Friday, December 31, 2010


It’s that time of year, when…lots of people make lots of resolutions that they will quickly abandon, fail at, or simply forget. It’s an interesting phenomenon in our culture, one that I’ve never really adopted. I suspect it might be because I have spent my entire life from the age of 5 in an academic environment. For me, January is the beginning of the middle of the year. The ‘new year’ always begins in August for me – the Academic year is the way in which I tend to measure time movement. So this time of New Year’s resolutions and starting fresh has always felt a little bit ‘behind’ to me. It’s a time for mid-course corrections, yes, but the ‘new beginning’ came 4 ½ months ago.

Yet everyone else seems to be focused on all the new things they will begin to do starting tomorrow. The magazines in the grocery aisle, the morning news programs on TV, the talking heads on the radio have all been full of it recently. Losing weight seems to top the list, followed closely by starting an exercise program, getting organized and de-cluttering, getting your finances in order, starting or ending a relationship.

I get the tendency. Anyone with even a modicum of self awareness is probably doing regular ‘progress checks’ on their life. How is this working for me? Am I getting where I want to be? Why not? What can I change? What can I do differently? But this pressure that our culture puts on us to make a massive change starting January 1 is an odd one to me and, truth be told, one that doesn’t seem particularly effective. If I come to the awareness that I need to change something, why wait until a page turns on the calendar? Why wouldn’t I start now?

I suspect that the ‘New Year’s part of the resolution making process is a way of saying (without really admitting to it) that I really don’t want to change or I’m really not ready to make the change. I recognize that I should or want a different outcome in my life, but I’m not yet ready to change the way I do things to make it happen. Or, maybe I’m just not convinced that if I’m not just a little more patient, things will eventually turn out the way that I want them to. Or, perhaps the real problem is in the unrealistic nature of the resolutions that we make.

Last year I made a resolution. I didn’t set out to make one – it evolved from a moment of clarity I experienced while eating lunch one day at my desk. We were in the beginning of the semester so it must have been the second or third week of January. I was eating a bowl of soup – Progresso minestrone – chock full of all things that are ‘good for you.’ There were kidney beans, great northern beans and lima beans – all of which I hate. But I was eating it – why? Because it was “good for me.” At that moment I had an epiphany. I’m an adult. I don’t have to eat food I don’t like just because it is good for me. I can make a choice about what I put in my mouth. I don’t like lima beans. I don’t have to eat lima beans EVER again.

So I got up, walked down to the break room, scraped the remains of my bowl of soup into the garbage and washed my bowl. When my secretary asked what I was doing, I announced – “I’ve just made a New Year’s resolution. I’m not eating any food that I don’t like just because it’s good for me.”

I have been completely successful at keeping my resolution. I have adapted recipes that have called for ingredients I don’t like by substituting ingredients I do like. The results might seem a little unorthodox to some, but they taste perfectly fine to me and they don’t contain mushy beans. An unforeseen benefit is that I have been even more conscious of making healthy food choices than I was before. Because I know that I have eliminated something ‘good for me’ from my food repertoire, I have been consciously aware of replacing it with something else that is good for me. My intake of bright green veggies has increased significantly now that I have eliminated those nasty, mushy things from my diet. This year’s resolution? – to continue keeping last year’s.

So the lesson for me is a simple one. Take charge of your life and your decisions and own them. Do it now. Don’t wait until the calendar turns a page or until you use up the last of something. Decide what needs doing and do it. Be resolved.

the calendar comes from:

Sunday, December 19, 2010


I have always loved music. I know I'm not alone in saying that. I do a "bag" speech in my Public Speaking classes as a way of giving students an 'easy' first speech. All they have to do is put 6 items in a bag that represent significant parts of their personality or life, use them as visual aids, and tell us why they are so important to them. I believe out of 50 speeches this Fall semester, 49 of them included an iPod and the phrase "music is my life." I won't go that far (or be quite that cheesy) but I do enjoy music.

Since I was a child, I have wanted to play piano. I love piano. As I've mentioned before, we were poor and there simply was not extra money for piano lessons, particularly as there was no piano on which to practice. In grammar school, of
course, you could take instrument lessons, but since you generally ended up playing the instrument they needed you to play to fill out the 'orchestra' I was assigned to the cello. A beautiful instrument, I am certain, but not for a third grader who couldn't get her arms around it to play it, much less lug it back and forth to school. I don't think I lasted more than a few months, especially once the snow fell.

When I was in college I did take piano lessons for a couple of years. I was at a small liberals arts Christian college that had a fine music program. There were practice rooms available and, believe me, not much else to do that wouldn't get you into massive amounts of trouble. So, the means of practicing was there and I did take advantage of it. Unfortunately, being surrounded by music majors who had been playing since childhood was a bit intimidating and I did let that influence my confidence level. Then, when I transferred to a state university and declared a Communication/Theatre major -- well, let's say that rehearsals and traveling immediately took the place of practicing. My piano playing, such as it was, fell by the wayside.

And, yet, it was always there in the background - the desire to play. I listen to classical piano music - it is often on in the background while I work. I appreciate the simplicity of the notes, the melodies, the life of it. I often thought that I might like to take lessons again when I retire. It would be a way to keep my hands moving despite my arthritis. It would be a way to keep my brain moving - they say that playing piano is an excellent way to develop new neural pathways that help fight off the effects of aging.

And, then a little miracle happens. I have been gifted a piano. It arrived yesterday. Two big strong guys brought it in and put it into place. The tuner is coming tomorrow, although it is surprisingly in tune after having been moved in such cold weather. It is beautiful, and accompanied by a (blessedly) padded bench. I have been obsessed since it arrived. I have taken breaks to stretch, to eat, to sleep, and now to write, but not much else. I am fascinated by every sound that it makes, by every tone, every note. It may be a very long time before I am actually able to play something recognizable, and I don't care. I am playing. Piano.

Saturday, December 11, 2010


I’ve met a lot of victims this semester. The stories are as diverse as the people. Some are sad, some are entertaining, some are a little frightening, some are completely ridiculous - Really. All contain one element – excuses. “It wasn’t my fault...” “If only…” “But you should have…” “If only they hadn’t…” “I deserve…” “If it weren’t for…”

I have not blogged much in the past few months since returning full time to campus. I have several reasons that I could give you that reflect how much less time I have to write this year than I did last year. I spend at least an hour a day “getting ready” for work – hair, make-up, clothes, packing a lunch, organizing my stuff. I spend at least an hour a day commuting to and from work. While I worked hard last year from home, working at the office is a different kind of work. There are meetings, and committee work, and people dropping in all day long. I can be ‘at work’ for a full day and not get one paper graded. So, the papers come home with me to be graded in the evening which means that time I might spend blogging is spent on other things.

There you have it. Enough excuses for you? The fact is that while all of these demands on my time are true and real and are part of the reason I have not written much – not one of them is an excuse. The truth is that I have made choices about how to use my time. I have chosen grading over writing. I have chosen socializing over writing. I have chosen sleeping over writing. But, make no mistake, I have chosen.

I am, I admit, disturbed by all the excuses I hear. Well, maybe that’s not exactly accurate. Making excuses is probably human nature. Which of us wouldn’t ideally want to have a constant scapegoat – someone upon whom we could push blame for every mistake, error in judgment, or plain bone-headed move that we make? It would be wonderful. I understand the inclination. I guess what really disturbs me is not so much the excuses but the refusal of so many to take responsibility for the choices that they make when the excuse is revealed for what it really is – a choice.

I think what makes it difficult for many is their own judgment of their choices. Maybe at heart, people recognize that one choice is less productive than another they could have made. Rather than acknowledging the choice – maybe a poor one – it’s easier to make the excuse. Certainly it’s a better choice to get up and take some exercise in the morning – but exercise is hard work. So much easier to claim that we’re too busy or there’s too much to do. We are busy. There is a lot to do. We choose whether to let those things take priority over our exercise or we choose to drag ourselves out of bed a little earlier and go exercise. Perhaps acknowledging that we make choices would force us to see ourselves as we really are. Fallible. Self-centered. Lazy. Irresponsible. And maybe that’s something that our fragile egos just cannot handle.

A new semester begins in January. I expect that I will meet many more victims in the coming months. I expect that the excuses will continue and continue. And I suspect that many of us will continue on, refusing to own up and take responsibility for the choices we are making – myself included at times, unfortunately. So maybe it’s the AA model here – one day at a time, one choice at a time. I suspect we’re all going to need a higher power.
is responsible for today's image.