My One-Word Theme for 2013: GROW

The past two years, I’ve adopted a one-word theme to guide me through the next twelve months; I’ve always waited until after the new year to write about the choice here, but this year I can’t wait.

I don’t like to wish away time, but I could not be more ready for 2012 to end and for 2013 to begin.

This year has been one of my most challenging — certainly not what I had envisioned when I adopted the word UP and the image of a hot air balloon last year at this time.

While there were some amazing highs in 2012 like the wonderful expansion of Gemelli Press with the release of four new books, finally seeing Rome and meeting many online friends for the first time in person both in the Eternal City and here in Calabria, visiting with family and lifelong friends in the United States, publishing my ebook, and finding out I was pregnant, my miscarriage and D & C in May pretty much deflated my hot air balloon for much of the rest of the year.

Now, closing out 2012, I feel like I’m mostly emotionally healed, or at least getting there, but my due date around Thanksgiving had me revisiting all those thoughts and feelings again; this holiday season is proving to be another challenge. Add to that an increasingly depressed economy, particularly here in southern Italy where we’ve basically been in a depression forever, which means little work for P, and various other stumbling blocks in our lives sprinkled throughout the year, and well, 2012 has been decidedly UPhill.

But of course, P and I are still here, and we’re still going strong. We haven’t had it nearly as bad as many — the victims of numerous natural disasters come to mind first and foremost — and we continue to keep those who have had it much, much worse in our thoughts. A year like this can either break or make a couple stronger, and I feel confident we’re falling into the latter group. Though, of course, that hasn’t been easy either.

Feel down came quite naturally this year — and that is exactly how I know I chose well with UP. Seeing it there on my vision board helped whenever I needed a pick-me-UP, even if it was just the thought that “Hey, things have to go UP from here, right?”

And they have been looking UP in the latter half of the year, I think, or at least that’s how I choose to see it. Perspective and perception are so important in approaching life’s big and little challenges. I choose to look at things optimistically and with hope for the future. It’s easy to be positive when things are going well, but how do we respond when things don’t look so great?

How we react to challenges and obstacles defines us.

So bring it on, 2013, because I’m armed with my new one-word theme:

GROW - Thanks for the use of the image, Tim!
I love GROW because it encompasses many different types of growth — the continued growth of Gemelli Press and my own writing as I refocus my efforts on new projects, my relationship with P, a new direction in our Calabrian life that we hope will involve GROWing and raising more of our food and perhaps even a new business venture pertaining to that, and hey, maybe even a bambino/a if the Universe so desires.

G R O W , G R O W , G R O W !

I also like GROW because the concept is closely related to last year’s UP; as much as I would love to slam the door shut on 2012 and never open it again, I know last year’s events will continue to influence me in 2013 and beyond . . . and that’s not a bad thing.

I’m learning and growing from those experiences every day, and for that I am grateful.

I look forward to much GROWth in 2013.

Do you have a one-word theme for 2013?

66 Beans of Wisdom to “My One-Word Theme for 2013: GROW”
  1. Awesome concept – I think my word for 2013 would probably be “simplify” but I’ll keep ruminating on the idea for now…

    michelle Reply:

    Thanks Jen; as I wrote to Cathy below, my initial, gut response to the “one-word” question tends to stick, so if “simplify” ends up being your word, well, it’s a *wonderful* one at that 🙂

    Rachel Olsen Reply:

    Great post! So sorry to hear about your loss this year.

    Perhaps my new book MY ONE WORD: CHANGE YOUR LIFE WITH JUST ONE WORD would be of interest to you, or your readers. Check it out.

    Next week you can post your one word for 2013 on our website at and connect with others who have chosen your same word.

    Hope you GROW by leaps and bounds next year!

    michelle Reply:

    Thanks for your comment, and best of luck with your book 🙂

  2. 12.10.2012

    I love this concept of a focus word for the year Michelle. I might give it some thought and see if I can think of something. Giving it a moment’s thought I would probably elect ‘onward’. All the best for 2013 🙂

    michelle Reply:

    Cathy, in my three years doing this, I’ve always had one word pop in my head right away and then even after considering others, I kept coming back to it. I think your word just might be “onward.” 😉 Buone feste!

  3. Laura

    I hope that 2013 offers many fertile opportunities for you and those you love to grow.

    My word is likely to be “still.” Not the impatient “still” of something that goes on and on…”are we still here?” But rather the peaceful stillness of “Be Still.”

    There are so many things on the horizon that I am focused on, but I want to find ways to be still – to live in the moment rather than ticking each day off the list to get to where I want to be….

    Wishing you all the best-

    michelle Reply:

    Awesome word, Laura. Ommmmm 🙂

  4. 12.11.2012

    Beautiful thoughts.

    My word for 2013 is change. I’m a bit scared of it, because change isn’t always easy. But I’m also excited, because change is often beautiful, useful, good.

    Cheers to the new year.

    michelle Reply:

    Love it, Gigi! Change can cover so much too, and nope, definitely not always easy. Rarely easy, in fact! Forza, as we say in Italia! 🙂

  5. SW

    Lovely post, Michelle.

    This year has been extremely difficult for me, as well – I had a huge move that totally drained me, had to help my mother through an illness which was even worse; but perhaps the hardest thing I’ve dealt with was finally coming out for the first time, to my sister – this forced me to do some deep introspect, as it’s something I always thought I would keep hidden from my family, and never even really face, myself. It’s caused me to reframe so much in my life, and I won’t deny – it’s taken me to some dark places.

    However, I am now beginning to move on, slowly and steadily – I feel like I faced a lot of demons in 2012 and made a lot of progress, and because of this, it’s been one of the most important years of my life; but, at the same time, I am so ready to leave this year and all of its trials and tribulations behind me, and focus on 2013 and beyond. Like you, I really do think these coming months will be a time for personal growth and new beginnings – I really am very excited about what the future may have in store for me.

    Anyway, I don’t know why I’m sharing all this, but this post just struck the right cord, for me, as your posts so often do – I guess if I had to pick one word for 2013 it would be “new” – for all the new beginnings and new experiences I am eagerly anticipating, and the and new frame of mind I plan on moving forward with.

    michelle Reply:

    What a year you’ve had, indeed, SW; thank you so much for sharing. It sounds like you’re in a great place and about to move into something even greater. Hugs. Many xx

  6. 12.11.2012

    I love this idea! Having a positive/uplifting/healing word chosen to define a year and having that idea to hold on to when things are difficult is a powerful thing.
    I haven’t come up with a word yet, but I still have a few weeks to figure it out. 🙂

    michelle Reply:

    I have found this to be *so* much better than resolutions, Loulou…looking forward to your word!

  7. Hannah Garza

    Your words always strike close to home. When life presents us challenges it is the attitude with which we face our problems what makes the difference. It is a great idea to choose a word to guide us through the year and to remind us to stay positive. I think my word for 2013 will be Purpose.
    Wishing you the best for next year!

    michelle Reply:

    That is a wonderful word, Hannah! Thanks so much for your kind words, and best wishes to you and yours in the new year 🙂

  8. Alex

    Well Michelle…….another great piece.
    If I had to pick a word for your writing…I would pick “Cathartic”. There are so many people around us that have so much “drama” in their lives and keep it all inside and fail to share and deal with it that it in itself becomes “drama”.
    Your writing appears to be the catalyst that allows people to see it and deal with it.
    My word is not an annual word but one that I have lived by for more years than I care to admit to. However, it is more than the word but the concept behind the word. My word is “Commitment” or more succinctly, “Definite Commitment”. To fully explain my word one should read the poem titled “The Himalayan Expedition”. I have this poem framed and hanging on the wall by my computer. Since moving to Italy 4 months ago, I have had the need to read it daily. :o)
    The only time I find it to be untrue is when my commitment starts to faulter and I allow the demons in. Just this past week I have experienced its benefits 2 or 3 times when wondering what next….and out of the clear blue the answers were literally handed to me. So I do believe in the power of words.
    Nice piece..
    If you are are interested in reading the poem you can find it here:

    Alta Forza per 2013

    michelle Reply:

    Thanks so much, Alex, for your kind thoughts and also for sharing your word(s) and post 🙂

  9. Jill

    What a beautiful piece of work, Michelle! I am sorry for the sadness that has deflated you and am anxious on your behalf for the door to shut on 2012 so that you can usher in 2013.

    I love the concept of a word to define the coming year and if I had to choose one off the top of my head, mine would be “dream”. So many of my dreams will be coming true in 2013 and I want to remain in the present and fully absorb them and their magnitude in my life. I also want to accomplish some new things and the word could also apply to these aspects as well.

    Wishing you and your family a wonderful 2013 full of GROWth and happiness.


    michelle Reply:

    Thanks so much, Jill. DREAM is an excellent word as well…wishing you lots of realized dreams in 2013 🙂

  10. Karin

    I like to word Growth, it sounds positive and it can be applied in many many different ways. My word for 2013 will be “Gratitude”. I think it’s very important to be grateful for all the small things that happen in life. Even when you’re going through a rough time, there are always things to be grateful for. For example the smile of my daughter, the sun after many days of rain, a nice italian espresso in the morning or a good talk with a friend. Often I’m in a rush and busy with all daily things, but I want to express my gratitude towards life more often in 2013!

    michelle Reply:

    Excellent choice, Karin! Buon anno!

  11. Michelle, thank you for a beautiful post. I’m sorry to hear of your heartache and challenges in 2012. I hope you know that, even when you’re not writing as much, you’ve been a positive influence and an inspiration for me and so many readers. Upon reading your “what is your word” challenge, what immediately popped into my head was WRITE. So, I’ll go with that! Cheers to 2013.

    michelle Reply:

    Thanks so much, Dawn…and you know I fully support a word like WRITE! 🙂

  12. Patricia

    Dear Michelle,

    So sorry to hear about the events of this year. We’ve had a mixed bag, but something good finally happened in my quest to be recognized Italian. I was finally registered in Cosenza and am now an Italian citizen. We did spend three weeks in Italy in October, but I had lost track of this site and you. You may remember you had recommended an attorney in Chieti to help me. I wish you a new year filled with new happenings and adventures that will restore your spirit. Maybe the next time we are in Cosenza, we can come down to Reggio and see you.

    michelle Reply:

    Auguri on your citizenship, Patricia! I’m actually not in Reggio (closer to Catanzaro), but do let me know when you’re around and perhaps we can meet up 🙂

  13. 12.11.2012

    It seems you and I had a similar year. I chose the Up version for me, too since 2011 was hard enough. But I’m so ready for 2012 to be done. I’m on my fourth injury this year and I’m just done.

    So 2013, my word would be Horizons. It’s not really a verb, but it’s what it is for me. I have so many changes that will take place, including my move to England and getting ready for that move (spending a year doing some great stuff). Everything is on the horizon. Some may be good and some may be bad, but I have it out there waiting for me.

    michelle Reply:

    Sounds like you have quite an exciting year ahead, Kristi! Best of luck!

  14. 12.11.2012

    Beautiful and insightful post that truly inspires how to best face the hardships that we experience as humans. Brava – e le mie sentite conoglianze a te e la tua famiglia per la tua perdita’.

    I think my word would be “balance.” I have spent the last year and a half of my life searching for what I want to do and where I want to be, living in Florida, Italy, Ohio, and am finally in Chicago – feeling uprooted and unsettled – but after several instances of trial and error have finally found something that I love in a city I love around friends and family that I love. I want this new year to bear balance and tranquilita’.

    michelle Reply:

    Grazie, Martina…and I love your word 🙂 Tranquilità is another great one too!

  15. Lark

    I was so happy to see your new post today when I stopped by! We all have those years mixed in with the better ones that we often take for granted. I am looking forward to 2013 as a time to grow and change, and the word I have chosen for myself is delightful. I am hoping to see the delightful in the small moments and the delightful in whatever new comes into my life. I hope 2013 brings to you fewer challenges and delightful things you never expected!!!

    michelle Reply:

    Oh that is such a happy word, Lark! Best to you and yours in 2013 as well 🙂

  16. Angela

    Hello Michelle,

    It has been such a long time since I responded to you that I want to end the year with a short note.
    First of all, I am so sorry to hear of your loss. Secondly, thanks for the one word for the year…..mine next year is BREATHE! Nothing original, just BREATHE!! I find myself holding my breath so much lately about so many things that I have to remind myself that without AIR I can’t survive. So, in the interest of surviving….BREATHE!!

    Also, I do enjoy reading your blogs, although I miss your weekly recipes. And finally, maybe this is year I get back to Italy. I HOPE!

    michelle Reply:

    Breathe is an excellent word, Angela…we can all use that reminder from time to time, I think. Thanks for your continued support 🙂

  17. 12.17.2012

    So sorry about your loss…. truly…. remember one door closes and another opens…. I had my son almost a year to the day after my miscarriage at 12 weeks…. breathe is definitely a good word…. and know that everything will work out in the end…. I’ll have to chew on what mine should be….. that’s a thinker 😉 hugs for a new year and a new word.

    michelle Reply:

    Thank you so much, June; I’m sure the perfect word will come to you if it hasn’t already 🙂 xx

  18. 12.18.2012

    Just one more great post Michelle….thank you for sharing at a level most would not. Courage, a commodity in society today.

    One word? Yes. “Now”. I like you review my past regularly and take stock, make course corrections and move on. As you described at times this year of 2012 has provided a string of moments that could be overwhelming. A singular moment of “Now” seldom can do that and that makes it my one word for the upcoming year.

    “Now” is eternal and will always be present. Now us normally of such a short duration that I can deal with most anything life throws my way. Realizing a “Power Greater than Myself” in a moment of “Now” is even more powerful a combination that is unbeatable.

    Now is the time for me to stop. Now is the moment I reflect on how very very much I have enjoyed watching and sharing with you in 2012….mille grazie.

    Love and light
    aka ezduzit777 on twitter

    michelle Reply:

    You know I love “now!” Buone feste to you and yours, Richard 🙂

  19. Calabrian Kathleen

    Thanks so much for sharing, Michelle. I am sorry for your loss and do hope that 2013 may bring growth to you in many ways. I too have found 2012 to be extremely challenging and there were times when I just didn’t think I was going to get thru it all. I am so very thankful for my wonderful husband and dear friends who were there for me as I moved thru it… to ‘here’. “here” is stronger … and I guess that must be my word – representing ‘here now’ – strength in staying in the moment. This is and has been my challenge – be here now – not worrying about the future or stressing about the past. Thank you for bringing me ‘here’ now!!!!

    All the very best of the Christmas season to you, P and your friends and familiy.

    michelle Reply:

    “Here” is excellent, Kathleen; thank you for sharing, and buone feste to you and yours!

  20. 12.20.2012

    One word: acceptance. Too much of the last five years of my life has been about fighting change (I’ve grown older, death of loved ones, employment and economic too). I’ve realized that in order for me to GROW, I’d better start accepting change and then changing my mindset on how to positively deal with the changes; specifically those that I cannot stop or prevent.

    Sorry about your loss, but with determination and God’s help, 2013 will see growth just the way you and P want.

    michelle Reply:

    That is lovely, Debo Blue; wishing you a wonderful holiday season and 2013 as well 🙂

  21. 12.24.2012

    So sorry for your loss Michelle – may 2013 see you grow in so many ways. It’s also my word for next year – to grow spiritually, to grow my business and brand and to grow more tolerant and accepting of the things I cannot change. Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and happy and healthy 2013 full of growth and new life all around you – love from Sydney xx
    PS love the Dalai Lama’s Cat – thank you for the review!

    michelle Reply:

    So happy you enjoyed the book, Francesca! And best wishes to you and yours this season and throughout the coming year 🙂 xx

  22. Barbara Snow

    Give. My word for the next year is Give.

    michelle Reply:


  23. Marsha

    You are an inspiration. “GROW” is a great word – so positive, so indicative of health, life, “positivity” (is that a word?). You have me thinking of what my 2013 word will be. Thanks! Best wishes for 2013 :-)!

    michelle Reply:

    Aw thank you Marsha…and positivity is absolutely a word in my book. Good luck on your word!

  24. 12.30.2012

    I love your word. May 2013 bring you much happiness and growth.

    My word for 2013 is “Si”. Last year it was “Yes”. One friend cracked up when I told her but I feel there is a difference!

    michelle Reply:

    I totally see the difference, Arlene…and I love it 🙂 Best to you in 2013 as well…lucky 13, sìììììì!

  25. 12.31.2012

    Auguri di buon Anno

    michelle Reply:

    Grazie, altrettanto!

  26. 01.01.2013

    I think my word this year is actually two words, that that would be “Dear friend.” I’m, despite not actually seeming so at first glance, incredibly shy and reserved. I have friends, but no real dear friends. Also, I’m very scared of strangers so I think if I work on thinking of everyone as a dear friend it will lead me into a lot of wonderful relationships or at the very least interactions with others.

    michelle Reply:

    That is a lovely sentiment, Elizabeth, and I wish you much happiness as you open yourself up…it’s a scary thing, I know! xx

  27. It’s sad to hear that you had such a rough 2012. I’m impressed with your will and resolve to move forward and Grow this year 🙂 This year my word is ACTION! Many of us have desire but fail to take the steps needed to succeed.

    michelle Reply:

    Thank you, Kenin! Wishing you a wonderful 2013 as well 🙂

  28. 01.14.2013

    Dear Michelle,
    Sorry to hear that your year has been such a tough one, albeit with beautiful moments and empowering thoughts. I totally agree that one’s reaction to obstacles can be what defines us. On that note I think I could say ‘Organisation’ should be my mantra but I’d really need three words for what I believe and live by : Prepare the Terrain.

    Best wishes for a successful and rewarding 2013,

    michelle Reply:

    Thank you Catherine…best of luck to you in preparing that terrain this year 🙂

  29. 01.15.2013

    I just couldn’t narrow it down to one word for 2013… so I chose two: Zen and Inspired.

    Grow is a very good one, we can all experience growth and when we concentrate on that metamorphosis the results can be quite spectacular!

    Blessings from the Arizona Desert… Dawn… The Bohemian

    michelle Reply:

    Thanks for sharing BV…buon 2013!

  30. 01.20.2013

    Authenticity is my word. Authenticity means I am going to fully express who I am and be true to my energy and my path.

    In fact, I have been selecting themes for years!! ( I’m curious as to how you came to this practice?). I was searching for experiences of US expats in Naples and somehow ended up here, surprised to see so many life parallels, so thank you. I’m 12 years back and forth to Pompeii and contemplating the move. Being a professional, having an international relationship, southern Italy, miscarriages, a writer at heart….synchronicity. I look forward to reading about your experiences and I am actually suddenly inspired to begin a blog.

    I would like to comment on the practice of yearly themes, though. Before I start my new yearly theme, I reread all my journal entries. Some years I have more entries than others, but its always a cathartic experience as I relive the years events. I can look at my life from a new perspective, yet reconnect with pieces of myself that I may have unknowingly left behind. My first entry for the New Year/New Theme is a review of all the POSITIVE ways that I accomplished my last theme, an explanation of my new theme and my goals for this year. I encourage my patients to do this as well (I’m a Chiropractor, not a therapist ! ) and they love the practice as well.

    Thank You for sharing. I wish you an abundance of GROWth!

  31. It’s a myth that we stop growing after puberty. To my kids I am “old” but I feel like I am SO young, so green. The more time that goes by the more things I realize I don’t know. But I also learn to be at peace with the mystery. And you hit the nail on the head with GROW…it is kind of exciting knowing that we get to keep developing and maturing!

  32. 01.29.2013

    Sorry to hear of your loss, but I too had a miscarriage before I had my two wonderful children. All will be well.
    My word for 2013 is ‘extraordinary’. I want to do something extraordinary this year and BE extraordinary. Baci, Lenora

  33. 01.30.2013

    First off, best of luck in all your ventures this year.
    Second, my word is BETTER.
    Third, big hug.
    I hope 2013 will bring you back to New York.
    Ciao Bella

  1. [...] posts are highlights for me.  Her most recent post dealt with bringing in the new year and a focus word...
  2. [...] through my twitter account and came across this link to Bleeding Espresso. Michelle had posted an articl...



Homemade apple butter
Green beans, potatoes, and pancetta
Glazed Apple Oatmeal Cinnamon Muffins
Pasta with snails alla calabrese
Onion, Oregano, and Thyme Focaccia
Oatmeal Banana Craisin Muffins
Prosciutto wrapped watermelon with bel paese cheese
Fried eggs with red onion and cheese
Calabrian sausage and fava beans
Ricotta Pound Cake