Resolution or No?

The force is strong… that force that pulls at each of us as every old year presses to a close and the new year rockets toward us at breakneck speed. Of which force am I speaking? Well, I’d have thought the title would give it away, but okay: I’m speaking of the force I am calling “resolution pressure.” It’s like peer pressure, actually, but really, it doesn’t matter if your peers are making a resolution or not, at the end of the year, this force weighs on each of us to make a resolution. Make a change! Improve yourself! Make 2014 better than 2013! Do something with your life! Be successful! Lose weight! Get healthy! Quit smoking! Be nicer to people! Read more books!

Whatever it is, whatever resolution you feel pulled toward, make it count. Do not just resolve to get healthy and give up on January 6. Don’t start wearing the patch and then casually pick up a box of cigarettes at the convenience store. Do not approach days 1-4 with sweetness and light and then buckle at the first sign of frustration. In the words of Nike, “Just do it,” (is that even their slogan anymore?). Do not make a resolution that you cannot possibly live up to, no matter how tempting it is. Be practical, of course, but if you are going to make a change, just do it.

I have heard people say, “I don’t do resolutions, but this year I’m…” Nice try, but newsflash, that’s a resolution. If you feel better not calling it that, well that’s okay. If you are making a decision on January 1 to change something in your life for the better, yep, that’s a resolution. Maybe it’s not very specific, maybe it’s something you’ve been meaning to do anyway, but regardless of your reasons or what word you use, it is still a resolution. There was one year, I think, when I said I wasn’t making a resolution–maybe it was last year because I cannot even remember last year’s resolution–but then I did. In the SAME BLOG POST. Pathetic. It’s a resolution. So this year, rather than play semantics, I’ve just decided to give in and go with the crowd. I like having a goal, anyway. And what better time to declare one than at the start of a new year?

When I thought about what my resolution would be, a quote from Meet Joe Black came to mind,

“You have to try, because if you haven’t tried, you haven’t lived.”

It’s actually part of a much longer quote from Anthony Hopkins’ character about the importance of passionate love in life, but this last part has always stuck with me. My only real resolution this year is to try new things, especially if I don’t think I will like them. I am the type who assumes they don’t like something simply because it is popular not to like it. I said for the longest time I didn’t like sushi, and then I met my husband who took me to many sushi restaurants before I actually gave it real a try (my very first attempt at sushi years before literally left a bad taste in my mouth). And guess what? I loved it. I love it maybe more than he does now.

So far, it is January second and I’ve tried exactly nothing I wasn’t already planning to try. I don’t want to force the issue, though. When things come up, so long as it doesn’t violate my pescetarianism, compromise my health and well-being (or that of anyone else), and is not illegal or in some other way a violation of my own moral code, I vow to seriously consider giving it a try. I realize that is heavy on the caveats, but it’s not as if I can try veal for the first time this year or start base jumping just because it’s something I assume I wouldn’t like. Veal really compromises almost all of those caveats. And, er, the very idea of base jumping terrifies the living hell out of me and I’m fairly certain it doesn’t exactly fit in with maintaining my well-being.

Like last year, I have also decided on a word of the year. This was a concept my friend Emma (brilliant lady that she is) introduced to me. I wasn’t overly successful in implementing my word last year: CALM. In fact, that’s more often how it appeared in my mind during tough times, in uppercase letters and bold: C A L M! 2013 was anything but calm. Dealing with a new baby, my oldest son’s diagnosis, and a major move from Germany to Pennsylvania (for two months), and then on to Little Rock, Arkansas (for the foreseeable future) brought much stress into our lives and sometimes, we freaked out a bit. However, the word came to mind each trying moment and that reminder did, I think, help me calm down much more rapidly than if I hadn’t declared it my word of 2013.

This year, we’re continuing to work on our “calm” and intermingling “JOY.” This may be an easier task, there is so much joy in my day already with my two little guys when they wake up and give me a bright beaming smile or giggle out loud about something silly. Or with my big guy when he gives me a kiss as he returns home from work or we snuggle on the couch to watch fascinating television together. I just want to appreciate these instances more and stop to reflect, even briefly, on other moments that may bring joy. I want to look for joy even in moments that do not seem particularly joyous. I just feel like, for most of us anyway, our lives are what we make them. We can choose to see a whole lot of trouble at every turn, or we can roll with it and, in the words of the endlessly fascinating Buffy character Faith:

“Find the fun.”

So that’s what I’m going to do: find the fun. Except that I’m calling it joy because it just sounds classier.

Try.

Joy.

I can do this. Here’s to 2014!

The Curious Problem of Resolutions

I am of two minds on the subject of resolutions. On the one hand, recognizing a problem and wanting to fix it is certainly nothing to scoff at. I admire a person’s willingness to change. On the other hand, change is seldom easy and so few people actually stick to their resolutions that they are often quite meaningless. I had three goals last year, none to which I strictly adhered. I probably did write something every day, but it was not always the kind of writing I intended. I definitely finished many books in 2012, but most of these were seminary related and hardly amount to all of the books I started in 2012. We did not keep to our “one family PT day per week” goal. We did venture out a lot more in 2012, but hardly to the extent we would have liked. This pregnancy has been hard on all of us and made that whole goal a bit impossible (perhaps after I recover from the birth of our second son, we can get back to this one because it’s incredibly important).

Three 2012 resolutions set, three 2012 resolutions that were less than resounding successes. Apparently, I’m not alone in failing to keep these resolutions. After discussions with many friends and reading the plethora of sarcastic internet memes referencing these seemingly universal failures, I have decided against declarative resolutions this year. I have purposely not even written on the subject until January 7, so powerful is the “dangerous” temptation to set such resolutions.

I have read that New Year’s resolutions are successful only when they’re specific, but such is the nature of any goal, yes? With the impending birth of our second son and my desire to return to seminary after taking just one semester off, I do not wish to set goals so broad or so many that I am doomed to failure. I keep thinking to myself, wouldn’t it be great to sit here around this time next year and write about how I accomplished a goal I set at the beginning of the year? Would that be enough to spur me toward making meaningful year-long goals and keeping them? I know not. At least several times a year, I vow to do something every day and just do not (but, if I had set a goal to get out of bed every day, take care of Weston, and put away the dishes, I’d definitely have succeeded!).

Instead of making resolutions bound for failure, I will simply make myself some promises. First, as most of you know, I am a big fan of C.S. Lewis. Much of his work has significantly shaped my theological thought process. I have a book called A Year with C.S. Lewis in which each day contains a paragraph from one of his brilliant works on religion and theology. So far in 2013, I have read one page (day) per night without ever declaring this as a resolution. It’s not a resolution, in fact, it is merely a new piece of my routine.

Second, I improved significantly in becoming a calmer person last year after the panic over finding a specialist to treat my lupus. When all of that worked out (along with some other, even more personal issues), it finally dawned on me that yes, indeed, things really do always have a way of working out. I am not sure if this came just with my age or if it is one of those lessons that does not sink in until it has been learned many times over. I certainly have not mastered the art of calm, but I have started to approach more of life in the same way that some of my favorite people do: “It will be okay.”

Recently losing a dear friend, Cindy, to cancer on Christmas Eve, helped put things into perspective. I never thought that the last time I spoke to her would be it. As I reflect on our conversations, I can smile with the knowledge that Cindy knew how much she was loved and appreciated. I am relieved to know that we never exchanged a harsh word in our years of friendship. No one expected her recent cancer battle to be such a short one and her passing helped confirm how precious each and every moment of life is. I suspect we each have different reactions to the death of a loved one, but as I went through holiday festivities, I marveled at the outpouring of love I witnessed for such a great lady. I thought to myself, “Could we not all pass on with some peace knowing we were so well loved and fondly remembered?” Reflecting on my own faults, the tendency of my brain to head to the “worry” and my inability to, in many cases, “find the fun” (and I take a beat here to smile thinking of how Cindy would delight at my quoting Faith) leaves me hoping to improve upon these traits. I am never going to be a social butterfly and I am, often, quite a serious person. These are probably not things that will change in any appreciable way, yet I think I could do with some calm and find some peace and, yes, a little more FUN, in something beyond the mundanities of life.

I wish much luck and success to all of those who have actually set resolutions in 2013! May you accomplish your 2013 goals. As for me, I am going to continue to focus on short-term, attainable goals and hope to write to you next year a calmer person, having read all of A Year with C.S. Lewis, and “found the fun” more frequently than not. Of course, a little wine a time or two a week after the new baby’s born may help with at least two of those goals, particularly if I wish to maintain my sanity while raising two boys as a military wife and finishing seminary, eh?

Blessings to all in 2013!

Making the Kind of Sense that Doesn’t

My goals are often much more lofty than I can ever hope to live up to. Some, however, end up being fulfilled despite me (Hello, Europe! I’m living in you!). I might start to beat myself up for faltering on my “write something–anything–each and every day” goal, but I will not do that. If it was an easy goal, would it even be one worth setting?

I ask this because most goals aren’t meant to be accomplished all at once. Even short-term goals take time to reach. It’s not as though I can write something each day all at once, right? I mean, that really makes the kind of sense that… well, doesn’t.  If I’m being technical about it, I write something every day. Usually it is in the form correspondence of some sort to someone. My goal, however, involves the kind of writing that gets my thoughts out of me and onto paper (or screen). The trouble I’m having is that I have too many thoughts and they all seem too complicated or unfocused to record. As it turns out, sometimes writer’s block occurs when you have too much to say.

I did manage to cook something new each day last week. My conclusion from this little experiment is that this is a terrific way to discover new recipes and that cooking most days of the week is a much more cost effective way to feed us not just for dinner, but also for my husband’s lunch. It boggles the mind to think of all the money we will save by him not buying a lunch on base each day.

I think this experiment also gave us an appreciation for simple meals (and I’m not just talking about giving me a break). Sometimes it’s okay just to have beans and rice for dinner. We’d had so many simple meals, eaten out so much before the Christmas holiday (because we were moving to and getting settled in our new home in Europe), and were so eager to be able to have nice home-cooked meals, that we’d forgotten what peace can be found in simple or quick meals for our sanity’s sake. My husband and I decided that we’d like to order out or go out to eat one day each week (when that’s possible). This week, that will happen on Saturday.

Last week, I was just discovering cooking new things. This week, I actually focused on cooking new, but healthy things. I adapted some recipes and made little substitutions here and there to cut out unnecessary fats and the like. Which reminds me, though I’m an omnivore by nature and enjoy some sort of meat in my meals, I saw a segment on one of the morning shows recently about the benefits of eating vegetarian meals a few times a week and was intrigued. We’ll never be completely vegetarian, but I can’t help by think about how it would benefit us to have a meal or two per week incorporating proteins that are not meat focused. Thus, I am on the hunt for some vegetarian recipes. What are some of your favorite non-meat based meals?

So, to sum up: it’s important to hold oneself to the goals one sets, but not to be unreasonable about it and not get discouraged when you get off track. Next week’s goal will be this: write something each day. Have I already set that goal? Yes. But this is more clearly defined and easily measured. For one week, write something every. single. day. In fact, I’m opening a whole new Word journal .doc just for this purpose. If I think what I write is worth sharing here, I will copy and paste. Also to come next week: my list of favorite TV shows of 2011. I know you’re waiting with bated breath at the prospect.

Have a great weekend, all!

 

Supposed Former Disorganization Junkie

Another day, another blog post.

I’m searching my brain for something interesting to write. So far, all I’ve got is that I succeeded in cooking new dishes two nights in a row now. Lemon-herbed chicken yesterday and pork loin and sauerkraut in the crockpot today. Both were resounding successes, though I think I’ll put a little less seasoning than called for on the chicken next time I make it. I’m not entirely sure which meal I will be cooking up tomorrow. Last night I sat down and planned meals for the week, but did not decide which day would be which meal. Today’s commissary run was successful (if long, who knew they’d be so understaffed the day after a holiday?). I’ve always found it difficult to determine tomorrow’s meal the day before–how will I know what I’m “in the mood for” a whole 24+ hours in advance? Now, with a family to think about, I have forced myself to plan things out a little bit more so than in the past.

Speaking of planning and organization, throughout the spring/summer of 2011, I’d been periodically reading/referencing a book by Maria Menounos called, The Everygirl’s Guide to Life. I’d heard about it on some news show I was watching on its release day back during hubby’s BMT or tech school phases. You know, it was that time when I was doing the single-mom thing and trying to keep myself busy, while planning ahead for military life. I didn’t know much about Menounos before reading it other than seeing her everywhere on television shows interviewing people. She seemed busy and interested in what was going on with Hollywood, which is a much loved a preoccupation of mine (big-time film and TV geek that I am). So, I picked up here book and used it to find great ideas about organization that might help us as a military family (but really, they could help ANY family or person get it together).

I quickly realized during the whole “packing to PCS overseas process” that I was woefully disorganized. As a result, I’m making every effort to set up our new home in the most organized fashion possible. This brings me around to Menounos’ book and the need to revisit it. We are still buried under boxes here in our bedroom, hallway, and livingroom area. I’m desperately feeling the need to get rid of these boxes and get organized, but finding it difficult to really dive in because the task seems just *so* intimidatingly big. It would seem that revisiting her organization tips might help provide the necessary motivation and direction to get this place where I want it. The biggest problem area is the bedroom/closet issue. Getting that sorted out would make a world of difference, so I think that’s where I’ll begin tomorrow.

Another topic she discusses in her book regards being charitable and giving of one’s time to help out those less fortunate (in whatever way). We made an effort to contribute how we could to charities last year, but I think we could do better this year. My husband and I have discussed volunteering our time in various capacities, and I think that’s a real family goal of ours in the coming year. It’s always a challenge to work in time like that when you have a busy little toddler, but I’m sure we can squeeze it in. After all, what better example to set for children than to model charitable behaviors?

What ways have you gotten involved with helping those in need?

Everything In Its Time

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

See how I’m already keeping with one of the goals I’ve set as part of my resolution? In truth, I didn’t write yesterday, good thing it wasn’t 2012 yet!

I’ve set a rather ambitious goal for myself: make one new meal for my family each day this week. So far, I’ve planned four meals and am excited to get to the commissary tomorrow to get groceries for the week. I’m not a great cook, but I’m genuinely trying to become one. I’ve got the genes for it, I come from a long line of fantastic family cooks on both sides of my family. I just need to explore it more for myself and find my groove. It’s challenging as I have never thought of cooking as something to which I should aspire. When my husband and I first married, we were gifted a many kitchen and cooking utensils, several of which I have used sparingly or not at all until we began to settle in here in Germany. I no longer have Mom to rely on and I have a little belly to feed. He needs nutrition, as do my husband and I, so I am trying to take care of this. Why didn’t I aspire to really learn to cook? It may have been the ever-so-slight hint of feminist in me that rebelled against this whole “work of cooking” in the past. That rebellion seems futile. I am a wife and mother now, and I do have responsibilities to my little family. If my husband is going to be the one going out and bringing home the proverbial bacon, well, then I must fill the homemaker role that is (gasp!) traditionally assigned to women. I sometimes like to think of myself as unique and rather unconventional, but conventions serve a function, too. It’s okay to give in to some of them, isn’t it? I mean, I’m still a big-time geek and do often march to my own drumbeat (it’s a catchy one, you ought to try it sometime!), so giving in to some of these feminine conventions is acceptable.

On the topic of goals, there are moments when I wonder if there’s time enough in my life (or anyone’s) to accomplish all the things I have it in mind to. I remember seeing TV shows and films where characters prepare a list of things to accomplish by the time they’re a certain age (I’m thinking specifically of a ‘Friends’ episode wherein Phoebe had such a list). I’ve never felt compelled to limit myself by setting a deadline. After all, if there’s one thing that chronic illness teaches you, it’s to set goals, but not deadlines–everything in its time. There are enough arbitrary and necessary deadlines imposed by society and life in general, why put more pressure on one’s self? Still, it couldn’t hurt to make a list of long-term, non-specific deadline (except, maybe in “this” life) goals–things I’d like to accomplish. This isn’t meant to be part of my ‘resolve to be resolute’ plan, but rather just an idea and one that I think could be rather fun and inspiring. Could be that this is more accurately classified as a “dreams” list, though, I’m not saying these are things that are only possible “in my dreams,” they are merely things that I’d like to get around to doing/seeing/experiencing. Imagine the possibilities!

Do any of you have one of these lists (with a deadline or without)? What are your thoughts on such lists? Useful? Waste of time?

As to our family goal–at least one PT day a week–well, we’ve faltered slightly on that (but then, the new year has only begun today). We had hoped to do that today, but got to the business of working on the apartment (and I *had* to watch Crazy Stupid Love and try a new recipe for Herbed Lemon Chicken). I suppose we got a workout through all of that work, but it wasn’t dedicated PT work. I suppose that’s now on our list for next weekend (and each week after that).

So that’s all I have for today. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it!

Fuel in the Furnace of Achievement

I’ve thought long and hard about this resolution of mine, and the more I think on it, the more I like it. It assures that I don’t set unrealistic goals and forces me to be accountable for completing them. I’m certain I won’t share all of my goals publicly (after all, some things must surely stay private), but I will share what I can.

To that end, I’ve set two goals which are both long and short term and we’ve also set one as a family. First, I’m vowing to set aside time write something–anything–each and every day. It might be as short as a paragraph or as long as a short story. It might even just be a blog post or a paper for seminary classes. If writer’s block should strike, well then I will just write a stream of consciousness for about 5 minutes. It may not make much sense, but it will be writing.

Secondly, I will finish every book I start in 2012. This may not seem like a big deal, but since having my son, I’ve neglected both my writing and my pleasure reading. I seem to get interested in some other book and forget to finish the one I started. To contribute to helping me follow through with this goal, I will do two things: set aside time each day to read (before the time I set aside to write, perhaps) and then post (here, probably) about what books I’m reading and have finished. The time I set aside may only be 10 minutes before I fall asleep at night. Still, ten minutes every night adds up. What am I reading now? A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin. Ideally, I would like to have this book finished before Valentine’s Day when my favorite author, Anne Rice, releases her next book, a return to the supernatural realm and to horror novels in particular with The Wolf Gift. It will be auto delivered to my Kindle on February 14th and I know I will want to begin reading it right away.

Our family goal is to have one PT day a week. This goal begins tomorrow with “Family PT Saturday.”  This was my husband’s idea when he noticed the toll that little to no exercise (since our move to Germany) had been taking on my illness. It’s a brilliant idea, I think, and also one that will strengthen us even more as a family unit–something that’s always important. We’re starting with just a half hour given my current physical state. Wish me luck!

So that, as they say, is that. The beginning of my resolve to be resolute resolutions. Three goals set  before the new year has even arrived.

Goals are the fuel in the furnace of achievement.
Brian Tracy, Eat that Frog

What goals do you have for the New Year?