The Memory Project
Off the top of my head, natural (Johnny Ketchum)

One-Word Resolution Challenge
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I first did the one-word resolution challenge at the end of 2007. In 2011, I put it on the blog at the website (, but it seems to belong here. I'll post to Facebook and Twitter, too, but this is its home.

First it has to be said: Boy, did I fall short of the mark in 2012. The word was repurpose, but it was difficult, reading what now sound like some pretty grandiose plans for myself. There was self-improvement in 2012, but not the kind I planned.

But in one sense, I did embrace "repurpose" when I returned to the world of Tess Monaghan, for a book that I hope to deliver by Feb. 1.

That book has a working title that, like most of my working titles, will never see the light of day. But almost every week day, I open a folder marked "The First World" and try to achieve my quota of new words (minimum: 1,000) or my quota of redrafted pages (minimum: 20). And, yes, it comes from a phrase that my friend David Montgomery recently urged people to stop using, First World Problems. But it also refers to the first world -- our family of origin, the parent-child relationship. I always said I couldn't return to writing about Tess until I figured out what to do now that Tess is a mom. The solution was to write about Tess as a mom -- a mom working for another mom, who, a decade earlier, killed her child in what may or may not have been an episode of post-partum psychosis.

I have been inconsistent in my stand on mentioning my own experiences as a mother. I think it's generally known that I have a small child, a daughter. I try not to use her name in public -- although, oh, how I wish I could share the hilarity I experienced when it turned out that a good friend thought my daughter was named for a "Homicide" character. But then, I generally don't use my husband's name in public, unless I'm trying to get a table in a booked restaurant or weasel out of jury duty. On Facebook, I sometimes call her my Tiny Accomplice. She's usually up for an adventure, whether it's a pillow fight or a re-staging of a key scene in The Godfather. That said, she's also the kind of child who is so in love with her own drama that she barely noticed we were looking at a koala bear in the wild last month because BOO BOO, I HAVE A BOO BOO, KISS MY BOO BOO.

My friend Rob Hiaasen taught me two maxims about child-rearing: "You are only as happy as your least happy child" and "With children, the days are long, but the years are short." I don't know. The years, when considered from the vantage of the present, seem pretty big to me. There is so much I have already forgotten about having a baby. There is so much I failed to master because I have the World's Greatest Babysitter (tm). Let's just say that when people compliment my daughter's manners, I don't deserve most of the credit.

The days are long, but they are flying by. Friends' parents are ill. Other friends, having had children at a more age-appropriate time in their lives, are looking at colleges and swallowing hard when they contemplate tuition. It's a time in life when I have to ask myself if there are certain goals that will ever be achieved. Will I master a second language? Read classics I have missed? Learn to fence? Eat at Noma? Will I ever get my act together? Because, every year, that's what the resolution exercise is about, the futile hope that I might be better organized, that I'm not on this earth to prove George Santayana right.

I considered making my 2014 word "Pause," if only because I hear that every day. ("Mama, pause my show.") (That's from my daughter, not my husband, just to be clear.) I have found that slowing down when I'm in a rush has the unexpected benefit of getting me out of the house faster. But, no, it's not about pausing.

In 2013, I traveled. I went to France, Spain, Scotland, Australia and New Zealand. I celebrated Mardi Gras in New Orleans, a beloved place to me now. I saw the film based on my book, Every Secret Thing. I ate at the #1 restaurant in the world. I saw a koala bear in the wild. (I know, I already said that, but -- squee!). When I wanted to buy a book, I bought it, never thinking twice, even when that book was the hardcover of The Luminaries, which costs $50 in New Zealand. I laughed a lot, thanks to a small group of people spread across five time zones, which means there is almost always someone awake with whom to share a bit of silliness.

2014 is a bit of a cipher in my household as I write this and that hasn't been true since -- well, since my household became a household. But I have every confidence that it will be a lovely year as long as the people in my life continue to be healthy.

The word for 2014 is "appreciate."

From the Merriam-Webster dictionary: transitive verb
a : to grasp the nature, worth, quality, or significance of
b : to value or admire highly
c : to judge with heightened perception or understanding : be fully aware of
d : to recognize with gratitude
And don't forget:
: to increase the value of

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