Are Resolutions Worthwhile?

It’s that time of year—the time to make a list of resolutions. They’re promises we make to ourselves about improving life in the coming year. Each New Year we write them down and display the lists at highly visible places to keep them fresh in our minds.

Resolutions usually address a person’s shortcomings. The most often cited one deals with weight loss. The holiday season that begins with Thanksgiving gives individuals too many opportunities to stuff their gullets and pack on the pounds. By the time New Years arrives, folks are exhausted from carrying those spare tires around and promise to get rid of the pounds.

Others promise to stop the use of profanity, give up smoking, or become better employees or parents. For some reason, we like making those kinds of commitments on the first day of the year—a new day and new lease on life. All is positive, and we can see in our minds how much better life will be as we live up to those resolutions for self-improvement.

The key to a successful resolution is work. A person has to be aware of the new promise he’s made, and then he must put forth plenty of effort to complete the steps that make that resolution a reality. Before long, the actions of a resolution become a habit, and at that point, a person has made the behavior a part of his every-day life. This applies to declarations to exercise more or to be better organized. In both cases, the individual sets at time each day to run, walk, or lift weights or to clean, file, and plan until it becomes second nature.

In the end, reality sets in. Most of us don’t last more than a few days in working on our resolutions. We have the best of intentions, just like the ones that line the road to hell. However, unlearning a behavior, especially one that rewards a person with some kind of pleasure, is difficult at best. No one wants to do without something he enjoys, so resolutions that are aimed at habits are often abandoned quickly. I can’t remember how many times I swore I’d quit smoking at the New Year, but when I finally gave up the habit, it was July. In high school I promised myself to study more and improve my grades. That lasted until the first day back in school. Then I decided that improving required too much energy and effort.

This year, I’m not making any resolutions. There are some things I’d like to accomplish, but I’m not setting them up so that failure leads to depression. Yeah, I’d like to drop twenty or thirty pounds, begin walking every day, set a time each day to write, and spend more time with others who need my help. If I reach these goals, I’ll be a healthier, lighter, and more contented person. If I don’t, I’ll still be okay.

Be careful what resolutions you set for the coming year. Don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s good to set goals, but after all, isn’t life supposed to be a pleasant journey? I, for one, can do without the heaps of guilt for falling short of expectations. Hang in there and have a Happy New Year

The Good and Bad of Christmas

Christmas time is special at our house. At heart, I’m still a kid who gets excited. However, not everything is perfect during the holidays.

Most people have horror stories about shopping during the season. Some even set out on Black Friday to find wonderful deals. I’m not about to place one foot in a store on that day. Instead, I go before that infamous time, and on many occasions in the past, I have finished all my shopping well before Thanksgiving.

My primary job is to search out gifts for Amy. I made her cry on our first Christmas together—no a good cry—because I bought her hot curlers and some other “dorky” stuff. Hey, we’d just gotten married five days earlier, and I didn’t know “jack” about buying things for a woman. I did learn.
A couple of times I bought pieces of furniture to refinish, and she seemed pleased. Then I bought clothing for her. Sometimes I picked a winner, and sometimes the presents were duds. The good thing is that I always kept the receipt. Amy liked that because she could exchange presents and shop for items that she liked.

Now I ask for a list of things she wants. From that I make selections. Sometimes I deviate from the list and get something I think she’ll like. Again, the receipts are tucked away in case the gifts don’t pass muster. Overall, I’m successful in pleasing my wife at Christmas. The rest of the year, I’m not so sure.

Another task with which I am charged is finding items for “stocking stuffers” for the kids. I enjoy stalking stores like Dollar General, K-Mart, and Walgreens for atypical Christmas presents. De-Icer was a hit with all one year. A lint cleaner to use on refrigerators and other appliances became a useful tool, even though I bought them as gag gifts. Some of my selections have become the butts of jokes. It seems each year the kids pull out pairs of finger nail clippers, tire pressure gauges, and chap sticks. I’m always open to good suggestions for future stocking presents.

Of course, there are some things about Christmas that drive me crazy. The crowds are one. I don’t do well in them, and my nerves fray and temper grows short in traffic jams and rude persons who jump line or push through to reach their destinations. The only time I enjoy those crowds and places is when my shopping is complete. Then, the best entertainment for the weekend is sitting at the mall and watching folks go nuts trying to find gifts that are in short supply. I sit and smile at their panic and thank the good lord my shopping is completed.

The most stressful part of the process is wrapping presents. For the life of me, I can’t make beautiful packages. I never get the edges of the paper cut straight and always use too much paper for one present. Even though I use a half a container of tape, the gift still slips and slides inside its covering. It’s sexist to say this, but I think wrapping packages correctly is something that’s built into a woman’s genetic make-up and absent in men’s.

So, we’ll meet the kids on Christmas and exchange gifts. They’ll be pleased because Amy has again done a wonderful job. My poor wife will give me a fake smile and open pitifully wrapped boxes or items stuffed in gift bags. She can rest assured that I have receipts for everything in case I didn’t quite get the right thing or chose the wrong color. Still, it’s Christmas and a wonderful time for family and friends.

Have a good one!!!!

Easing into Age

Age is a wonderful thing. No, I’m not talking about all those aches and

pains that accompany passing years, nor is forgetfulness a positive for those of us who are in the last third of our lives. However, some things are much better with age.

One of the benefits of growing older is retirement. I took mine early. Thirty years of teaching proved to be all I could stand, and reading and hearing from those still in the profession about the hoops through which they must jump, I have to thank God that He knows what’s best for me. I should add thanks to Amy that she’s willing to work so that I can be finished with the work world.

This life without having to answer an alarm every morning is special. My days consist of writing, covering a story or two, completing “honey-do’s,” and playing golf. The best thing of all is that I can say “no” to any of those if my mood doesn’t match their demands. I’m my own boss; well, Amy is actually the CEO of Rector, Inc., but no outside individual has power over my time and what I do with it. I highly recommend retirement to all who can find things to keep themselves busy. I always enjoyed my job, but I refused to let it become the center of my life. Some might say I’m too self-centered to let that happen.

Age also shows us who’s in charge. Just when I think I am the man I used to be, the years sneak into bed after a long day of yard work and clamp vices on calf and thigh muscles. My nights are often filled with fitful sleep as aches and pains come in waves. It’s then that the years announce that it’s all right to take a rest or two during chores. I’ve discovered that sometimes the harder chores require my calling for help.

Growing older also helps us to forget. Yes, I know putting an item away and then not being able to find it is maddening. That’s not what I’m talking about. Age helps us to forget to worry. Amy used to say that her mother lived a contented life during her last years, and the main cause was that she didn’t worry about a thing. Mary Alice lived for the moment, and she enjoyed her time with friends and family without concerning herself about the “small stuff” in life. Nobody can come up with a better way of living.

For years people knew my intensity about anything was exhausting and volatile. I had an opinion on everything and argued it whenever someone disagreed. My patience was easily worn thin, and righteous indignation rose over the slightest things.

Lately, my family has been shocked at how I’ve let some things that used to set me off pass. My daughter waits for me to explode with “moronic drivers” or traffic jams. Amy is shocked that I have developed more patience with folks I don’t necessarily like and for shows that I once refused to watch. Dallas is stunned that I tolerate some things that grandson Madden does, things that used to bring on spankings or, worse, verbal tirades.

What finally got through my thick skull is that I have only so much energy, and it is more quickly depleted now. I have to carefully choose my battles, so that means things that used to chap me are left alone. It’s good that age has mellowed me. Don’t get me wrong; I still can have a conniption if the situation demands it, and I have enough energy to outwork most of the younger folks around.

I coast a little more in this life now, and the reward is finding so much to enjoy and love. I’m okay with myself and in my years. Both are well worn enough to be comfortable like an old pair of shoes. I hope several more years are left to be laid back before I’m laid low.

Guarding Against Big Brother

I wonder if most folks are as surprised as I am that individuals so quickly and freely give outside entities access to their lives. It is shocking how much they are willing to cede to “authority figures.

Recently, a column on traffic cameras appeared on my blog. It pooh-poohed the use of them and their ticketing drivers for turning right on red lights. I agree that laws are created to protect us. However, the one thing that machine enforcement of laws lacks is common sense. If a person turns right on a red light when no traffic is coming, is he or she breaking the law? Technically, the answer is yes, but with a little common sense, the answer is no. It’s a good bet that a policeman won’t issue a ticket under that circumstance.

To say that traffic cameras should snap photos of so-called violation and then have a company issue a ticket because it’s the law is giving in to something that just doesn’t seem okay. No, it’s not right that a machine should eyeball us and then make the decision as to whether we should or shouldn’t be punished.

After 9/11, our government passed the Patriot Act. One part included roving wiretaps. It allowed one wiretap authorization to cover multiple devices, eliminating the need for separate court authorizations for a suspect's cell phone, PC and Blackberry, and other things. Another allowed "Sneak and peek" search warrants, which let authorities search a home or business without immediately notifying the target of a probe.

Too many citizens panicked and agreed that such things be allowed to continue in this country. I’m not at all for that. I expect plenty of grief from others who disagree. Allowing any governmental department to illegally search my property or to invade my privacy just to keep tabs on me is unacceptable. Some would say those acts keep me safe. I say to you, the right to bear arms was included in our fabric during a time when the U.S. was in its infancy and subject to attack from England. Like this act, it no longer applies since we no longer are threatened by an opposing army and especially because our country has the most sophisticated and expensive defense on the planet, one that spends more that all other countries combined.

What we citizens must guard against is giving up control over our lives. Now, plenty of people carp about too much government control, but at the same time, they are all for allowing parts of the Patriot Act to become permanent. They say a person has nothing to worry about unless he is guilty of a crime. At present that might be true, but at some point in the future such laws can be used against all, innocent and guilty alike.

Our government at present is unable to come together to do anything that helps the citizens. The economy is in the tank, and the super committee in charge of making recommendations couldn’t agree on a lunch menu, not to mention on cuts in all areas of spending. Why in the name of sense would anyone give that incompetent government access to the personal parts of our lives? If we don’t wake up and question invasions of our privacy, then George Orwell’s “Big Brother” will arrive at our doorsteps before we realize it. It might already be too late.

I’m never going to argue with folks about possessing firearms, more specifically assault weapons because neither side will ever convince the other of its wrong thinking. However, let’s wake up and be alert to what laws actually do to our liberties and personal lives. It’s the duty of a diligent citizenry and the safeguard of freedom.