New Year’s Resolutions: Maybe One or Two

I am not overly fond of New Year’s resolutions. Like 9.9 tenths of folks, I never keep them. I would love to hold up my hand and shout, “Yeah! I’m that point 1 tenth dude that always keeps his resolutions!”

But, I am not.

We all do it. We make commitments that we do truly intend to keep. The impending excitement of another “new” year with all its wonderful windows of opportunity is just too much for us to nonchalantly ignore. We have to step up smartly to the plate and give it our best metaphorical swing.

Who knows, we might just hit a metaphorical home run? We may just live up to that forecasted event or goal that we just know can be met in this new virginal year. After all, the New Year has got to be better than the old one right?

It is always easy to look back at the end of each year and not count our blessings, but count our disasters and mishaps. And (according to the media to some extent) that is normal.

Every year the newspapers and news channel on TV and the internet do “lists” of everything that transpired in that extant year. There is usually more than enough celebrity death, freak weather and mass death to fill up several pages of newspaper or reels of film. I am not saying that all recaps of the year are vulture-like ghoulish recaps of human misery, but there are enough of these lists to make it appear so.

There are some lists that focus on the sentimental or good things that have happened before that great big ball can descend on Times Square at midnight. Some are fun. The “best” film or film moments, for example, are always entertaining, but these do not hold the record for unhappy events nor do they make you yearn for a New Year to “make things better.”

As it gets ever closer to the time when that big ball will finish its descent and mark the beginning of the New Year, more and more of these lists and resolutions will be made public. Of course some folks will not tell anyone what they are hoping to achieve in the new year. Wise choice, the less people who know, the less you have to squirm when you haven’t accomplished this new goal.

The ball just before it drops…sound like puberty doesn’t it?

According to Wikipedia (that all-knowing “Mr Peabody” of the internet) New Year resolutions have been around at least since the Babylonians built their tower. Roman’s also participated; presumably their first New Year’s resolution was to not crucify the son of God again…

Either way this resolution to be better, to do better, to act better has got to be a good thing. Despite the old adage that states, “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.” Surely it is better to have good intentions. Who doesn’t want to be a better version of themselves? Like the song says, ‘Oh Lord please don’t let me be misunderstood.’ Hopefully our good intentions are not misconstrued or misinterpreted. We cannot control that, but we can control how we go about these improvements.

Most of us don’t make any resolutions that involve huge change. We say we’ll stop; smoking, over-eating, binge drinking, messing around, et al. And most of us will fail. I know that I have said for years that my first resolution was to quit smoking in the New Year. *I don’t do the other things listed above.*

This is the first year that I know I will be able to succeed at this 2013 resolution. Why? Well, I’m glad you asked. I had my last smoke on 30 August this year. Thus far, apart from the odd nostalgic yearning, I’ve not wanted another cigarette, cigar or pipe. I don’t even smoke the electric cigs any more (too damn expensive).

So I know that I will be able to keep and meet this one New Year’s resolution. While I’ve been writing this blog post I had another “no brainer” resolution pop into my head. Since I cannot one hundred percent guarantee that I’ll accomplish my first resolution (after all, I have an addictive personality and we are all just a bit self-destructive when it comes to smoking), I have one more New Year’s resolution that I know I can keep.

Are you ready?

My second New Year’s resolution is to not give any credence to  Mayan prophecies, like…say…the end of the world.

Happy New Year everyone!

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My First “Real” Thanksgiving in Years

I have not celebrated Thanksgiving for years. Mainly because  I live in England and despite my American heritage, since I don’t live state side, I tend to forget about “turkey day.”

When I was growing up Thanksgiving meant great food and a double celebration. We would go and eat ourselves silly at one grandparents house and then go to the other grandparent‘s house and eat some more.

Each year our family got together with various aunts and uncles and cousins and ate, argued, laughed and lounged for a few hours. But I can honestly say, apart from when I was really young and impressionable, I was never really “thankful” for anything.

This year, though, is different. I have a lot to be thankful for. Even though I’m not living state side, I think I might just drag out some fake meat product and try my hand at making sweet potato pie.

I feel like I’ve been given a huge second chance. Not many people get one of those and I don’t want to waste mine. I just need to figure out how to make the most of it.

I won’t lie, it’s going to take me a while to figure this out. I am still in shock after receiving the news from my surgeon about just how close I really came to meeting the “Big Guy.” And that the resultant surgery that left a tear in my aortic arch is going to put me into a “disabled” category whether I like it or not.

Once I’m done reeling from this information, and the implications of a sudden high surge of blood pressure possibly killing me now or later, I’ll figure out why I was spared.

As you can no doubt tell from my above meanderings, I am still a little freaked out by the whole “tear in my aorta” thing and how my life has changed in the blink of an eye. I have gone from a guy who ran to answer alarm bells and struggled with lads fighting each other or attempting to assault a fellow member of staff to a guy who can barely walk to the Tesco Metro and back.

It is all a little overwhelming and despite all the wonderful folks who’ve been so supportive since this has happened I am still having a bit of a hard time adjusting. It will be worse when I actually start my “return to work” schedule in December. It will be incredibly difficult to watch my friends and colleagues come in and collect their work keys, keys that I can’t use and will probably never get to use again.

The idea of being re-rolled into a job that pays less (a lot less) has also got me freaked out. I won’t, to the best of my knowledge anyway, be eligible for medical retirement. It is notoriously hard to get and you are not allowed to work anywhere else if they decide you are eligible.

But.

Apart from all the “freaking out” and worry about my future employment and my possible financial heartache, I am thankful. Because if I wasn’t here, I would not be able to do or feel all the things that I am currently feeling.

Hell, I’m so thankful  that I might just opt for sacrificing a real bird for Thanksgiving instead of  munching on a meat substitute.

So I’ll close by wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving aka Turkey Day. Enjoy it and appreciate it, because you just never know what’s around that next corner. Be thankful that you don’t.

Show and Tell

We moved to Fayetteville when I was fifteen. I started that fall at Fayetteville High School. I desperately wanted to take Drama, but there were no spaces left. The closest the school advisor could get was Public Speaking. It would have to do. On the first day of class I became devoted to the teacher.

He was a mountain of a man. He must have been at least six and a half feet tall. He had a barrel chest and wonderfully rich voice. He had been a bit of everything in his life before he, “Came back to the school that showed me the door and suggested I never come back.” One of the many things he had done  was work as a prison officer.
About halfway through the school year, the teacher wanted us to do a “show and tell” speech. He handed us our subjects. Mine was on how to make a Martini. I held my hand up and asked if I could do the speech on a subject I chose. He answered in the affirmative. Luckily he did not ask me what I was going to do.
When I was a lot younger I used to read a book series called The Brains Benton Mysteries.  Brains, as was suggested by his nickname, was a genius. He was like a young Sherlock Holmes. I adored the books and it was through one of them that I found the recipe for making gun powder. It was not exact, that would have been irresponsible.But it did list the main ingredients.
Charcoal, saltpetre, and sulfer. Saltpetre and sulfer I could get at the local drug store. In those days you could get your hands on loads of “cool” things. I remember getting Hydrochloric Acid and Formaldehyde over the counter. That did change very shortly when a new chemist started working there. Of course I had the other ingredient at home in the guise of charcoal briquettes.
After a lot of experimenting I made a small pile of gunpowder that could more accurately be called flash powder. I did tightly pack a bit and it did make a satisfactory bang when lit. I was inordinately pleased that I had cracked the formula. I wrote the measurement down in a notebook and never had the opportunity to make the stuff again. Well, until my Public Speech class came along.
I went home on Friday and spent the next two days making gunpowder. I managed to fill an entire coffee can with the stuff. I then wrote my speech outline and made a few index cards with the formula on them. Speech class was my first class of the morning, so on Monday I entered the room with my coffee can, index cards and my outline. The outline I gave to the teacher and I sat down with my coffee can and index cards on the desk in front of me.
When the teacher read my outline he raised his eyebrows and looked at me questioningly. I just grinned and nodded. This seemed to satisfy him and he then did a roll check and said that I would give the first speech of the morning.
I got up to the podium and using the chalk board I wrote down my recipe for making gun powder. I then explained where you could get the ingredients from. Then with a flourish I opened the coffee can asked everyone to pass it around and have a look. When the can came back to me, I opened the floor for questions.
Immediately from the back of room came the question I was hoping someone would ask. “How do we know it works, man” This was from the “druggies” in the corner. “Ah,” I said, “Now comes the demonstration part of my speech.” I took a box of matches out of my trouser pocket, opened the box and pulled a match out and lit it. With what I thought was a theatrical gesture worthy of P.T. Barnum himself, I tossed the match into the coffee can.
FOOM! In a split second a flame roughly about five feet tall shot out of the top of the can. This was followed by a huge black cloud of smoke. The teacher shouted at the class to open the windows. This action did not immediately help to disseminate the smoke which appeared to get worse. The general atmosphere in the room was one of great hilarity. There was a lot of laughter and shouting and coughing. The teacher then evacuated the class room and we all went outside to wait for the smoke to clear. Luckily no one hit the fire alarm. Although this was mainly because the smoke was confined to the speech room.
Once the smoke had cleared and we were herded back to our seats, the teacher asked me if I knew that was going to happen. I had to honestly say no. I explained that I had never made that much before and had no idea that it was going to be so spectacular. He believed me and did not send me to the Principle’s office for being a disruptive influence on the class.
He instead gave me an A+ for my ingenuity and flair. Looking back on my time spent in High School, I think it was the highest grade I ever got for anything.