanks for writing 🙂


  14. Your writing really spoke to me and I enjoyed reading about your process of discovering your OLW.

    I think it is important to focus on what we do have or what we get to do in this life rather than what is missing or what we have to do.

    Thank you!


    • So true, Teresa. I sometimes wonder why it’s so easy to view life through a lens of deficit!? I’m hopeful this one little word will be a way to do what you’ve written here: focus on what we have instead of what’s missing or what there is to do. Thank you for your feedback and comment.


  15. This is beautiful. I think my word is going to be gratitude. Gratitude for all that my family and I have -blessings, comfort, resources, each other. And gratitude for the challenges and struggles we learn and grown from each day. Thank you for your post.


    • You’re so welcome, Stephanie. In my opinion, your word is an excellent choice. “Gratitude for the challenges and struggles we learn and grow from each day” – love this line, as well as the idea that we treat these things as contributions to our life. I know it won’t always be easy, but I am hopeful the words we have chosen will be the reminder we need. Thank you for your feedback and comment 🙂


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