New Year’s Eve: New Year, Still Me

“Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.” -Anthony G. Oettinger, Linguist

In less than nine hours it will be 2018. In the spirit of Type A procrastinators everywhere (yes, it’s a thing), I wonder:

Do I have enough time to achieve all my 2017 resolutions?

In my head spins the refrain to the John Lennon Christmas classic, Happy Xmas (War is Over), reminding me that I haven’t done most of what I thought I would: and what have you doneanother year over . . . My palms are sweaty, my right eyelid twitches. It’s been a busy year. I’ve done a lot. But those resolutions I write every year as the ball is about to drop, balancing a re-filled glass of wine between my fingers, are calling me from the deep part of my subconscious where they went before Happy New Year! was shouted with streamers.

Time to take stock. Written on hastily ripped graph paper in orange crayon at 11:55 PM December 31, 2016:

2017 Definitely Will Happen Resolutions

1. Weigh 125 lbs.

Unless I have a limb removed,* this is impossible.

Solution: Might as well enjoy that Lindt gold-wrapped chocolate ball staring at me on my desk.

2. Have book published. 

Despite best efforts, this is not something in my control. My much edited and rewritten memoir manuscript is presently in the actual hands of a literary agent and in the metaphorical hands of the Memoir Goddess who I christen: Mary Karr. (Can you think of a better name? Mary Karr has penned three brilliant chronological memoirs which are evidence that it can be done. Well.)

Solution: Accept that I have given this my best effort and will either have a book deal in 2018, or need to find an agent willing to take a chance on my work. Buy new notebook and begin writing second memoir.

3. Organize papers, including the mountain in the closet, sitting on top of the filing cabinet. 

I am a paper-person. I write long-hand. I still write checks. I write letters, insert them into envelopes, and affix stamps. I use a spiral-bound calendar made out of paper. I do not trust digital calendars, I trust trees. I live in a papery world and I like it. But is saving every utility bill and mortgage statement necessary when that part of life is online, and, we can safely assume, not a fad?

Solution: Plug in the shredder, feed it every paid invoice, and burn the ribboned heap in the fireplace in a symbolic gesture to simplicity. (Make sure not to shred entire family’s Social Security cards, which I know are in that pile. Also, make sure the flue is open.)

4. Catch up on reading. Stop reading multiple books at once.

My mother has a fantastic list of every book she’s read since the 1980s but more importantly, she finishes every book she begins. I aspire to this sort of organization. I have a leaning tower of books in several areas of my house: the nightstand (obviously), the kitchen counter, the living room book table (I don’t drink coffee), and sometimes piles appear on the staircase and the washing machine. I seem unable, however, to stay engaged with some books. Mid-read I will often reach for a book of poetry or a literary journal. This happens most with books people give me.

Solution: Forget it. I can never catch up or say no to a book someone gives me. And my life’s goal of being surrounded by books twenty-four hours a day cannot possibly happen in one year. I need another fifty. Also, I have absolutely no idea how many books I have read. Possibly one thousand. Which means there are at least one thousand books in my house I have not read. YAY!

5. Blog more frequently. Once a month, MINIMUM.

Solution: There’s always next year.

* Not a large limb, mind you- maybe my left arm to the elbow, or my right leg, up to the kneecap.

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In The New Year, It’s A Lick and A Promise

Here we are. You, me and 2014. The annual day of NEW: A NEW BODY, A NEW OUTLOOK and for the truly ambitious: A NEW LIFE! I usually love it. I fully embrace NEW and CLEAN. It’s a lifestyle, and I don’t go halfway. On New Year’s Eve, I take down the Christmas tree, wrap up the glass ornaments, clean the refrigerator and vacuum my car. If I really get fired up I go through the boy’s closets tossing too small clothes into a bag for Goodwill. After the abundance of the holidays I continue the fresh start feeling at the grocery store where at least one fitness magazine finds its way onto the check out belt atop the baby carrots. I feel slightly smug: “Hey, I’m doing this on New Year’s EVE, I’m ahead of the game by a whole day!” But not this year.

Today, the Christmas Tree is fully up and lit. The refrigerator still contains Christmas day leftovers. The greens I placed in baskets around the house are dropping needles on the floor in sprinkled green halos. I forgot to run the dishwasher so I am drinking tea out of a tiny teacup instead of my mega-mug. There’s about ten loads of laundry and my car looks like Sasquatch has been living in it. I am usually pretty intense about schedules, being tidy and organized. Something may appear to be off. Although, maybe it isn’t.

My Grandmother, who has been a constant presence in my life, died yesterday. I have been mourning her for months, however. She’d been in Hospice since October, as cancer, her fifth fight with it, overtook her body. She’d had breast cancer twice, colon cancer once and now lung cancer for the second and last time. When I had cancer, almost 13 years ago she cried and said how sorry she was, she thought it was she who gave it to me, she thought it was in her DNA. I was happy to tell her that it wasn’t. I had gene testing done and it was bad luck, not heredity. Every time adversity came to her door, she answered it, looked it square in the face, kicked it to the curb and then ordered dessert.

I think of her resiliency in the face of hardship. She was a widow at 49, raised my Aunt, then 13, watched me on a regular basis, worked, tended the house and her friends. When my Aunt got married, she welcomed the new married couple in, gave them her house and helped raise her grandson. She was always ready to go on a trip, eat a hot fudge sundae, read the National Enquirer, laugh at pratfall humor and enjoy a lobster roll. She had a thing for Patrick Swayze and men in uniform. I was the closest to her out of all my grandparents and spent nearly as much time at her house as my own. I’ve lived in two states, one city, seven towns and nine houses. She lived in the same house on the same street in the same town all my life. She taught me how to sew one rainy afternoon as she cooked boiled dinner, let me sleep in my bathing suit and gave me Nilla Wafer and butter sandwiches. There was no-off limit place in her house. I spent hours investigating her bureau drawers. While she wasn’t wealthy there was money for college books (she paid for all of them) and art supplies. She insisted that I register for china when I got engaged and two days later boxes from Filene’s appeared. I was the proud new owner of two place settings and the sugar and creamer in Noritake’s Sweet Leilani. It was just to get me started, she said. Then when the wedding was over and it was revealed I was one place setting shy, she had it boxed up and sent to me with a little card. She helped watch my twins when they were babies and I was exhausted and when I took her out for lunch, she’d never let me pay. She was not wealthy but I discovered real generosity doesn’t need wealth. She simply had determination: “I’m going to do it, and that’s it.” She’d say.

Over the years as I’ve had my own family and the things my Grandmother did with me, for me and told me have become part of my life’s fabric, I scarcely know a place in my life she didn’t have a hand in. One particular day especially stands out. It’s a silly thing, as it happens. I was watching my Grandmother tidying up the living room. She quickly wiped the side tables and fluffed the round, camel-colored, corduroy, down-feathered pillows. I must have asked to help because she said “Oh no, I’m just giving it a lick and a promise.” A what? “I’m giving it a lick of clean and a promise to come back later and do a better job. It’s good enough and I have other things to do.” I loved that right away.

On this 2014 Day of the New I am going to give A Lick and A Promise to some things so that I can go do other things, more important things. Clearly there is only so much time. How do I want to spend it? Instead of a maniacal attack on the linen closet, maybe I’ll tidy the first shelf, shut the door and go have lunch with a friend. Instead of spending time scrutinizing my body for too flabby parts I’ll read a good book. Instead of scrubbing the inside of my car…um. I really have to scrub my car. It needs at least two licks. But then I’ll go for a nice ride to the beach and get a lobster roll. Just for you Grandma. Thank you for always being there but mostly thank you for passing down your strength, humor, determination and joy of the simple things.

I hope you are dancing in heaven with Grandpa and he lets Patrick Swayze cut in.

cleaning