Wednesday, December 29, 2010


I'm not claiming to have put forth a whole lot of originality with any of my previous blog entries--in fact, largely it's the lack of original-yet-not-too-self-absorbed-sounding topics that keep me from writing more frequently--and admittedly, writing about resolutions on December 29 lacks much panache. Yet it feels kind of unavoidable, so hopefully you'll bear with me.

According to the Source of All Things, the internet, the "popular tradition of making new years resolutions also has origins in Ancient Babylon and Rome." And according to the REAL Source of All Things--Wikipedia--only about 12 percent of participants in a "resolutions study" achieved their goals. So while I'm not really sure of the exact point at which we start dating Ancient Babylon and Rome,all in all, that's a lot of failed attempts by generations upon generations of folks. Why is that? If another tradition had such an astounding fail rate, wouldn't it have died long ago?

I don't have the answer but, as one of the consistently failing 88 percent, I can give it a stab. I guess it's the same concept as why we put ourselves through other frustrating and elaborate rituals--to follow and create traditions (see previous blog entry) and to mark time in a meaningful way. Plus resolutions also have the added bonus of creating a feeling of hope and renewal--who knows, sometime, with one of those little promises, you might be among the 12 percent who is actually able to stick with it. And won't that feel just amazing!

So for the heck of it, I'll let you know what I'm overwhelmingly most likely to fail at in the coming year, in no particular order. (Feel free to do the same in the comments. I love comments!)

1. Motherly patience. You can look at this in one of two ways. My failure rate is a solid 100 percent, as I am generally screaming at the kids by January 2, having spent 10  or so cold days cooped up with them over the Christmas break. However, most people who know my kids seem to like them and tell me I've done an OK job. So I guess the resolution itself is a consistent failure, but I like to look at the bigger picture on this one. (Right?)

2. Train for a triathlon. It seems like doing something physically extreme would be a nice way to say "bring it on" to the big 4-0. Then again, see 2007. Did a marathon. Did not catch "the bug." Oh, and I HATE swimming in the winter. And I don't own a bike.

3. Work on work. I did make some substantial achievements in this realm this year but I know it's not enough. As I revealed just now in point #2, I am not getting any younger and it is entirely debatable as to whether writing a very sporadic blog and reporting on Sudbury town government counts as "resuming my career." This one, I might actually have to force myself to be among the 12 percent if I want to be making a living from writing, which I do.

then again...

4. Cut myself a break! On any given day, in any given situation, I can tell you truthfully that I almost always try the best I can in that moment. Is that "try" often a failure? Yes. But I'm also a big believer and practicer of the do-over. I am not afraid to look at and confront my "stuff" and to own it, and learn from it. But ultimately, I've learned nothing during my (see #2) years on earth, it's that you can't please everyone, right? So stop trying so hard.

So resolved.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Tradition, tradition

Every year the holiday season inevitably sets off a torrent of...well, lots of things. Stress. Anticipation. Stress. Exhaustion. Stress. Joy and magic? Yes, but honestly, most of that is limited my kids' squeals of shock and awe during the 15 minutes of paper-shredding-frenzy that is Christmas morning. Same for everyone, right? Lots of stress and work for a few moments of unmitigated joy.

Why such a pessimistic grinch, you ask? I don't think I am, really; just a realist. But the holidays do have a way of shining a light on an issue I've struggled with for some time now: a lack of reliable traditions. For years, like most folks, we did the same thing--went to my parents' house. But as they got older and found it difficult to host the growing clan in their small home, things changed...some years for the better, some not, but never into something consistent. I hear people talk all the time about how they always go to Aunt Marian's for Thanksgiving and their sister-in-law Sue's for Christmas Eve. It's been many years since I've had an "always" for these such occasions. And it can be a bummer.

So you can imagine I've really taken it to heart that my older son, through no mom-driven osmosis (I keep my thoughts on this quiet around him) has turned out to be as tradition-bound as I am. Perhaps it has a greater meaning in the context of his nearly teenage mind, I'm not sure, but he is borderline obsessed right now with what we "usually" do. So I've had to explain that due to various circumstances, many beyond our control, we don't do the same thing every year. It might be nice to know what to count on, I tell him, but on the other hand, it could become routine, which is something I do hear from friends who are stuck year after year listening to Great-Uncle Jim prattle on about prices in the 1930s. And then I try to emphasize the same things we DO do every year. We eat turkey--somewhere! The day after Thanksgiving, we go to the movies. On Christmas, we wake up in our own house. And on New Year's Day, we splurge on a nice dinner. (OK, we just started that a year ago and it didn't go very well, but dammit, traditions have to start somewhere.)

So lo and behold, as is a great gift of parenthood, teaching him has taught me too...or if not quite yet, it has helped me chill a little. Traditions take time, right? And they're not carved in stone. There's no magic to "always," is there?

To leave this on a fun note, post your favorite holiday tradition, or the one you'd most like to get out of if you could. I do like the day-after-Thanksgiving kids' movie and may insist on it long past the point when the boys are interested.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Dreams can come true...?

I had some pretty strange dreams last night. I was pregnant with twins (!). Even stranger, though, I spent $25.03 on doughnuts, which I would never, ever do. Chocolate or wine? You bet. But not doughnuts, even the oft-moaned-over Krispy Kreme varieties.

In any case, as I don't have the greatest dream recall, waking up with these images made me think about dreams of both the soporific and fantasy variety. What were my long-ago dreams? Have many, or any, of them come true?

I don't have many memories of childhood dreams. The earliest ones I really recall clearly took form in my early college days, when I fantasized about becoming a newscaster. I planned to call myself Liz Vincent (Vincent is my father's name; Stankiewicz was a bit...problematic) and completely envisioned myself behind a desk, all blond bangs and round, rosy cheeks.

But that's as far as the vision went. Never in those imaginations did I see myself toiling away year after year, waiting for my big break as I stood outside on a freezing night at 11 p.m. for a background shot for some story or other. I was always just conveniently plunked behind the newsdesk, smiling away at my own living-large self.

I guess that's the thing about those kinds of dreams. While they're worth having, and for some of us worth pursuing, they don't come for free. It's all well and good to believe you can do or be anything you want to--and you can--but not without a lot of effort and sacrifice. And time would soon reveal that I hated standing outside in the cold, so to speak. A warm kitchen and hot bath turned out to be more my speed.

And as I (and the majority of those reading this, I imagine) find myself at that point of life where this is "kinda it for now," as one of my friends says, I look back on that old dream and wonder if I really let myself down somewhere along the way. Would that girl ever have imagined the culmination of her journalistic fantasies would be covering board meetings at age 39?

On the surface, the answer to that is an obvious, huge no. But what the hell did SHE know? Because maybe it isn't just that the shape of your dreams changes...the definition does too. Because through 39-year-old eyes, two healthy kids who've always had a parent present, a solid marriage, a home, and the ability and desire to resume a calling--writing--that never quite left me all seem kind of...dreamy.