Tag Archives: New Year’s

For 2019 I Can Still Change

I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions. Mainly, it’s because I resist the sort of corporate business management notion that meaningful changes require measurable outcomes—that goals have to be quantifiable to be “real.”

I think that’s a valuable notion for an organization. But I reject it as an individual. In my opinion, all of me is too complex, too bound up with other parts, too connected to past and biology and knowledge and experience to be reducible to such math.

I am more, and less, than the sum of my parts. For example, I could set a goal to lose 20 pounds in 2019 (or, maybe more appropriately, 19 pounds), and such a goal would make sense since I can easily afford to lose that weight and more.

But, to celebrate New Year’s Eve, I just washed down my emotions with a full-calorie beer. Is there any possibility that my habits and tastes will change so much in 2019 that the leaner Joe within will emerge? Yes, yes, I know that in a larger sense the answer is “yes.” But, to be brutally honest, the answer is, honestly, probably not.

And why should that number define me?

Isn’t it more important that I strive to be kind in 2019? To read more new books? To enjoy the latest Tessa Violet or Lake Street Dive video no matter what my students in the Times newsroom think? To be a better husband, grandfather, professor, person?

Maybe lean Joe would be mean Joe, and if there is one thing I hold self-evident, it’s that the last thing this sad planet needs is a other Angry White Male.

So, if you’re into measurable New Year’s resolutions, more power to you. I’m not. Still, whatever, works for you is fine with me.

As for me, I want to experience less irrational anger in 2019. (Rational anger is another story—some measure of anger is simply a sign that you’re aware of the state of the world.) I want to experience more love in 2019, and I think the Beatles where right—the love you take is equal to the love you make.

And Lake Street Dive has it right, too. Their video is interesting, because Rachael Price is changed by others as she sings about how “I Can Change.”

I feel the same way. I can change, whether I bother to quantify the change in some measurable way. Yet at the same time, I can caught in a web of external forces that ensure, in fact, I will change, and if I don’t recognize and direct my own change, that may not always be a good thing.

I’m 60. I don’t look forward to 2019 as a young person would—my life is not always full of all of those possibilities. I will never be a professional musician or rodeo clown. One of my daughters made me proud in 2018 by running her first marathon—a feat that arthritic knees rule out for me.

But I can change. I should not focus on the possibilities that biology, fate and age close off to me—there are too many roads that still remain open. And the world is on its own path, and while I’ll try to do what I can to contribute to the good, to reduce the level of bad—mostly, I’m responsible for Joe.

My main New Year’s resolution? Sort of the serenity prayer. To change what I can and not be brought down by the rest.

Happy New Year, reader. May you not dwell in the new year in the shadow of hate. I hope you and yours find positive change in 2019, and I hope you can take heart in that possibility. We can’t control everything. Yet, we can change.

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A Little Late: New Year’s Tune for Tuesday

For those of us in the Apollo generation, the images, even if they’ve been tinkered with, evoke a flood of memories. Not this year, but sometime in the future, maybe there will be new footprints on the moon.

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Happy Garden New Year’s Day!

Our calendar is pretty arbitrary and there’s not much of a good reason to celebrate New Year’s Day Jan. 1, other than, I suppose, it’s far enough from the Winter Solstice so the coming of new seasons is obvious in the Northern Hemisphere.

When the actual New Year starts in a garden is a bit harder to say. Snowdrops bloomed in February in my back garden, but I think of these pretty little white flowers as a signal from Mother Nature that spring will eventually arrive—a foreshadowing of the future rather than the opening notes of the actual performance. A prelude.

To me, the New Garden Year begins with the first splash of real color, when the tiny little green spikes  pop open, and, suddenly, there they are.

Yellows and purples and whites and blues—the crocus, the crocus, croaking out the message. “Spring is here!” There is cold in the air, there may still be snow that yet falls, but forget about it, winter. Your time is done. Today, a new gardening year is underway in east Iowa.

Before hoping on my bike this morning, I did a quick look in back. I was wondering if I should grab my good camera later if there is still light this afternoon—if there is any growing things to snap photos of.

And there it was. One yellow crocus already open in the garden by the house. New Year’s Day is today! I took the image with my little point-and-shoot, but yup, if there is still light when I get home, I’ll be hunting more blooms with my Nikon.


New Year's Day arrives in my back garden.

So here are my New Year’s Gardening resolutions:

  • I will create a new garden by the lilac bushes in the backyard. That process is underway already—I planted bulbs in an area where not enough sun shines in summer for grass, but before the trees shade that area, there is plenty of sun for spring flowers. I will have to edge that area off and consider a few later-blooming, part-shade plants.
  • I will try to talk Audrey into a front garden. She’s been after me to move peonies that I planted in the yard there. I won’t. I don’t mind peonies in the yard, and rather than move them, I’d prefer to create a flower garden around them. Why not? There is little sunshine in my yard, overall, and this is a sunny corner.
  • I will plant more trees. I don’t need to, and I know it. But 5 of the 10 Arbor Day trees in my home office are starting to awaken, and I’m thinking some of the others that are asleep may wake up (the oaks are holding back). I can’t use all of them (Cate, Pat, Katy, Mimi—anybody want a tree?), but I can plant some of these behind the fence. And I will fit a few of them in the crowded, woodsy backyard. I really, really want to keep the sweet gum, but know it’s a problematic tree, too. Stay tuned for the future sweet gum saga.
  • I will trim the back bushes around the deck before going to England. Time to cut those suckers down to size, before they leaf out and hide my pretty backyard.

Well, a new year is always exciting, a time of hope and renewal. This is the year when we’ll find out if planting crocuses in our yard was a good idea—although, of course, it was. Some plant catalogs have arrived and Audrey and I have agreed that we’ll hold steady and not order more plants.

Except, if I sweet talk her—maybe I’ll have two gardens to put plants in? One can only hope.

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New Years Blog Resolutions


Leaping into leap year. Tristan hops over his mom. Yes, I'm sure grandchildren (and plants) will continue to be features of this blog in 2012.

I’m not really big on New Year’s resolutions. Not that I’ don’t buy into the ideal of self improvement or making changes for the better, but the whole New Year’s thing is so artificial anyway.

We celebrate an arbitrary day when the sun’s tilt on the horizon is frankly not at any astronomically significant point. We’re past a solstice, long away from an equinox, and thus we are noting another orbit from a really odd point in the planet’s journey.

So be it. Rather than make any general life resolutions, what do I resolve for this blog?

  • I will update at least twice a week. That’s an easy one, since I’m pretty much on that pace anyway. I absolve myself in advance for any travel weeks—the week in March I plan to spend in England, or if I do RAGBRAI again this year, don’t count—but otherwise I’ll share my life’s journey at least twice a week. Last year, WordPress tried to encourage daily updates, but I didn’t’ attempt that in 2011 and won’t in 2012. But I won’t let the blog languish, either.
  • I will crack 12,000 views in 2012. Not a lofty goal—plenty of bloggers have tens of thousands of views each month—but I had more views in 2011 than in 2010, and have had just over 9,000 this year so far. Unless there is a huge spike, I won’t make 10,000 this year. Next year, let’s see if I can get 12,000.
  • I will leave Sarah Palin out of it. Unless Mitt Romney picks her as his running mate, I think her moment in the sun, which lasted surprisingly long, is starting to pass. Let it go.
  • I will write one blog post in Spanish. Just for Nalena. And I promise it won’t be about bananas. I have to work up to that one. I hope to take another Spanish course at MMU, probably in fall 2012, and will try to write something in Spanish that makes sense. I’m sure in the years since I took a Spanish course my skills have rusted, but on the other hand, there’s still some Spanish lurking in my skull and I’ll try to shake some out.

Anyway, I hope I can at some point in 2012 make you laugh, make you mad, make you glad that you share this journey on planet Earth. I started this blog as an experiment just to see what blogging is like and for.

I guess I feel that the experiment is worth continuing. And I hope some of you, my readers, agree.

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