Bucking the New Year Resolutions

I decided to get the New Year Resolution — eat less, exercise more, blah blah blah — out of the way before 2020. It’s December; why ruin a perfectly good January with self-loathing and guilt?
So I went to the gym two days after Christmas, stepped on a treadmill, started running at a good 4.6 mile clip, got distracted, and was thrown four feet backward by my own feet and automated machinery.
Yes, the treadmill bucked me.
I’ve seen the videos on America’s Funniest, and on YouTube — I think there’s an entire section set aside for just such inanity, and I’ve now spoken to one other person in the flesh who’s also been tossed aside. His empathy did not add salve to my bruised ego, but it’s good to know I’m not the only one in the Yukon Isle to have been bested by technology.
Interesting: after a thorough inspection and a good but slow walking couple of turns around the gym to show people that ignominy will not set me scampering towards the car to nurse wounds — “Can’t stop me, I got no pride left, I’m not hurt; ignore the whimpering” — I realized I made a seven-point landing in my escapade.
I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t counted the giant bump, contusions, and road rash myself. Seven. Must be a record.
Plus, I broke three fingernails.
When I make a resolution, folks, I do it big.
Now I’m done with this pesky Take Care of Myself nonsense, and I’m on to the Don’t Wound Myself Further Until I Get Better Insurance portion of the year.
Aaaaaah, 2020…gonna be a slow, safe, steady kind of year.

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Fortunate Future

I don’t know precisely how to take this.
I ate my meal and trusted in a dessert of future well wishes but opened the cookie to find…nothing.
After bandying several ideas, most of which were pessimistic, I landed upon, “Hey, Michelle,” — because my cookie wanted to know it cared enough to learn my name — “Your future is open to all possibilities; the universe is endless and it is yours. YOU choose your fortune.”
Then I ate the cookie…because…cookie.

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Listing to the Past

In order to learn Focus, a problem for me in every regard, I keep a daily journal. A day runner, not a diary, though I list anything relevant that happened during the day.
My most recent entry: “Dog threw up on my bed at 2:30am, watch him for signs of illness. Don’t kill him.”
As a pathway toward Focus, I make lists. Sunday evenings, I pen a schedule of To Do for Monday, my one proper day off work, often finishing a few before going to bed. (I can’t stand an unfinished list; it needs Doing immediately.) Then I have to make a new list.
Vicious, vicious cycle.
An example of Focus: each November, when I tackle the National Novel Writing exercise, I won’t stop writing without knowing what I’m going to write about the next day. It’s comforting to know. Stewing on topics is stressful, uncertain, and under NaNo pressures of jotting 1,667 words per day, calm is a blessing. My wee brain mulls on the next day’s activity while I contemplate vacuuming the floor until Netflix loads.
Days when I absolutely have no concept of how to proceed, I falter, flailing in my chair like an angry toddler forced to sit. While I panic that I have nothing to write, I organize my pen caddy for the eightieth time because that helps with thinking. (Nibs down, for best ink flow.) Though the ink pens are tidy, I waste half a day  and kick myself for doing so.
On the internet yesterday, I shopped for a new yearly log, a fresh slate for 2020 throughout which to jot things, because jotting is fun.
Oh, and make lists.
But while I was searching, I learned I’m not blazing new trails, that lists are not a Me Thing.
Ridiculous, I say!
Seems the internet believes focused lists like mine not only exist, but have a name, and it’s not mine! It’s called the Ivy Lee Method.
Who’s this Ivy Lee gal? I thought, indignant that she took my idea.
Ivy is a guy, for one, and he lived a hundred years ago, pointing out to high powered businessmen that making a list of six items — six, specifically — to focus on the next day centered the mind and got crap done.
I know! I railed at my computer monitor.  I’ve been doing it for years!
Unlike Ivy Lee, I did not receive the equivalent of 400,000 dollars for my genius, which is galling. I’ve channeled the bodiless mind of a smart humble man of Yore — “If it’s successful, pay me what you will,” he said, in my paraphrasing brain — whose simple idea has saved my day a thousand times.
You can do it, too.
Here’s the premise:
Before leaving work, write down your top six must do’s for tomorrow. Number them in order of priority.
The next morning, work on only your number 1 item until it’s complete.
Work the rest of the list the same way.
At day’s end, move incomplete tasks to the next day’s list.
Repeat every day until you retire, then do this after that.
That’s it.
One caveat: don’t wind down with a meditation app before getting down to business. I still struggle with a course in my favorite app, Headspace, and its aptly titled Focus course. I get too relaxed after forty-five seconds, then think about something else, and/or fall asleep.

But I’m no quitter. I’ll get through the course somehow. Because it’s on my list.

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Recycling by Returning a Tree from Whence it Came

Readying for a fundraising event for our public library, I need ten live Christmas trees.
Each year we offer a fresh wreath-making class. All supplies — wreath frames, bits and pieces of trees and other area indigenous bushes and decorative flora, and ribbon — are included in the nominal fee that goes toward library operations.
But, as always happens when working with the public, not everyone who signs up to take a class will show for the event. I’d guess the attrition rate to be around thirty percent, unless it rains. If it rains/snows/mists/clouds up, all bets are off. Call it a “snow day” and cancel the whole mother until next year, because no one will set foot outdoors.
To have enough tree parts for wreathing, I calculated that for each four wreaths, I need one seven-foot fir tree. (No pine, especially Loblolly pine. They are no good for our purposes, I’ve been told over and over, because they shed quickly. You don’t want your wreath to shed, you know.)
Math is not my strong suit, but with thirty attendees on the roster, I need seven and one half trees, which is not a likely prospect as Home Depot frowns upon selling only a portion of any previously acquired merchandise.
I feel that holds true for all items, not just sawed-off fresh greenery.
Still, I wasn’t certain. If I bought, say, ten trees, and cloud cover derailed my event, could I return the corpses to the store for a refund?
Management at the Depot said, “Yes, just bring your receipt and you have thirty days to return the tree.”
“Thirty days?” I asked.
“Yes,” she confirmed.
The date being December 8, I utilized my weak math ability to calculate that Christmas occurs in seventeen days.
Just to be certain, certain, I clarified. “So if I return the trees within thirty days…” Thinking, I have until the 38th of December, I continued, “Then I am refunded?”
“Yes,” she confirmed yet again, patiently and with no irony.
“Is there a restocking fee?” I asked, to which she replied no. “And is there a partial charge for cleanup, like removal of wayward tinsel or vestigial ornaments?”
I did not ask the last question, though it was very much on my mind. No one likes a smart aleck.
Except other smart alecks.

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In Which We Bake

My Bubs and I have become addicted to a little thing called season 10 of “The Great British Baking Show.”
Seen it? It’s a TV delight during which two hosts and two judges entertain and bulldoze through dozen or so British bakers who are appealing, funny, sweet, and addictive. I’ve become fanatical about each and every one of the contestants and I never want any of them to be voted out of the tent under which they bake because they’re all wonderful. And each week, when one must say so long, I weep internally and lust for the next installment so that I may root for victors and cry for the valiant fallen.
It’s high drama each Friday evening on the prairie for the Bubs and I.
I also wish for Smell-o-Vision — was it  The Jetsons  who had that? — or Taste-o-Matics because I want to try all of the bakers’ efforts. All of them. Sure, I can pull recipes from the internet but that is  not the same thing, I assure you. I have black hands when it comes to kitchen activities like using pans or pre-heating things.
But the bakers make me want to try!
Thus was Family Bake Night born, from British bakers and their enthusiasm for all things sugar infused and chocolate covered.
Each weekend, the Bubs, the Sire, and I hunker around an internet-printed recipe and make that thing.  We started with cinnamon rolls from Cook’s Illustrated. (I love cinnamon rolls, the gooshy, overly cinnamon’y, dripping-under-icing kind.
Cook’s Illustrated did not offer that particular brand of roll.
Thus, week 2 came along and boom, a second recipe offering gooey goodness was followed to a T — to a T, people! —  and alas, I messed that up, too..
No matter! A third week came along and because of persistence and the need to utilize an overwhelmingly large bag of flour, the third batch of rolls evolved atop the middle of my very own kitchen island and booyah, it was a WINNER!
Cinnamon rolls conquered, we moved on to meringue cookies — because the Great British baking people made us believe we could do it — and doggone it, we did it.
What’s next? Who knows. We haven’t followed the show’s pattern, we haven’t followed along and made the incredibly hard things they are attempting during their quest for baking fame and hopefully a cash prize — because it’s me and I know my limitations — but we ARE baking, and we ARE succeeding in gaining at least three pounds each weekend.
Plus, baking is cheaper than wrenching, following the mandates of our previous fascination, “Fastest Car,” in which car enthusiasts spend small fortunes in turning slo-mo vehicles into racing machines that blow asphalt away from turf.
I think I’m dangerous in a household kitchen. I’d be dead in minutes if I attempted to go into the garage and “better” the Ram 1500. I might make a fortune, though, on the YoutTube, following along with the shortest mechanical/maintenance/instant-car-death that would ensue. Bubs would have an inheritance from residuals; maybe I should consider the idea further.
Anyway, I’m hanging with the bakers and praying there is a way each of them get their own program so prairie dwelling stalkers — admirers! — may follow their journeys.

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Parenting 101 — Nailed It

My teenager hates Sam’s Club.
I’m flummoxed.
I remind him repeatedly that I wheeled his adorable sleeping form for miles and miles, up and down every aisle, so that he could sleep.
Read that as: So I would stay awake and not lose precious hold on new-mom sanity while in the depths of fresh produce and free samples.
He loved the white noise, I tell myself. Even now, when he can’t sleep, I hiss like an ocean wave into his reclining ear.
(Not really. That’s creepy.)

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Turns Out I’m Not a Carpenter…Very Disappointing

I wanted to install new flooring in Bubs’ room. He’s newly adolescent, and it happened over night. No exaggeration: he woke a different person than when he went to sleep.
Reeling from shock, I realized his adorable Boy Room was no longer appropriate, plus, truth be told, the elderly incontinent, blind, deaf, adorable pooch who can’t see well enough to Go Toward the Light may have destroyed the already-aged carpet in the Bubs’ Boy Room.
It was time, in many ways, for a makeover.
I bought flooring, the click kind, as advertised in the three-minute video that assured me I could install the flooring all by myself. The video  promised. 
And I am gullible.
Long story short, and utilizing the skills of my dad and a full day of his time, I learned how to use a saws-all — I’m not certain that’s the correct trademarked name — and I also learned that once baseboards are removed, they expand.
Did you know that? News to me. Naively, I thought wood parts would retain their size after removal, but they don’t.
And the flooring that was so easy — according to videotaped footage probably filmed in the confines of Light and Magic — was NOT so snap-simple, amateur-friendly, easily accomplished by a desperate-for-the-boy-to-have-a-Young-Man-room Mom.
I mean, NOPE.
Let’s just say, no one wants to look super closely at the final slats, when Dad had returned home, inserted at one in the morning in an exceedingly hot, increasingly tiny dwelling of a mere eleven feet by the same.
Because, dang, it’s ugly.
Ugly, mostly because of my new friend Super Glue. It’s true.
And the baseboards? Well…they’re back in place, with the help of a two-pound sledge.
Nails were not necessary. Those boards, they aren’t moving.
Unless I renew my love with this new “saws-all” thing I’m fond of…
Meanwhile, the room is beginning to retain odor, and I can no longer blame the dog — no, he’s not Found the Light; the teen’s door stays shut 24/7, whether inhabited or not — and clutter is obscuring the newly installed flooring as well as the giveaway shine of glue.
I feel cheated.
1. The room is really no different.
B. I’m not a carpenter. I really wanted to be good at that stuff. Sigh.


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(Fake) Challenge Accepted!

Last month I talked with a girlfriend, commiserating about aging and bat flaps on our arms and things popping in the middle like dough freshly baked.
It was a difficult conversation that left me depressed and eschewing food for at least an hour.
She said, “I workout.”
Me: “Me, too.”
She: “I do the Barre Method.”
Me:(Having followed suchly-named videos on YouTube) “Me, too.”
Quick Barre Exercise primer: I don’t have a barre de ballet anchored to any floors within my domicile. Without such equipment, it is recommended to use a kitchen chair — too squirrely; I was chasing it more than bending uncomfortably from it — or countertop. Check! I had one of those and I was quickly grateful to be a terrible housekeeper. The sticky whatever on the granite helps with grip when I’m hanging precariously from the edge to squat and lunge as though I’m going low enough to actually use the muscle. It’s an ignominious position, thankfully without video evidence.)
She perked up, energized by complicity in self-torture.
She: (leaning forward conspiratorially) “Don’t the little ones just kill you?”
Me: (Thinkng, “Little ones, I don’t know what those are…the big ones aren’t so great…” but not wanting to appear to have missed anything) “Yes, they’re awful.”
She: “And doing that for an hour? Isn’t it torture?”
Me: (At last we were on the same wavelength with abuse, but never having pursued a video playlist of any titles over twelve minutes, the “hour” confused me. Resenting 12 whole minutes of activity, I had moved down to ten; regretted that choice immediately, I lowered my standards to four minutes and complain through all four) “An HOUR? Are you CRAZY?”
She blinked, confused.
She: “How long do you exercise?”
Me: (Lying but fingers crossed so the lie didn’t count) “Probably twenty minutes.”
She: (blinking repeatedly, staring blankly, figuring things out) “…and you do the Barre Method?”
Me: (doubting entirely my existence) “Ya-huh.”
She: “And it only lasts twenty minutes?”
I pondered. Each video master I scrolled through had indeed used the word “Barre” in their title, but as for the word “method,” I was less certain. Plus, each of the probably-dozen videos I had used to tweak my intense muscular stature had ended with verbiage like, “After a quick cooldown, start this video over and work through it two more times…”
And I remember laughing, “Duh, why would anyone do THAT??” Then I walked toward the shower on spaghetti legs, breaking my own shoulder patting myself on the back for putting in a good four minutes of “burn.”
NOW I knew why instructors insisted on using the Replay button, because that is part of the METHOD.
Me: (strictly for clarity) “You’re telling me there’s a different video with a more precise name using ‘Barre’ and ‘Method’ in the same tag line, then?”
She: (sensing weakness, using derisive eyebrows) “Uh…yeah.”
Me: (finger pointed to the sky in proclamatory fashion) “I shall find said video and follow it to the letter.”
She: (wrapping the last of her sandwich, checking her watch, readying to scurry) “Great. Let me know how it goes. Dare ya.”
I know she was laughing under her breath; I disliked her scorn. Thus, perhaps I created her flippant ‘So long,’ misinterpreting her words, but I heard NOT  the Dare portion, instead I heard: “I challenge you!!!
Oh, ho, nay nay, my friend. I am not one to take a challenge lightly, unless it involves wild boar or machetes. Those I can discard. YouTube video, though, I got.
After work, I went to the house and immediately changed into a comfy tee over the work pants o’ the day — they’re work pants; who cares? — and sought out the aforementioned, appropriately researched Barre Method video — a startling 39 minutes, the queue read! What the…
A woman with a purpose, I hit Play.
What the what the…
The LITTLE ones?! Holy Scrap Metal, Batman, the LITTLE ones number in the hundreds — literally, one HUNDRED pulses — MORE THAN ONCE, thus equaling nearly a thousand, by my count — of ceaseless down-and-up, clinging to the countertop, ready for a thigh muscle to pop, donedonedone with further torture of already ravaged muscles.
And squats, lunges, butt-clenching was NOT ENOUGH, because she continued with ARM exercises, with WEIGHTS, and then that mean, mean strange lady who ROCKED her own Lycra ensemble forced me to lay on the FLOOR and make my ABS bend, a lot, for an excessive number of reps. EXCESSIVE.
Then she tasked me with flipping over to hover over my elbows, lingering painfully in a PLANK position for FAR TOO LONG.
But I did it. It wasn’t pretty, and form was nonexistent, and though I felt like I did, I didn’t lose blood, only a bit of vision, and that, only momentarily, but I followed that crazy instructor lady for all 39 minutes.
While recovering on the tile floor, wishing I would vacuum more (not really; housework–yuk) my dog investigated the pooling sweat around my head before climbing me like some sort of small mountain in his territory to rest bodily upon my chest. Instinctively, I started to pet him but the sweaty palms and Pekingese hair were a poor blend, thus he abandoned me quickly, though I barely noticed what with fading in and out of consciousness.
After a half hour or so — could have been a day, I don’t know — still recumbent and perfectly happy to never rise, I reconsidered my earlier conversation and THAT was when I recognized the difference between Dare and Challenge. It’s minute. One is flippant; one is downright insulting. Both should be ignored.
I showered to wash away the pain and dog hair, then fell asleep wishing for new friends.
For four days — 4, my friends! — I moaned like a toothless weasel after each breath, each twitch, each movement of any part of my being. And once I’d recovered enough to use the gas pedal without fear of harming other travelers, I drove straight to my “friend’s” office and soundly told her, “Haha! I did it! ‘Tweren’t nothin’!”
(I used those words, in indignant fashion, with a curt nod and quick gloat.)
Then she responded, “Sweet! We should do it together sometime.”
I could not back away from that nonsense quickly enough.
“Look at the time!” I answered, anxious to round out the convo and hit the streets. “I’m late for work, see you soon!”
I haven’t heard from her again.
I’m sticking to four minutes. It’s my sweet spot of time lapsed on exertion.

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The King Killed Adverbs

I read Stephen King’s book “On Writing” and I appreciated its insight.
Then he mentioned adverbs, that they are superfluous, and I wanted to toss the book rudely across the expansive mass of bedroom and its overly wrought textile décor.
What? Adverbs? I love adverbs! I run to them quickly,  I lovingly dote upon their entrance into literature, which seems often, very often, very often.
At which point I thought about it, because I hate the word “very” and always lecture that “If something is very anything, it’s something else.”
My own snobby lecture biting back.
King is right; adverbs are unnecessary, and that annoys me to no end.
Dang it.

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In Which I Adult

Before the viral scare, I saw an eye doctor.
Not something worthy of celebration to most, to me, it’s an enormous pat on my own back because of Fear.
I have an Eye Thing.
It’s real, it’s a thing, this Eye Thing, and doctors suffer from my squeamishness. Even the thought of someone nearing my eye makes me flush hot and sweat. I early hyper-ventilate.
Past eye docs did not appreciate my combative gestures,
My son wears glasses and because I’m a good mom, I drug my boy into a doctor’s office for an appointment he had less-than-zilch interest in attending, This local doc is the best eye pro for my boy. Calm, soothing, ready to distract with a humorous story.
Bubs was so entertained, I thought, this might be the One for Me. I, too, could easily fall for his Look Over Here methodology.
I scheduled an appointment.
Remember the glaucoma test, the little tiny puff of air that shouldn’t bother anyone but I know for a fact that it does indeed bother others as much as it does me? (Perhaps not a whole lot of folks, but at least a recordable percentage.)
Well, a tiny woman tried to give me that test and I mentally boasted, “I can take her.”
Not my finest moment, and after the fifth or sixth time of her puffing the air to a face that had left the chin rest tiny moments before the air hit its target, she got the idea that perhaps she was not the one to administer this particular time.
“It’s okay,” she said. “Lots of people have trouble with this test.”
Hence, she was my source for all that scientific data about lots of people having my particular eye issue.
With generous numbers of apologies, I moved from the pre-emptive trials to the gauntlet itself. The doc. The pro. The one who loves my kid and may not be fond of me at all in a mere half hour.
He sensed my unease, perhaps the clenched fists, bobbing knee, and muttering helped with his diagnosis.
Enter: the distracting story. Humorous, dramatic, effective.
No eye drops, only A or B a million times behind the strikingly cold robotic mask of lenses; you know the one.
No talk of dilation, either, thank heaven, after I told him I needed to drive to fetch my child, the Bubs he knew and appreciated.
“Okay, I’m going to check for glaucoma,” he offered.
“The hell you say,” I accidentally blurted.
Not my finest moment, but the next few moments would be full of less than stellar behaviors.
The test wasn’t a puff of air — nope — it was a tuning fork apparatus to directly touch the eyeball.
And because I didn’t want to be hauled out of the office in cuffs, I held all my tension within. I was a rock. A vibrating, humming, gyrating rock.
I leaned as far back as leather upholstered chair headrests allow, and still the doc pressed forward until at last his penetrative fork made contact.
But I was not as smooth as I mentally pictured, because I realized my hands had come up in a chopping motion, my left knee pulled upward and planted into a rib.
Flexibility comes with high tension.
I apologized, “I don’t know why my hands need to be in this position, but they do.”
He laughed.
This, my friends, indicated that he was my eye doctor soul mate.
He asked if he should continue, and I boldly said, “Do it.”
And he did, after I’d again positioned into combat form.
We are still friends, can you believe it? I’ve never not once been able to say that about any other eye care professional.
Plus, this one doesn’t keep a two-thousand-yard berth and a wary eye upon me when he sees me in public.

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