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No More Resolutions

Let’s stop pretending that they work for everyone. Or that they are a great idea to change our bad habits. Let’s start getting smart about the things we want to change or need to accomplish.

2020 threw everyone for a loop. Over 1.78 million people have died worldwide. The plans that we had for the year or even the spring were evaporated in a matter of days. As a society, we are processing grief not only over those we have lost, but for routines and traditions that had to be changed or were cancelled.

The world slowed down and sped up at the same time. We learned new ways to hold meeting and the importance of mental health for everyone.

The Death of Resolutions.

Somewhere in my office, there is a list of last year’s resolutions. They were practical and January that I believed I could accomplish. Things were going to get done. Even as the news of the pandemic spread, I felt confident that it would all be over by midsummer. It wasn’t. Still isn’t.

So the list and the idea that I had to wait for things to be just so to work on this or that disappeared. The list maybe in the trash to be honest. Looking back, while I felt they were practical, there were too many things to accomplish all at the same time.

The idea of setting resolutions for 2021 seems absurd. While a vaccine gives me hope that I will be able to visit my mother in Florida sooner rather than later; I am not sure that now is the time for long term planning.

What are you waiting to do? And how are you preparing to do it? Is it realistic?

The last two are questions that we tend to ignore when making resolutions. We make resolutions like we made birthday wishes when we were five. We close our eyes tight and press all of our imagination into the wish. The results are about the same.

So no more resolutions. No more annual pass or fail tests. Let’s start planning, really planning and get things going.

Smart Planning

Start with one thing not a list of things. Something you really want to do. If it is going to the gym, look at your schedule and find a couple of times a week you can go. If you live in a rural area like I do, your choices may be slim and the hours not great.

Next anticipate roadblocks to your plan. My biggest road blocks are work meetings and sunset. While the first is understandable especially if you work in education or know a teacher the second might seem odd. So why sunset? Our daily dog walk is an important part of my family’s life. We do it together nearly everyday and if I am not home before the sunset I miss it. This also means that someone is going to have to walk two dogs instead of one. Not a huge deal but if I can help it, I would rather be there. It is also

Now let’s circle back to the thing you want to do. The gym example is perfect. The goal of going to the gym more is really about getting healthier. So what do you need to be healthier? Eat right, drink less and excerise more. Since we started with the gym, exercise is the thing that you want to increase so what can you do without the gym. Make a plan and do it.

But, what if I…..

I think the word you are looking for is fail. What is you fail? What if on the day you start your new plan, things go off to heck in a handbasket? Then it is time to regroup.

If you get off track you haven’t failed, this isn’t an all or nothing game, get right back on track. Maybe look at what caused you to veer off course and work to avoid it. For example, I don’t plan to go to the gym on Mondays because those tend to be crazy days. Fridays are another day that I avoid because after a week of teaching, I am exhausted.

Visualize it.

Not only should you think about what it will look like when you accomplish your goal. You should also picture what it is going to look like doing it. It might also be helpful to write out what the day is going to look like with your new habit mixed in.

My gym workout plan looks something like this:

  • Wake up at 5:30
  • Stretch, take a shower and make the bed
  • Breakfast by 6:30
  • Morning walk at sunrise
  • Pack Lunch
  • Leave for work at 7:45
  • Leave work by 4:00 for gym
  • Finish workout by 5:00
  • Walk dogs when I get home.
  • Cook dinner
  • Writing time
  • Stretch before bed / sleep by 9:30

Weekends are a little different and this plan is for Tuesday and Thursdays for when I have arranged to leave work early. On the other days, I would come home and do a workout at home. Do I work out everyday? Yes, sometimes it is only a dog walk but everyday unless I am sick I do something for my physical health.

Start Small

Pick one thing and begin to work on that. Once you develop your new habit, choose something else and make it a continual cycle of renewal and improvement. You might be surprised at how much you accomplish in a year.

And above all, give yourself a break. We are living through a global pandemic.

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Three Lessons for the New Year

The End of 2020

The days and hours of 2020 are coming to an end. But, before you get on your knees to welcome 2021, remember it isn’t over. The horrors of this year aren’t going to evaporate at the stroke of midnight. The virus will still be with us even while the vaccine gives us hope. Fake news profiteers and science deniers will still be among us. Racism and its kin will still be lurking in the shadows seizing on the opportunities to raise their heads and tiki-torches.

But we know better and it is time that we start doing better.

Seriously, if you learned something in 2020 carry that knowledge into the New Year and act on it. Here are a few things, I learned.

Be a Better Friend

Earlier this month, I learned that one of my best friends was in the hospital on a ventilator. Not from COVID, but pneumonia which isn’t much better. Since moving to Virginia, we haven’t been in contact and truthfully, that started before the move.

One of my worst habits is failing to keep in touch with people that I love; friends and family included. This habit has meant finding out about the loss of someone months after they passed away and not spending precious time with them. It has meant people not knowing how much I love them and disappearing from my life.

In October, a week before my birthday I fell ill with COVID-19. My friends and family made sure that my needs were taken care of and that I didn’t feel alone. Cards and care packages, phones calls and instant messages, there was a lot of love directed my way.

So finding out that S. was in the hospital and I couldn’t get in my car and go see her; broke something deep inside. I couldn’t be there to hold her hand or support her family. All I could do was wait, pray and hope that she would recover. As of today, she is off the ventilator.

I started my efforts to be a better friend through the sending of Yule cards this because I knew before hearing about S that I wanted to be a better friend. I made a few ornaments for people and have tried to be better, which in the end is all you can do. How can you be a better friend?

Health before Work

I come from a long line of workaholics who have passed along a host of bad habits. You might recognize some of your own habits here as well. Over the summer, I planned for the upcoming school year, attended professional development and attended meetings. Most of this time was unpaid or as one of my former admins called it “volunteering”. Many teachers will tell you that it is often easier to come to work sick that write sub plans and I can tell you this is true. I have been my own sub many times.

The only day I was planning to take off was my birthday and that I was told the week of that I couldn’t take off because the sub had cancelled. Strangely, since I had COVID at the time, they graciously let me have that day. They did however call me every couple of days to see when I would be returning. Not to check on my health, but to when I could come back to work.

Did I meant that I worked with pneumonia in Florida because it was the end of the school year and I was out of sick leave? To be fair, I didn’t know it was pneumonia until after the school year was over. The first two weeks of that summer were spending confined to the sofa where I tried not to die and lived in a semi-lucid state thanks to codeine.

What did all of that pulling off my own needs for the needs of my employer? Pretty much nothing except higher medical bills.

One way, I’m fixing this is by making doctors appointments sooner than later, not waiting until the summer when it is convenient for the school and leaving work on time twice a week to go to the gym. (If you have ever known a teacher, leaving work on time is a big deal.) What do you need to do take better care of yourself? People are like cars, we don’t work so good when we avoid regular maintenance.

Don’t Wait for the Perfect Time

Because there is no such time. Waiting for the perfect time is a waste of time. If you want to go to Italy, which I do, then go to Italy. If you want to write a book, get typing. Want to start a You-tube channel, do it. Do it sooner than later or better yet now.

I keep waiting to do things like visit friends and work on photography. Then came 2020 and I couldn’t see friends and family. I could work on photography but I was stopped from going places much of the time. I told myself that I need to get a better camera or take a class. All of which produced no art on my end and only increase my anxiety.

Even before 2020’s series of foreseen catastrophes (every since one was predictable including the pandemic), I had been working on ridding myself of the perfect time excuse. 2020 just added some more fuel to its pyre. And while you’re at it, add the need to be perfect to the fire as well. Perfection is an ideal and when it does occur it doesn’t happen without a whole lot of practice.

What lesson did you learn this year? How are you going to do better in the coming year?

End of the Year

Where has the time gone?

Wasted on the internet, rolling in the depths of my depression and figuring out I really wanted, living to work instead of working to live. We write our own stories, but this year I handed the pen over to my demons. Turns out that while they write an interesting hook, they next finish what they start.

The year is over, but I am not.

I am still here and although I have been quiet on this blog I won’t be in the next year.

Every ending is a beginning.

This next year, I am not making an resolutions or goals.

This year, I am taking over my story.

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Five Resolutions to Keep

1486871_633317343381861_1056690583_nSome believe that resolutions are trite, especially New Year’s resolutions.   And with the prodigious rate that New Year’s Resolutions are dropped and forgotten those holding that opinion are completely justified.

A resolution without conviction and a back-up plan is destined to fail.

You know the saying that “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”  Well, if you say you are going to lose weight in the New Year and make only vague plans to join a gym then you have just planned to fail.

This year my plan is to be successful.  Success being defined here as a healthier and happier Lu.

Lu’s New Year’s Resolutions.

1.       Walk three to five miles a day. 

I said "Walk, not car ride, Luke."
I said “Walk, not car ride, Luke.”

Plan:  As soon as I wake up take Luke for a walk around the block if not further. When I get home take Luke for another walk which helps him stretch his legs after napping much of the day and helps me detox.   Yes, it is time consuming, but after mapping and timing the walk for the last two week it only takes at most ten minutes.  Around eight o’clock, I will take Luke for the big walk of the night.

Following this plan, I have walked nearly twenty miles in the last two weeks. It does involve me making sure that I get up on time and working at least an hour of exercise time into my day, but results so far have been great.  I am sleeping better and generally feel better.

How I will measure this goal:  I use two apps for this. The first is Habit List by Scott Dunlap.   I have had this one for the last six months or so and use it to both track my progress and help keep me on track with other tasks that need to be completed on a regular basis.  My longest streak of walking Luke in the morning is 194 walks in a row which was only broken by a migraine.  I also use the app to remind me to change the house’s air filter and when it is time to take Luke to the groomer.

The second app is Map My Run.   This is what I used to figure out that walking around my block is .40 miles and takes less than ten minutes even with stops.  I have also used it to pre-plan walks so that I know which routes will take me to my goal.

Anywhere between 21 to 35 miles a week, I will have achieved this goal.  I am also giving myself another month to work my way up to it.  The wiggle room is necessary because my schedule with three jobs can vary and at least twice a week I don’t get home until nearly nine o’clock at night.

*Both Apps are available in the I-tunes store.

2.       Move my diet closer to the Mediterranean diet that my cardiologist recommended while eating out less.

Nummy Salmon soon to be appearing at my house.
Nummy Salmon soon to be appearing at my house.

Plan: Use the Amazon gift card a friend gave me to purchase a new cookbook.  Adapt at least one new recipe every week and make a shopping list to stay on target.    Replace butter with Olive Oil and east more fish.  Eat less processed foods and making more use out of my garden space.

As a Celiac, I find that a lot of the traditional foods I grew up eating are heavily processed and high in sodium.  Plus, as gluten free because more popular there are a lot of companies offering “gluten free” options that aren’t safe for people like me thanks to cross contamination.  Shopping for safe products can be a headache even with my Shopwise app. (Yep, there is an app for that.)  So I try and cook most of my meals.

Following this plan is relatively easy because I have gotten used to cooking for myself more and more over the last year and my diet is pretty close to it as it is right now.  Red Curry with fish or chicken and veggies is easy for me to prepare in advance for lunch so is fish with pineapple salsa.  I made cooked my lunch this morning while I was in the shower.

The hard part is going through all of the materials on what a Mediterranean diet is and incorporating more nuts into my diet. I am not a big fan of nuts since I am allergic to walnuts and get a bit tired of almonds. And forgiving myself for emergency gluten free burritos.

How I will measure this goal:  This is going to be tough since the reason I am not going on the diet to lose weight but to help out my heart.  My weight has actually never coming into the conversation with my cardiologist. He suggested the diet because it has been shown to reduce heart related symptoms.  It won’t make my floppy heart (see The Heart of the Matter) go away, but anything to keep the bouncy heart beat down time to a minimum is worth trying.

I will share new recipes that work on Twitter and monitor how I am feeling in my journal.  This week’s recipe is Pesto Glazed Chicken.  (Follow me on Twitter to see how it turns out)

3.       Cook more for friends.  

Plan:  Cook for my parents at least twice a month and friends at least once a month.  Why? Well, my folks have been feeding me all my life and it is time I paid them back. Plus, cooking is one of the things that relaxes me. In addition, it giving me the opportunity to try out new recipes.

Following this plan involves a lot of the same things as goal #2 because I will be planning out what I eat and using a shopping list more often.  Building in social time is good for my mental and physical health and keeps me from becoming a complete hermit.

Blood Child
Coverart by Steven Warrick

How I will measure this goal: Well, more than a few of my friend read this blog so they will be expecting invitations and can feel free to harass me about this.  (That includes you, Momma) I will keep track with my calendar and again journal.

4.       Finish Formatting and Publish Blood Child.

Plan: Spend the rest of my Kickstarter budget plus some of my own money and have the book professional formatted. Read up more on the rest of the steps involved in self-publishing and marketing.

How I will measure this goal: This is the easiest goal because the outcome is so tangible.

5.       Transform my dining room into an office.

Couch Office even with puppy assistance just isn't cutting it.
Couch Office even with puppy assistance just isn’t cutting it.

Plan: Replace my current dining room table with something smaller (still allowing me to have guests) and purchase a larger desk and chair.  A rug is also a needed addition as well as some sort of filling system.  It is just too hard to write in the living room all the time and not get seduced into napping or the wiles of the internet.  All of this can be done slowly over the course of the next couple of months with the money that I will be saving by not eating out and watching Craigslist.

The hardest part will be remaining patience and not trying to do everything at once which would blow my carefully planned budget.

How I will measure this goal:  By sitting in my new office space and writing up next year’s resolution blog.

Resolutions not on my list.

Losing Weight.  – It comes back and no matter how many times I set this goal, something always happens.  I have been the same weight for about three years now.   Saying that I am going to reach such and such weight by x-date hasn’t worked out.  I don’t drink soda except once a blue moon and fast food has been off the menu for a while which is why instead of a weight goal I have two this year to help me be a better me.  Since adopting this policy, I have been told that I am loosing weight at least once a week.  The scale hasn’t changed much, but my body has.

Get out of debt – It took years to get my finances where they are and it is going to take years to get them in to shape.  Besides, my debt load is pretty bearable and what I really mean by that statement is I want money to do the things I enjoy like going to conventions, buying books and shoes and traveling. All of which I have been able to do this past year as well as pay off two of my outstanding bills.

This next year, I plan to do much the same by taking at least half the money my roommate gives me and saving it. This way, I have bill money for the summer and cushion for the next time my car breaks down.  It also means that I will be able to work less and save more.

Finishing my next novel – It took nearly two years to write and edit Blood Child  finishing my next novel make take even longer.  Yes, I have a daily writing goal but the ups and downs of writing part time with multiple jobs has taught me that make such promises to myself is setting myself up for failure.

Getting a new tattoo – This will happen, but maybe not in the next year. Money and trust have to coincide; the money for the tattoo and an artist that I trust. So far it hasn’t happened and I refuse to frustrate myself.  Rushing into something that I am going to have for the rest of my life doesn’t seem like a good plan. 

Oh, it will be. I am planning on it.
Oh, it will be. I am planning on it.