New Year’s Eve is only a couple days away.  We’re all going to stop eating holiday treats, right?  We’re going to be healthy – physically, mentally, and spiritually.  Start jogging again.  Do the Sudoku puzzles that were a holiday gift from ten years ago.  Maybe clean out the garage.  Get rid of baby clothes.  (Sure way to get pregnant.  Just sayin’)

As time gets closer to the ball in New York Times actually dropping, our resolutions get more grandiose.

An article in the Wall Street Journal said that fasting is the key to a long life.  I’m going to fast once a week starting in January.

This is the year I’m going to be a serious writer.  I’m going to write 2,000 words every day.  It will be like NaNoWriMo for the ENTIRE YEAR.

I’m going to watch SUPERNANNY or whatever childcare is currently on and NEVER RAISE MY VOICE TO MY CHILDREN AGAIN.  EVER.  In fact, I’m going to whisper.

I’m going to wake up an hour early every day and attack that pile of laundry that has taken over my basement.  I will be able to see the floor by February.  (True Story:  my dad had a duffel bag of clothing that needed to be sewn.  Finally he sat down with the sewing machine and mended everything in there.  Not one piece of clothing still fit my two older sisters or myself because he’d waited so long.  Moral: if you are going to sew, wash, fix something, make sure it still fits and/or is necessary.)

I’m going to read the Bible.  Every verse of all 66 books.  Then I’ll start on the Koran.

I’ll teach my kids to make their own beds.  No more soda in the house.  I’ll learn a foreign language.  I’ll be a better person and not tell lies and also give more generously and be more organized and take off my shoes at the front door and maybe take a typing course and I’ll ask out the cute girl in geometry and do a better job in school or college or at work and maybe in bingo at the retirement home.  I’ll do it all!!!!

And then the ball drops.  And the first three days of this new program are exhausting.  Change is hard.  You start sneaking sodas at work.  You’re too sore to work out.  Who even likes these brainiac number puzzles?

I’m no different.  I can think of a hundred ways — easy — that I need to improve.  But, what if I try something different this year and my resolution is to stop judging myself.  Stop seeing all the ways I need to be better, that I’ve messed up, that I was graceless and just wrong, and be a little kinder.

What if I don’t judge others either?  What if I try to see all of us as human beings trying to figure our way through this very confusing life?

Worst case: only 365 days till I can change my resolution.

Wishing you the best in 2014.








Keeping it Simple

I’m trying to keep it simple during this holiday season, but it sure is hard.

Last month I worked really hard at writing 50,000 words in one month.  I did it, if you let me cheat and add the 20K I wrote before November with the 30K I wrote during NaNoWriMo.  The good part of the experience is that I pushed past the place in my new novel where I was stuck…the bad news is that there are several significant plot changes that I need to make.  In an effort to get down words, I flailed about.  That’s okay.  Sometimes, that’s what it takes.  I also, for the first time in ten years, turned in a library book late.  The shame of paying that fine…I also paid my credit card bill late.  Ooops.  My kids bought school lunch a whole lot more than I’d budgeted.   I was grouchy in the afternoons when they got home from school because I’d been writing or banging my head on the desk or pacing the study during school hours.  Then, when they were home I tried to unload the dishwasher, fold clothes, check homework, suddenly plan dinner (we ate a LOT of chicken nuggets), etc.

I also didn’t do anything to prepare for Christmas.  Or the twins’ birthday (Dec. 31st) or my wedding anniversary (Jan. 2nd).  So, I was a little frantic after Thanksgiving.  Being frantic is NOT a good way to Keep Things Simple.  In fact, it leads to buying many things and running extra errands and worrying and not being thankful and forgetting that IT’S BETTER TO GIVE THAN RECEIVE.  Being human is so hard and our advertisers make it worse by manufacturing a need that only their produce can supposedly fill.

Last year we kept it more simple.  It was BIGGER.  It was BEAUTIFUL.  We were BLESSED.  You probably know our story.  If you don’t, my daughter Evelyn finished almost three years of chemotherapy for leukemia last December.  She had surgery to get her port out on December 14th.  Within a week she was very ill with a gram positive bacterial infection in her blood stream.  We went in to the E.R. and were immediately admitted.  We stayed in isolation.  Then, on a snowy Christmas Eve, we were finally released.  We drove home through the light snow.  Our neighbors had wrapped all the presents.

We woke up to Christmas.

It was easy to be thankful last year in the silence of the hospital room.  It was easy to tear up with humility when I thought of my neighbors helping our family to celebrate.  It was easy to admire compassion when I saw the pediatric oncology nurses and doctors working through the holidays.

I am seeking that same cheerfulness, that same sense of wonder, that same openness to miracles, this Christmas season.  It is harder with all the television advertisements.  All the last-minute deals at the mall.  All the activities at schools and the office and even at church.

It all begins, I think, with consciously slowing down.  With intentional gratitude.  With serving others.  I’m trying.  I want to savor the holidays, not fear the January credit card hangover.

How do you keep it simple?