Friday, December 31, 2010

You DO make New Year's Resolutions. Don't you?

“An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. 
A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.”  
~Bill Vaughan
As December slowly ebbs into the bright hope of another January 1st, I have this to say about 2010 – can this please be OVER?  Shoo.  Scat.  Git.  You low down, no good, poor excuse of a year.
2010 was one of those years we all have now and then, the ones we’re glad to see the back of.  And as it slinks off into wherever old years go to relish the havoc they wreaked while they reigned, it’s time to dust off the party hats and celebrate a brand new start.
Since this is a New Year, it seems appropriate to make some resolutions to go with it. 
From what I can figure, the tradition of making New Year’s resolutions goes way back, all the way to the ancient Babylonians who apparently believed they could appease their gods by paying off debts and returning things they’d borrowed during the year (if only the woman who borrowed my typewriter in 1991 had been Babylonian).  Centuries later, the Romans took over the traditions, altering it to make promises of good conduct to their god Janus (he’s the one in the museums with one face looking backward and another looking forward, they even named the month after him).    
While I can’t verify the historical facts, I’d be willing to bet that however long humans have been making resolutions, they’ve also been breaking them.  That’s why I no longer formally resolve to do anything that will make me healthier, stronger, nicer, smarter, prettier, thinner, or will in any way improve my moral character.
I didn’t make any resolutions for 2010, and I probably should have – like Take Cover!  Too late for that.  But I do have a list for 2011.  It’s more a glorified to-do list than a list of formal resolutions (I'm thinking Congress will make plenty of those before 2011 exits). 

For what it’s worth, here’s my list for 2011 – I’d love to hear about yours . . .
1)   I’m going to get up and leave work at quitting time.  Just because I’ve never done this in my life doesn’t mean I’m not capable of doing it now.  I mean it’s not like stopping smoking or something truly challenging.  I just have to stand up and walk out the door, right?  I can do that.  I’m sure I can.
2)   I’m going to paint the kitchen cabinets.  (Well, I’m pretty sure I’m going to do that.)  These cabinets weren’t top of the food chain when the previous owner installed them in 1989.  They haven’t improved in 21 – now almost 22 – years.  Replacing them is hideously expensive, but refinishing them might buy me another few years.  So, yes, I’m going to do that.  Remind me, please.
3)   I’m going to figure out what lives where.  I keep two residences, see?  (Don’t ask me to explain.  Like that relationship choice on Facebook, “It’s complicated.”)  And before this year is over I’m going to be able to think about a pair of scissors, or a measuring tape, or a notebook, and know precisely where it is.  Granted, it still may not be in the same zip code I am, but at least I’ll know.  By this time next year, I plan to open my sweater drawer in either abode without wondering where I left the red one.  I swear I will.
4)   I’m going to decide, once and for all, whether or not to go ahead and get cable.  That may not mean much to you, but I’ve been spending a lot of time and energy thinking about it.  I enjoy the righteous feeling that comes with saying, “I don’t have cable.”  But that only happens when I’m with people I’m hoping to impress – not when I’m all stretched out on the sofa, subconsciously reaching for the remote.  Don’t get me wrong, Hulu is great, but I keep waffling – so sometime in 2011 I’m finally going to make up my mind.  I’ll let you know how it turns out.
5)   I’m not going to wait for life to get better.  A smart teacher once told me, “It’s easier to guide a rolling vehicle than one parked with the emergency brake on.” (For the record, “God helps those who help themselves” is not in the Bible.  That was Benjamin Franklin. I threw that in because I knew you were thinking about it.)  Among the things 2010 taught me was to bite the bullet and move on.  So I’m going to.
6)   Along with that, I’m going to acknowledge that life is probably good enough as it is.  Before you accuse me of embracing apathy, cut me a break.  Anyone who’s spent more than an hour with me knows I’m neither passive nor a Pollyanna.  But I have figured out that I don’t need everything I think I do; I don’t understand the concept of enough; and I don’t always know when to leave well enough alone.  Probably.
7)   I’m going to enjoy being as young as I am right this minute.  Here’s the fact:  I’m going to be older next year, next month, next week, tomorrow.  And face it -- ayear here, a year there, and pretty soon you’re talking about Medicare and Social Security (well, some will live to talk about it – it will be long gone before others get to that point).  So I might as well enjoy how young I am now.  It’s younger than I’m ever going to be again. 
8)   I’ll end this list by adding that in 2011 I don’t intend to borrow trouble.  Unlike God helping those who help themselves, that one IS in the Bible, right there in the Sermon on the Mount.  “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”  See?  Another thing I learned in 2010 was to deal with the mess that’s in front of me, not the one that might be hiding behind the curtain.  (Closely related to item 5, above.)  Not a bad lesson on the whole.
That’s about it.  It’s pointless for me to "resolve" to get more exercise, eat more salads, write more letters, or be less judgmental.  I know those things are important to my well-being.  I’ve also lived long enough to know that I’ll either do them or I won’t – putting them down on a list won't make a difference. 
So, if we’re still having this conversation on December 31, 2011, and if, in the meantime, I’ve figured out how to attain world peace, or won a Pulitzer, or run a marathon – somebody please remind me that my goal was to paint the kitchen cabinets. 
Editor’s Note:  The writer has created a conundrum.  It is impossible to achieve goal #2 (paint the kitchen cabinets) without violating goal #8 (don’t borrow trouble). 

Monday, December 27, 2010

'Twas the week after Christmas . . .

“Next to a circus there ain't nothing that packs up and tears out faster than the Christmas spirit.” ~Frank McKinney Hubbard

We’ve once again come to that odd week of the year. 
As a kid, the week between Christmas and New Year’s filled me with a sad melancholy – the countdown for back-to-school was underway.  As a college student, this week always filled me with energy – the countdown for back-to-campus was underway.  As a young non-working mother, it became my favorite week of the year – the cooking, shopping, wrapping (and the dishes) were finally done; the morning hunt for scarves, mittens, and boots not yet resumed. 
Now?  I’d have to say this week of the year is a mixed bag. 
As the light of Monday morning reveals candles burned to stubs, boxes stacked in corners, ragged spools of ribbon and stray gift cards strewn about, it’s tempting to close the blinds and go back to bed.  Out on the street, folks aren’t quite as lively as they were last week.  Pedestrians are more prone to wait placidly on the curb for the light to change (a true rarity in Seattle, where pedestrians are militant – they rarely raise their eyes to check for oncoming cars before stepping out in front of one).  Bus drivers are once again solemn, having switched out their Santa hats for grubby knit caps and revived their competition for who can throw the most riders out of their seats.  Even Seattle’s ubiquitous baristas seem somber as they pull the morning shots.
This is the week when reality settles back over us like a worn quilt. 
Up here in our corner of the continent we have successfully fought back the darkness for most of December.  We’ve accepted the fact that we’ll get up in the dark, go to work in the dark, stay indoors all day, and leave our workplaces at 5 – heading home in total darkness.  We’ve kept the gloom at bay by surrounding ourselves with Christmas lights and candles.  Now we have to face the truth.  The pretty, twinkling lights are going away.  The darkness, however, is going to stick around for awhile.
For most of December, being at work was more bearable, too.  Cubicles got decorated.  Break rooms were piled with treats.  Employers became more cheerful, even a little bit benevolent.  But this week, offices are fairly sedate.  A lot of people aren’t working at all, having saved their precious time off for between-the-holidays getaways.  Those who are, wish they weren’t.  Things are quiet, but a little bit strained, not unlike the way I imagine old battlefields used to be – waiting for the first shot from the first soldier to crest the hill, or the first boss who returns to demand a year-end analysis.  
This is also the week we must look into the mirror head on (or, worse, from behind).  All those little indulgences that seemed so harmless earlier in the month must now be dealt with.  We face tough choices – loosen the button, or tuck in the tummy – go to bed earlier, or buy another tube of concealer – schedule a hair cut, or hunt for a head band – have another reheated dinner, or throw out the leftovers and spread out a salad.
But not all is drear and dank once the packages have been opened and the eggnog’s been drunk.  In fact, there is a very strong upside to this week after Christmas. 
First, it is the week after Christmas, meaning Christmas is over. 
All of the expectations (yours and everybody else’s) have been dealt with.  Maybe they were all met, even exceeded, this year.  Or perhaps this is the year things fell a bit short.  Either way, it’s done.  You don’t have worry about how Christmas is going to turn out for another 11 months (and you do have the option not to worry about it at all – I dare you).
Second, this is a great week for new starts.  Even if you’re working this week, you’re probably not as busy as you’re going to be next week when everyone gets back.  So clean out a file drawer.  Organize your email.  Back home, straighten up your sock drawer.  Clean the carpet or polish the hardwood as soon as you take out the Christmas tree – you have to sweep up the mess anyway, so why not do it up right and face the new year with a shine.  Buy a new cookbook and try something you’ve never eaten, let alone cooked, before.  Update your address book (get your great-aunt’s address captured before you lose it again).  Wipe down the top of your refrigerator (true, nobody sees it except your really tall friends, but you know what’s up there).  Wash your rain jacket, it probably needs it more than you realize (be sure to take your camera out of the pocket before you do – trust me, it happens).
In short, do things that make you feel new.  They won’t actually renew you, but you’re very likely to feel better once you’ve cut through the detritus any holiday, and especially Christmas, leaves behind.  You may still be going and coming in the dark, but at least you won’t be going to work to face an in box masquerading as an avalanche –  or coming home to face melted candles, dried out greenery, and leftovers for dinner.
And while you’re at it, this week is the perfect time to get all the way to the bottom of your dirty clothes basket.  (Admit it, you never get absolutely every piece of laundry clean at the same time.)  You're a good person – you deserve to face the brand new year with clean sheets and a drawer full of clean underwear.
There.  Don’t you feel better already?

Coming Friday:  You DO make resolutions.  Don’t you?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The (White) Elephant Under the Christmas Tree

“There is only one fruitcake in the world and people keep
sending it to each other.”    --Johnny Carson

Everybody loves the spirit of giving during the holidays . . .  don’t they?
I’ve been particularly interested in corporate America’s approach this year.  We all know the economy is challenging, but, sheesh.  A friend of mine was delighted to hear her name announced among the many employees whose names were drawn at random to receive a gift from the “Elves in Human Resources.” When she happily trotted to the next floor to claim her gift, they handed her an obviously recycled desk calendar, complete with a cable company’s logo (she does not work for a cable company) and some kind of deteriorating packing material stuck around the edges.  It made her wonder, is business really that bad?  She spent the weekend sharpening her resume.
It is perhaps because of these kinds of corporate gifts to employees, customers, and vendors that we now have National Regifting Day.  It is officially designated as the “Thursday before Christmas” and is promoted as being both economically and ecologically sound.  I’m sure it’s true.  I read it on Wikipedia.
I know people mean well.  I’m sure they do.  But have you ever wondered where some of this stuff comes from?  In the spirit of the season – and because I like to make lists – I’ve made a list of things I would prefer not to receive this year – or any year.  If your favorite thing is on this list, I do apologize.  If I happen to wind up with such an item, I’ll gladly regift it in your direction.
Martha Jean’s Please-Don’t-Give-Me-For-Christmas List
A Salad Shooter®
I know, I know, it’s a wonder.  It slices.  It dices.  And I am assured by its maker that it works even better if you accessorize it.  But I promise you, on the most innovative cooking day I ever had, I’ve never had the need, nor even the urge, to shoot vegetables across the room.  If you have one and love it, please let me know.  If you have one and don’t know what to do with it, please don’t regift it to me.
A Snuggie®
People who love these things, love them without reservation.  Members of my own family belong to that group, but I do not.  It is, in fact, one of my recurring nightmares – I’m zipped up in a blanket that has holes for my head and arms, sitting comfortably on the sofa in my 25th floor living room, when the fire alarm sounds.  I wake up shuddering from the vision of my rear end in high def on CNN, slung over a fireman’s shoulder, swathed in my leopard print Snuggie®.  (It has just been pointed out to me that the reality could be far worse – it is possible taht Snuggies® do not close in the back, like hospital gowns.  I’ve never gotten close enough to one to find out.  And hope not to.)
Any item that combines an 800-number running across the bottom of your TV screen with your credit card expiration date
All that stuff is sooooo tempting, especially when it’s 3 a.m. and there’s no chance you’re going back to sleep.  You just know, you’re sure of it, that kick boxing training is just what you need to turn your life around.  Of course, you’ll devote at least an hour each day to it and follow the program diligently, all 26 DVDs.  And how have you ever lived this long without the full collection of hit songs from your high school years – I mean you can’t buy those individual songs anywhere, just like that gray-haired singer is saying (and you know you remember him, it’s right on the tip of your tongue).  If you feel yourself reaching for the phone and your credit card simultaneously, especially if you’re trying to stretch across the couch without disturbing your Snuggie®, don’t.  Just don’t.  If you have to call somebody at 3 a.m. – call me and I’ll talk you down.
Women love shoes and I’m no exception.  But, really, we each need to buy our own shoes.  You have to walk across the floor of the shoe department while the guy sits patiently on that little stool and twist around in front of one of those little floor mirrors.  You have to be sure you can a) stand upright without throwing your back out, and b) take several successive steps without twisting an ankle (or breaking a hip – some of those stilettos are high).  Socks are great gifts – but shoes, not so much.  (Besides, every woman hedges her weight and her shoe size, so they’re guaranteed not to fit.)
Any item or product that promises to make me look 10 years younger and/or 20 pounds thinner
First, there’s a good chance I’ve already tried it.  You can tell by looking at me that it didn’t work.  Second, it’s probably going to violate the 800-number-credit-card-expiration-date maxim I declared earlier.  And finally, although I’ve got pretty thick skin, I don’t particularly relish the message that comes with receiving a miracle undergarment or magic wrinkle cream.  Whether you meant it as an insult or not, there it is.
Anything that comes with directions on how to keep it alive
I have enough guilt in my life without adding the moral failure of killing off a perfectly healthy sour dough starter – or ending the 50-year life cycle of a single Friendship Cake – or being the final, fatal  stop in the life of a jar of fermented fruit.  They’re all lovely in the prime of their lives.  Please let me enjoy them at your house and move on.  For the record, I feel the same way about poinsettias, amaryllis bulbs, and hamsters.
Any item designed solely to make my life easier
That’s because it will absolutely be something involving work.  Vacuum cleaners fall into this category, as do magic mops and dust cloths, clever kitchen gadgets, laundry aids, ergonomic pruning shears, and car polishing sets.  Things designed to make my life more pleasant . . . or luxurious . . . or decadent . . . or safer . . . those things make great gifts.  But if the claim to fame is that my life will be easier, it can only mean that I must use it when I’m doing something hard.
And, finally, one last thing I hope not to find under my tree . . .
Anything that’s there because somebody felt obligated to give me a gift
We talk a lot about “taking the commercialism out of Christmas,” but when push comes to shove, most of us play right into making sure the Christmas bells everyone talks about are really the electronic dings of  credit cards swiping.  I’ve only known one person in my life who actually walks the talk.  She and her partner make their gifts each year on their ranch.  Then they traipse out through the snow and hand deliver them to people who make their lives brighter by being around.  I loved them already, but I really love them for doing that. 
My Christmas wish for you this year is to be all the way in every moment you live.  Take nothing for granted.  And make sure you have one good belly laugh each day – it’s better for your health than any diet or gym can ever be.
God bless us, every one.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Unsung Hero of Holidays

“America did not invent human rights.
In a very real sense human rights invented America.
                                                                                                Jimmy Carter

      We’re in that time of year we call “The Holidays.”  Think of it and you’ll probably see images of crushing mall mobs, complete with parking lot door dings . . . lights – tiny and white if you live in one of the classier areas; big and multi-colored if you live in one of the trendier areas; pointedly blue if you live in one of the politically correct areas . . . looming credit card statements.  “The Holidays” brings any number of things to mind.

      But I’ll bet you didn’t think about the Bill of Rights, now did you?

      You should have.  December 15th is national Bill of Rights Day. 

      2010 marks the 219th anniversary of the ratification of that noble document, the first ten Amendments to the U. S. Constitution.  Our Bill of Rights sets us apart from most other nations on earth because it specifically designates and protects the individual rights of U.S. citizens.  We have always been a strong-minded, ruggedly stalwart (dare I say argumentative?) lot in this country.  So much so in fact, that these amendments almost didn’t get approved, nor did the Constitution they support.  It was not by any means a slam dunk.

      While the day of their final ratification is a national holiday (proclaimed by Franklin Roosevelt in 1941, just days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor), there’s no official record of when we started taking them for granted.

      Just in case you can’t immediately bring all ten to mind, I looked them up.  Here’s the list . . .

1st Amendment:  Freedom of speech, press, and religion
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
We’re still debating that one, just ask the Wikileaks guy.  Or the folks who want to build that mosque near Ground Zero.  Or the aging neo-Nazis who marched through the streets of downtown Skokie, Illinois in 1978.  Debating the 1st Amendment it is not a bad thing.  It’s when we stop questioning it, pushing it, stretching its limits that we need to worry.

2nd Amendment:  The right to bear arms
            A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
Buckle your seat belt.   This issue is so volatile that I even type gingerly when I record it.  You would think that after 219 years we’d have figured out what we mean by this one, but we truly don’t appear to know.  I will touch it and move on, noting briefly that five of the 11 states who ratified the original Bill of Rights, rejected this one.  If we had to vote on it again today we might be looking at Civil War II.

3rd Amendment:  Protection of homeowners from quartering troops, except during war
No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
I honestly haven’t given this much thought.  It never crossed my mind that I needed Constitutional protection to keep some sailor on liberty from commandeering my spare bedroom.  In the context of today’s society, I find this one a little bit ironic, especially since one of my dearest friends spends much of her time and considerable talent supporting a wonderful charity whose purpose is to provide housing for military personnel.   Go figure.

4th Amendment:  Rights and protections against unreasonable search and seizure
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
I sadly fear that most Americans’ knowledge of the 4th Amendment comes from Law & Order reruns.  Who among us doesn’t remember a scene in which an outraged defense attorney slaps a paper down on Jack McCoy’s desks and explodes, “Ever heard of the 4th Amendment, counselor!”  I know I’m not the first citizen to ask, “How do you reckon the Patriot Act of 2001 figures in here?”

5th Amendment:  Rights of due process of law, protection against double jeopardy, self-incrimination
No person shall be held to answer for any capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Boy, this one covers a lot of territory.  I most often associate the Fifth Amendment with old news reels of mobsters conferring with their lawyers during the legendary Kefauver hearings on organized crime.  In high school I remember reading it and wondering why that last phrase didn’t apply to the Federal government when they took our entire front yard to widen their highway.  I still haven’t forgiven them for cutting down our oak tree.  In today’s pop culture, ‘taking the Fifth’ has become synonymous with an admission of guilt – at least that’s how it sounds on Law & Order.

6th Amendment:  Rights of a speedy trial by jury of peers and rights of accused
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district where in the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.
My father, always the curmudgeon, insisted that our system ignores the “jury of peers” part of this language.  According to him, an accused ecological terrorist would have a jury comprised only of committed environmentalists, a 19-year-old male charged with drunk driving would face 19-year-old male members of AA.  He could go on for hours – and did.  And while I haven’t looked at a court calendar recently, I think “speedy” could be safely called a stretch.   All I know for sure is that, on advice from my only friend who is also a police officer, the first thing any of us should do if taken into custody is ask for a lawyer. 

7th Amendment:  Rights to trial by jury in civil cases
In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
How would the legal profession support itself without this one?  And, just for fun, does anyone know what $20 from 1789 would be worth today?  When it costs $25 to check a bag on an airplane, would we really convene a jury over a $20 dispute?  Apparently, it’s our Constitutional right. 

8th Amendment:  Protection from cruel and unusual punishment, excessive bail
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
What’s excessive for Martha Wharton might be very different from what’s excessive for Martha Stewart.  Or Oprah Winfrey.  And when it comes to what constitutes “cruel and unusual", may the conversation about the Patriot Act continue, please. 

9th Amendment:  Protection of rights not specified in the Bill of Rights
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
This wording was apparently not clear enough to avoid the need to protect some of those “other” rights with specific Amendments of their own.  Like the 14th.  And the 19th.

10th Amendment:  States rights, power of the states
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
Some folks take this one hard.  The cemeteries at Gettysburg and Chickamauga attest to that.  In my home town the patriarch of one prominent family was named States Rights Johnson.  Really.  That was his name.  Nobody thought it was odd, or even humorous.  And nobody called him S.R. 

      There you have it.  Since December 15, 1789, we’ve added another 17 Amendments, one which (the 18th) prohibited alcohol, and another (the 21st) which repealed it.  So, not accounting for the thirst of the nation, an additional 15 Amendments in 219 years is not too bad.

      After we repealed the 18th Amendment in 1933, we pretty much left the Constitution alone until 1947, when, shortly following the death of FDR, we passed an Amendment limiting the President of the United States to two terms.  Point taken. 

      There was another quiet spell until 1961, when we entered sort of an amending frenzy in Constitutional terms (Constitutional Amendment time being a little faster, but not much, than geologic time).  In quick succession we admitted the District of Columbia to the electoral college (1960 – but they still don’t have Congressional representation, read their license plates); revoked poll taxes (1962 – that took awhile, didn’t it); codified the terms of Presidential succession (1965); and made 18 the legal voting age (1971 – but we still don’t have very good luck at getting voters of any age to cast a ballot). 

      After that, we grew quiet for another 21 years, until 1992 when we finally passed the 27th, preventing laws affecting Congressional salaries from taking effect until the beginning of the next session of Congress.  For the record, that one took just over two centuries to hit the books.  It was included in the original Bill of Rights, but never managed to pass go.  Proposed September 25, 1789 – passed May 7, 1992.  Let it never be said we’re quitters.

      With that in mind, here’s a little holiday entertainment for you, something to do when you can’t bear another sappy Christmas movie on the Hallmark channel.  Go back and read the original Bill of Rights, then go online (or, if you’re a troglodyte like me, open the newspaper) and read up on today’s news from Congress.  And then, I dare you, try to imagine what it would take to get those same ten Amendments ratified in today’s political environment. 

     If we depended on our current system to protect our Constitutional rights, we’d probably still be shooing sailors off the front steps with a broom.  Oh, wait . . . we do . . .

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Don't Worry, Be Happy . . . or What 2010 Has Taught Me

“I drive way too fast to worry about cholesterol.”
If you know me at all, you also know that procrastination is one of my greatest weaknesses.  (I almost said “my single greatest weakness,” but I don’t want to be unfair to sloth, avarice, and greed.)  For the past year, I’ve successfully put off writing this blog, only to reinstate it finally this week.  Why, you ask?  Oh, lots of reasons, but here’s the short list.  Since last we met in cyberspace I have:

a)  Learned that the Boy Scouts are right, you do need to be prepared  
(because I was prepared with full-strength aspirin at hand, I could shove one down  my husband’s throat on Christmas Day when he casually mentioned, “I think I may be having a heart attack”– he’s fine, all is well, and I know where the aspirin is)
b)  Gotten good, I mean really good, at packing
(because in July 2009 we moved part of our stuff into a new place in Seattle and part of our stuff into our old house on the southwest Washington coast; six months after that, we moved all of our stuff down to the house; five months after that, we moved some of our stuff back to another place in Seattle – a short story I promise to make long in another blog)

c)  Recognized that being good, really good, at packing is not a skill that transfers to unpacking  
(because, well, just because)

d)  Realized that the grass actually is greener on the other side of whatever fence you’re straddling
(because I tried to retire and avidly disliked it, then went back to work and wished I’d stayed retired – there you go)

While I’ve been on this voyage of self-revelation, I also discovered something else:  Worrying is a waste of time.  I’ve mentioned this before, but this time I mean it.  Really, truly.  So, to mark my return to the blogosphere, I’m publishing a list of things I pledge never to worry about again.  Seriously.

From here on in I do solemnly swear I will not worry about . . .

What’s for Dinner
Frankly, I don’t care.  I’m just as happy with a bowl of cereal as with a hand-crafted, organically fed pot roast.  If others are not, they should worry about that.  I’m not going to.

The State of the Economy
Look, I’ve worried about it for years and where has it gotten us?  Greater minds than mine are obsessed with economic theory.  If they can’t figure out how to fix it, fat chance I can.  So I’m giving that one up. 

The Weather
I mean, really, what’s the point?  In my neck of the woods, it rains a lot.  And sometimes it snows.  The ones who need to worry about the weather are the guys whose job it is to keep the streets cleared, not me.  (Word to the wise:  the mayor of Seattle might need to worry.)  If my state of happiness is dependent upon good weather, I should live somewhere else – and I’m not moving (see item b, above).

Whether Things Match
I used to care, I mean CARE, whether the napkins matched the place mats (and that there were napkins and place mats) . . . whether my shoes matched my hemline . . . that the ribbon matched the wrapping paper . . . that my coat matched the rest of my outfit.  I am now resolved simply to be happy that I have time to sit down at the table and eat . . . that my shoes don’t give me blisters and do keep my feet dry (see, The Weather, above) . . . that I actually got around to wrapping the gift instead of just leaving it in the bag, not to mention managing to get it in the first place . . . and that I remembered to grab a coat, any coat, before I dashed out the door.  Now wasn’t that easy?  (To be fair, I probably will pay some mind to how closely my roots match the rest of my hair, but I won’t worry about it – worrying is how those roots came to need attention in the first place.)

This is a big one for me.  For years, make that decades, I’ve worried about what I needed to get done at the office.  I’ve worried about doing the right thing, doing it really well, and making sure we all succeeded.  Doing those things made a difference – all that time I spent worrying about them never did.  So while I’ll continue to do them, I’m not going to worry about them anymore.  It’s my job; it’s not my life. 
The People I Love
Okay, now I’m going heavy duty.  Not worry about the people I love most in the world?  That’s heresy, isn’t it?  I don’t think so.  Do I care what happens to them?  Absolutely!  Do I want only the best and most wonderful things for them?  Fervently!   Is their welfare the most important thing in my life?  Definitely!  But will my worrying about them make a difference in the outcome of their lives?  No, it won’t.  Praying for them will.  Being available to them will.  Loving them unconditionally will.  But worrying about them won’t change a thing – and I have the wrinkles to prove it.  Here’s what I believe – God loves them more than I will ever be capable of and cares about their welfare more than I ever can.  Therefore, while I care immensely, I don’t need to worry (it does not, however, mean that I don’t need to pray).  Will I abandon them?  Never!  But will I wring my hands and fret when I think about what “could” happen to them?  I promise not to.  What a relief.  For me – and, I’m guessing, for them.

That’s my list.  What’s on yours?