new year, new me

The tree is at the curb, the lights are put away, and a new year is here. It’s time to make some personal changes as well. Or is it? It’s estimated that 40 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions–and just 8 percent achieve what they set out to do. That makes for a lot of Americans who don’t want to change, know they can’t change, or give up on changing. What’s with us, people?

I, for one, always have good intentions in January but to start the year with a list of “I will”s seems too bandwagon. So I traditionally start to make my life changes during Lent, the season of preparation commemorating the forty days and forty nights before Jesus’ death and resurrection. I don’t want to mess with the Lord so I tend to stick with my “resolutions.” And it usually always works, probably because Sundays are not included in the forty-day count, meaning they’re cheat days. Every period of sacrifice, whether it be a diet or repentance, should include cheat days to give us sinners something to look forward to weekly before getting back on the wagon.

So what will my Lenten observances be: overall, being a better person, but this includes taking better care of my body (daily exercise and staying away from sweets and fats) and taking care of my soul by not losing my temper and by being kinder to others. If I can stick with that for Lent, I can usually carry it into the late spring and summer. Before I know it, I’ll have lost five pounds and become less stressed out.

There are no statistics I could find on how many keep their Lenten observances, but I’m guessing the number is a little higher than 8 percent, because when you’ve got the Big Guy watching over you, you are less likely to give up. Or at least that’s how I see it–plus cheat days are built in. God thinks of everything!




not goodbye, but so long

Most years end with a great majority of us compiling lists of personal resolutions that we hope to accomplish in the coming year. Whether we make lists or not, to the man, we give some thought to the upcoming year and what it may hold for us: a new love, maybe; a new job; the hope of an illness being successfully treated or one we fear may be there never appearing. Or maybe it will be a grand vacation, a milestone birthday to celebrate, or a new material good that we’ve desired for some time.

Whatever it is, these thoughts tend toward the positive, as well they should, because each year presents the hope of something not only different, but better. I am anticipating some big changes in 2012 myself, some, I’m sorry to say, that I’m not welcoming. For one, my younger daughter will be moving out of the house on the first of the year. Even though she’s 23, to me she is still my baby girl, and I will miss her companionship, a companionship I’ve had on a daily basis for the past 23 years. Her sister moved out 14 months ago, and she still comes over at least once a week for dinner, so it’s, to quote “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?,” not goodbye, but so long. Still, my older daughter’s schedule is more 9 to 5 than my younger girl’s, and I fear I’ll see even less of her than I have this past year, which brought her her first full-time job and a steady boyfriend.

Also new in 2012 is raising this little bundle of energy we call Woody, a golden retriever we brought into the family almost a month ago. At 12 weeks, he’s quite a handful, but I’m seeing signs of maturity as we work with him on a daily basis to get him to learn what he should know to be a good ol’ dog one day. Even though his presence is more positive than negative, I still have been confronted with myriad responsibilities since he arrived on the scene. I’ve had to rearrange my life to fit into his, for one, although it should be the other way around. But here I am, daily getting out of bed when he wakes, whether I’m tired or sick (or sick and tired), because he needs to be fed and brought outside. And here I’ll be, working in an area of the house where I don’t typically work in order to be in the same room with him in case he gets into something he shouldn’t. And there I go, taking him for a walk or outside to play or “use the facilities,” because he needs to get his exercise or relief so he doesn’t drive me crazy when I need quiet time.

I wonder what I’ll do in the upcoming weeks when my workload gets extremely busy (think straight eight- or ten-hour days with not even a lunchbreak away from my desk) and I’m the only one here to take him outside or on those necessary walks. How I’ll manage is beyond my imagination at the moment. By then, I’m hoping he’ll have adjusted to being out in the yard by himself for significant periods of time without his getting into every bush, putting every rock into his mouth, or digging to China, although I doubt that will be the case. He’ll also likely want that necessary companionship that his breed tends to desire to be happy dogs. So, I’m anticipating some stress-filled days.

Other changes? With one child out of the house, we will have a vacant room, and I look forward to setting that up as an office and guestroom, which, with four kids, we’ve never, ever had. Assuming I’ll get a break from the puppy and be able to get to that quiet place to work, I look forward to having a room of my own in which to not only work but to get away.

I also have a mini trip planned with my best friend of 37 years. We just hit a milestone birthday in December and we are going to get together to celebrate in a city midway between our homes. This is a big deal to me, because I don’t get away very often (as in never). I look at this trip also as one in a series of pleasurable things I plan to do for myself. As a mom for nearly 26 years straight, with one minor child still to raise, I have never put myself before my family. So, I hope to try to enjoy myself more in 2012.

Whatever the year brings, I wish for no heartache and no stress and a year of positive thinking and a sense of humor. Even if circumstances don’t change and I muddle through 2012 much the same way I did ’11 and ’10, at least I’ll view what life churns out with a good attitude and a great laugh, which can make all the difference in the world. So long, 2011.