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The raving thoughts of a misanthropic academic

December 31, 2012

A Few Resolutions

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It's sad but I tend to be more consistent in making resolutions than in actually following through with them. As a quick recap from last year, I accomplished a meager 6 of the 14 goals I set last January:

Wins: 1) confirmed in the Episcopal Church, 2) memorized the Nicene Creed, 3) finished Ten Book Reviews, 4) finished my dissertation, 5) moved back to Oklahoma, 6) found gainful employment - more on this later.

Losses: 1) failed to read the Bible in one year, 2) failed to blog four times per week, 3) failed to ride my bike twice per week, 4) failed to drink less alcohol, 5) failed to reclaim my high school weight, 6) failed to finish War and Peace, 7) failed to finish The Brothers Karamazov, 8) failed to take a celebratory vacation - but for a good reason.

Naturally, the tally isn't exactly an inspiring reason to set goals for the new year. But they say misery loves company and, indeed, research shows that my failure puts me in the good company of four-fifths of all people who make resolutions.

For 2013, my list and motivations are a little different. Most of my resolutions are fairly specific but I feel what was lacking this year was an aspirational goal to motivate me at points in the year when life seemed flat. To correct this, I've added a theme for the year summarized by the phrase, "Do good. Keep it simple."

What makes this year's theme exciting to me is that it combines service aspects of my faith that are important to me with the zen concept of living minimalism. Life is challenging enough without my adding any unnecessary complications to the mix and I feel this theme is already reflected in a number of the goals I've set for this year:

1. Faith. Get back to the basics. Focus less on theological problems and look for ways to obey God by serving others. Application not theory.

2. Drink less alcohol. This is starting to sound like a broken record. I managed to cut back since Clark was born, so really I just need to carry this momentum into 2013.

3. Fitness. My goal is to lose 30lbs. No excuses. Play like a champion.

4. Kindness. Surprise. I'm an extremely sarcastic person. I think I could be a lot kinder to people if I weren't such a smartass all the time.

5. Writing. I am the biggest obstacle to my creative writing outlet. My creative writing goal is to write one page per day.

6. Bible. My goal is to read the Book of Common Prayer's Daily Office readings each day.

7. Blogging. As my grandfather might say, my goal of four posts per week went over like a lead balloon. I'm reducing that wayward aim to twice per week with hope for more.

8. Time. For reasons associated with my new position, a point requiring its own post, time management is going to be crucial skill for me to continue to develop. I'd like to set aside at least one hour per day for family time every day. I realize this number sounds slight and I expect the balance to be much larger, but for those days where time is scarce, this will be a fine goal to keep in mind.

9. Cycling. I plan to ride my bike regularly as circumstances allow.

10. Finances. My goal for the year, in keeping with the idea of minimalism, is to purchase less things and to spend my money on memories and things of lasting value. I do not know how this will work out in practice, but God knows we don't need any more 'stuff'.

And that, friends and fiends, is my list of new year's resolutions. May the worst of your 2013 be better than the best of your 2012.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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December 27, 2012

The Ghosts Of Christmas Past

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Christmas has come and gone here in the 'ole Fodder Family boarding house. The home place was filled with presents and people, making it difficult to imagine that not so very long ago we celebrated with only six members in our immediate family (In order of age: Grandpa, Dad, Mom, Me, Andrea and Chelsey). This year our ranks ballooned to ten (Grandpa, Dad, Mom, my wife Gwyn, Me, Andrea's husband Jacob, Andrea, Chelsey, our nephew Garrett, and our son Clark). 

Despite the blessing, in the weeks preceding Christmas, I found myself more disposed to reside on Mt. Crumpit than Whoville. For those who know me, this is an odd departure from the natural state of things. I wouldn't fancy myself a Buddy the Elf. But insofar as elves have counterparts in their human cousins, well, I'm at least a George Bailey after his brush with Clarence the Angel. 

I think what changed for me this year, aside from the obvious pitfalls of relocating to a new state and welcoming a newborn into the world, was the added pressure I felt to make Christmas as idyllic for Baby Clark as I remembered it being as a child. I realize now how irrational this was. Even if all were calm and bright, Clark wouldn't have remembered it anyway. He snoozed soundly through most of our gift giving.

Still, as a new father, I thought a lot about what I needed to do to make Clark's Christmas extra special. From balancing our finances, to selecting the perfect Christmas music (Bing Crosby and Michael Bublé), to purchasing the appropriate "Baby's First Christmas" ornament (Baby Block ornament), I tried and failed to plan every detail of the holiday. And when plans went awry, as they inevitably do with my family, my nerves quickly followed suit. 

I think my efforts to micromanage Christmas stemmed from an idealized memory of Christmases past - a strange specter of all of the best Christmases lumped into one. The result was that I tried to impose a litany of unrealistic expectations on my son and everyone else. See below:

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As the unfortunate photo above shows, no self-respecting dog should ever have to wear a Santa hat. And no one should have Christmas dictated to them. 

In retrospect, my shenanigans aside, we had a grand Christmas.

Our family was together. We are all in good health. We celebrated the Lord's birth with our perfect baby boy and my rambunctious, smiling nephew. Even materially, I can't complain about my new Keurig Coffee Maker

Next year, I will aim to put the Ghosts of Christmas Past to rest. 

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