I set the clocks forward last night before I went to bed, all except the clock in the bedroom, which I never changed last fall when we were supposed to fall back an hour. So now, it’s right.
Just as now, the world is right because it’s warming up after a brutal winter, the most brutal I can ever remember in my long, long life. Plants in my yard that are supposed to make it through the cold months are burned brown. The lenten rose, for example. It sits in wet dirt with scattered and faded mulch around it left over from a year ago, and its leaves are dried and toasted . . . and yet there are new fresh blooms, winter white, tender, vulnerable. I feel like that, too.
As the world grows ever toward the newness of spring, I feel a surge in my spirit. I cleaned up my deck yesterday. My favorite things to do this time of year are: eat breakfast on the deck, eat lunch on the deck, eat supper on the deck, build a fire in the chimenea on the deck, read on the deck, take my laptop outside and work on the deck, sit on the deck and look at the yard and figure what else I can plant out there, look at the Medicine Wheel herb garden and feel a need to go out there when the sun is warm enough and refresh it to look like the first chapter of my book, Remember the Dragonflies.
As the world grows ever toward the newness of spring, I want to get my pink fingernails in the dirt. I want to plant tomatoes. I want to plant more vegetables, berries, and flowers. I want to plant. Period.
I want to spring forward in the newness of spring.
I just realized something. My desk lamp is coming on by itself. I swear it is.
I have a nice little Staples lamp with a chrome base sitting at the right of my office desk next to the window. It has a chain pull. I rarely use it because when I come up the stairs, I turn on the office ceiling light. It’s always early-morning dark, and I need to get to my desk without stumbling and spilling my coffee.
Yesterday, I worked a bit at my computer and then went down to get coffee. When I returned to my desk, I noticed the lamp was on. I frowned and shook my head. I didn’t remember turning it on. I didn’t think I did.
This morning, the same thing. I went downstairs to make toast with peanut butter and honey and get a fresh cup of coffee. When I returned to my desk, the lamp was on. I did not turn it on. I know I didn’t.
I remember something like this happening five years ago, only it was the garage door opening, and I wrote about it in a blog titled “Things That Go Bump in the Night.”
Maybe it’s starting. Maybe I’m losing my mind.
I’ve got to collect my wits.
Who’s pulling my chain?
I’m thinking about resolutions. It’s January 12, you say. Too late to be thinking about resolutions.
Resolution: a firm decision to do or not to do something.
Before New Year’s, I did make a few resolutions. Even wrote them down. Two of them, I’ve kept.
▪ Walk every day, or at least five days a week. The second part took the heat off.
▪ Keep better financial records. “Better” is the word that saves me here. Because I can’t keep worse records than I did in 2013.
But there’s no goal on my list. Nothing I plan to accomplish in 2014. I don’t know how to live without a goal. I can tell I don’t have anything pressing on my slate when I wake up in the morning. Instead of popping straight up out of bed, I lie there and ask myself what it is I need to do, or want to do today. In years past, I’d know and jump up and get right on it.
That makes me think that people who don’t believe in resolutions will achieve nothing.
You know what you want to do. But are you committed to doing it? You didn’t resolve to do something toward achieving that goal on a regular basis? You don’t have weekly goals or monthly goals? Mark my words: come December 31, you won’t have anything done to reach what you think you want to reach. You might as well pack it up and forget it.
I don’t want to be in this bunch. I’ve got to sit down right now before the Ides of January and figure out some exacts, some reasons to get up at five in the morning and get going, some goals to better my life and position.
What about you? Do you have them? Are you keeping or breaking them? Are you at least making progress?
Remember the Etch A Sketch? The drawing toy that came out about 1960, with a gray screen in a red plastic frame? It had two white knobs at the bottom left and right of the frame which you could turn to move a stylus that left a solid black line on the screen. Then when you’ve drawn a hundred line segments, made efforts in all directions, drawn all kinds of erratic lines, and messed up your screen with a bunch of jumble, you can shake the whole thing up and clear it all off. A clean slate. Then you can start over.
New Year’s feels sort of like that. Of course, there are things you can never wipe away, but there are things you can change to be a better you. If you made a bad decision last year, shake it all up and let it go — leave it behind. What can you do to improve on what you did last year? What can you accomplish that you’ve desperately wanted to do?
New year. New start.
The days before we cross that line into a new year are for evaluating, planning, setting achievable, specific, and concrete goals, and even developing a dream list. I find it helpful to:
1. Pick specific and realistic goals. Instead of Exercise more, pick Walk five days a week.
2. Define the goals. If you want to finish writing your book (wow, that’s way too broad!), what incremental steps can you take to get there? Assess where you are. What will it take to finish the rough draft? How many chapters? How many chapters can you write in a week, or month? Can you even finish it in 2014? Is that realistic with your life and work schedule?
3. Set a schedule for carrying out your goals. Write it down.
I like to consider a few fun things just to dream about. Maybe buying a pink sapphire ring? An iPad? Taking a trip to that Oregon town and the hotel right on the coast to just stare at the waves coming in? It might not be practical to do any of these, but it is my choice, and I can break these resolutions easily and not feel badly about it.
That lets me focus on the other goals and have a better chance of achieving them.
I was driving home the day after Christmas, up Highway 45 outside Tupelo, where the speed limit is either 65 or 70, I don’t know, but I was zipping along with my cruise at about 72 in the left lane, passing slower traffic in the right.
I noticed in my rearview that a car was coming up behind me very fast, a dark gray redneck car, and I thought he was going to hit me, so I quickly mashed the accelerator and put on my flashers to alert him—hey, I’m here!—and I am aware and will move over as soon as I can but look around and see that I cannot move over right now. But apparently I was supposed to change lanes and knock the other car off the road in order to get the hell out of his way because he came closer and rode six inches off my bumper. He pushed me up to 80. I reached for my phone to call 9-1-1 to report him—because I’m a tattletale at heart—but could not punch buttons and was afraid to take my hand off the wheel and my eye off the road. I could not change lanes going that speed between two slow cars—no way!—so I had to keep going for another few seconds until it was clear and safe to move over.
As he zoomed past me, I looked over and pointed toward him out my side window and called him a name that starts with an A, but he wasn’t looking.
Maybe it’s a good thing that he wasn’t looking because he was a Mississippi Highway patrolman.
I really don’t care who he was. He had no right to be driving that fast without lights and siren and no business pushing women up to 80 and making their hearts beat fast.
Chocolate chip pancakes. It’s all I can think of.
I want some traditions. I want something memorable. Chocolate chip pancakes at Christmas would make a good tradition. Don’t you think? We’ve got a start—we had them last year for the holiday.
Looking back, I didn’t think I grew up with any traditions. But on closer look, that’s not true. Our traditions weren’t anything we planned or made happen or cooked. They were about the people. My dad, for example. Three hundred sixty-four days out of the year, Dad was quiet and reserved, and you didn’t even know he was around. Christmas, he was a jack-in-the-box. He popped to life with his arms outstretched and a smile from ear to ear. He was the one waiting for my sister and me under the Christmas tree. Mama was there, too, but in the background. Dad was loud and happy pointing to the loot: “Look a here. Look what Santa Claus brought!” He only got oranges and firecrackers when he was a child. He stayed with us under the tree and played with our toys. A favorite family snapshot is Dad, Judi, and me under the tree with “our” toys.
He did the same with his grandchildren. He was the first to play with a toy pool table or push a bike around the living room, or pick up the Millennium Falcon. A favorite “grandpa” snapshot is Dad going first through a Winnie the Pooh segmented tunnel with toddlers watching.
As my children were growing up, we didn’t have memorable traditions. We’d go to Christmas Eve service at church, we’d open one gift on Christmas Eve, and we’d have the grandparents every other year. Life brought change—children grew up, divorce, death, more death. Traditions went by the wayside.
Now I want new ones. I want to be with my grandchildren every year. I want to read Twas the Night Before Christmas. I want ham and Big Cherry Salad. I want to add a Barbie a year to the Barbie Christmas tree. I want chocolate chip pancakes.
I want my grandchildren to remember chocolate chip pancakes.
I want my grandchildren to remember me.
It’s almost Christmas, and I’m on a mission to see how many dolls I can buy and how much fun I can think of for little girls (granddaughters) and dolls to have together.
Full of imagination, I ran into Goodwill to see if anyone, by chance, had dropped off a real silver coffee service, with tray, coffee pot, teapot, sugar bowl, and creamer, the real deal in silver that needs to be polished. Jillie loves tea parties, and I wanted her to have the real thing. She and I have used mine before in play.
Instead, pushed back up under a bottom shelf, I found a real china 22-piece tea set in the original box, all packed in Styrofoam. One cup was missing. The rest was in perfect shape. $7.99. Jillie is four, too young for glass, but I couldn’t resist. It will be perfect for a tea party with the big doll I bought her for Christmas.
That got me to thinking about my own childhood. My mama went to a used furniture store and bought a wooden kitchen table, cut the legs off to child-size, painted it a shiny red, got two old chairs from the school where she taught, and painted them red, too. My sister and I had a big red art-and-game table in our frilly pastel blue room.
That red table is the most memorable thing from my early days. I designed paper doll dresses on it—drew them to fit the paper doll’s body, made tabs to clip over the shoulders, colored the dress with special buttons and bows and effects, then cut it out. I drew pictures, painted pictures, colored pictures. I shaped clay. I played Monopoly and Go Fishing. I dressed my dolls and made up stories about them and had my own tea parties.
Just how much creativity was born on that shiny red table? I spent hours there in my own little world making up things to do and creating and completing projects. What better education is there? I didn’t have to be entertained by TV or DVD or I-device with plugs in my ears, mesmerized by technology, my mind shut down.
I learned to build my own world and to entertain myself. . .
On the shiny red table.