I am a little embarrassed to admit this, but in middle school, I played the clarinet in the school band. I also played the saxophone and the flute, but the clarinet earned me the most grief. Slightly less embarrassing is admitting that I played the clarinet in a German school orchestra. At least in an orchestra, the viola is the most hated instrument, and anyways the music is far more noble. Mozart wrote for clarinets, so they can’t be all bad!
But back to middle school: my band teacher at the Nicholas A. Ferri Middle School in Johnston, Rhode Island, was a man by the name of Daniel Coyne. I remember a few things about his teaching, including his bushy eyebrows. Long before Leonard Bernstein, he conducted us with his eyebrows. I recall how he instructed us to sit up as if suspended by a string from the ceiling, something which has come in handy throughout my life. And most often of all, I think of his maxim to “squeak loudly.” Let us put aside that the squeak is a sound coming from the clarinet when it is played incorrectly: the advice was given to all members of the band. When we were uncertain of how to proceed, we ought not play quietly and hope no one heard. He advised us to play boldly, so that he could catch the mistake before a concert, and correct it. “If you’re going to squeak, squeak loudly.”
I am going to translate his advice to another field of life: that of the New Year’s Eve Resolution. In my 30 years, my attitude towards resolutions has run the gamut: I’ve made one, intending wholeheartedly to keep it, then failed; I’ve made many, and failed as many; I’ve made none, knowing that I was bound to fail and declaring the whole thing a sham. In recent years, I tended towards the latter attitude, thinking that if I declared no goals, then I would not be caught in failing to attain them. There is of course an awful feeling to such failure. Just as each week I am ashamed as, again, I confess in church the same sins: lack of diligence in my Bible studies and prayer, improper attitudes towards my husband, our children, the home, and all the accompanying sins, I find myself each year setting the same goals, and ashamed that none of them were met in the previous year.
I’ve come to the conclusion that the lack of goals is more hurtful to me than failing to achieve them, so here, without further ado, is my attempt at a list of New Year’s Resolutions, or personal life goals, for the year 2011 and beyond. I hereby declare my right to amend and edit said list whenever I so feel the desire.
* Find a good Bible study plan and stick to it, reading and praying each day. (Daily readings of the book of Proverbs after breakfast do not count towards this goal, as this is a family activity.)
* Someday do a simultaneous Bible study with my Mami, so we can discuss it when we’re done, despite the fact that we live across the country from one another.
* Find a good fitness plan and stick to it, including simple things such as taking the boys for walks and going to the zoo, despite the fact that it is much further away from our home since the move.
* Lose the remaining 20 (!) pounds of baby weight, approximately by the time of Alexander’s first birthday and/or my next birthday. This was not even an issue after my first pregnancy, but has proven much more difficult this time around. On the bright side, I’ve had fewer problems nursing, but still this is something I would like to tackle.
* Learn Russian
* Lose the fear of traveling aquired when I received my celiac diagnosis
* Maintain “older” friendships while nourishing the newer ones.
* Be more consistent in phone calls / letters to family members, especially my grandparents in Germany.
* Lose the ‘tude with my husband: this means no sarcasm, no rolled eyes, no nasty tone. I have become a master of the fine art of submitting without true submission: doing something, but only after stating my disinclination towards it, or questioning whether it REALLY needs to be done, etc, and I need to work on that.
* Keep a reading journal of read-alouds with the boys, ideally on a daily basis.
* Be more patient and forgiving of the boys.
* Be more consistent in my discipline, and gentle in the execution thereof. Allowing things to fester until I become “screaming mom” is not a desirable disciplinary method to me, or to them.
* Organize more frequent family outings, such as trips to the zoo, the Children’s Museum, or picnics in the park. We have so much fun when we do these, especially if Daddy is there, but I put off organizing them.
* In general, manage time better so that I can spend time being with the men in my life – my husband and my sons.
* Find ways to begin to introduce the boys to German. Ask Greg to do the same with Russian.
* Keep a better pantry. Our new pantry space is much smaller, and requires far better management.
* Be more at peace with informal hosting, so that we can open our home more frequently.
* Make, and maintain a cleaning schedule. In general, the house looks great when people are coming over. Perhaps more frequent hospitality ties into this? When we had covenant group at our home twice a month, I was so more on top of cleaning, even in the midst of the turmoil of early pregnancy.
* Do a monthly “keep, toss, sell” pile, then drop off things at their new homes / the Goodwill, and sell what needs to be sold on Craigslist or eBay.
* Meal plan, and plan out shopping trips accordingly. We now live about 20 minutes from my favorite grocery stores, rather than 8 – 10, which does make a difference when one must make use of precious time between the warring nap schedules of two wee men.
* Plan and execute a yard sale with the in-laws for January. Be consistent about giving away things that do not sell, rather than returning them to the garage.
* Organize recipes. Sell unused cookbooks. Write down recipes as I create new concoctions, so that they may be re-created.
* Keep a reading journal. Read and complete at least two books per month, and not neglecting fiction/fun reading. Home school and Cookbooks do not a balanced reading diet make.
* Finally create and print a wedding album.
* Indulge my creative and DIY streak in the boys’ birthday parties. I know full well that they couldn’t care less, and am capable of admitting that this is more for me than for them – but then, in the end, perhaps when they are older, they’ll appreciate it. So long as I do this after hours and don’t shoosh them away with “Go play, I’m busy planning your perfect party,” it’s all good. 😉
* Build at least one cool Ana White DIY woodworking project. Do this while maintaining the house.
* Write every day. Be it blog entry, journal entry, a personal letter, or work on the two novels and multiple short stories I’ve had floating about in my head since, um, college.
* Find a musical outlet: perhaps a choir? And continue singing. Coincidentally, persuade Greg to take up the guitar again.
* Finally learn how to make use of the embroidery features of my awesome sewing machine.
* Make or knit stockings for the family for next Christmas.
* Make some sort of advent calendar, and possibly fabric garland.
* Make more birthday/anniversary/baby/just because gifts. COMPLETE THEM, and hand them over.
* Make this the year of crafting very cheaply, if not free. Finally make use of the giant stock pile of fabric and other supplies.
* Organize a ladies’ mother’s day brunch / tea at Emmanuel, including finding speakers to propose to the elders.
In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each New Year find you a better man.”