On Tuesday, I asked all of you to write non-resolutions instead of resolutions this year, so we can focus on what we’ve done right in the past year rather than what we want to change about ourselves in the future.
I have been amazed by some of the moving responses I’ve gotten since then.
I hope you enjoy them as much as I do . . .
EMILY THRELKELD • Raleigh, North Carolina
Writer and photographer • threlkelded.net
The best thing I did in 2011 was to focus on giving back in any way I could think of. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of thinking we can’t afford to give. Monetary donations aside, I gave boxes upon boxes of old clothes and household items to Goodwill, toiletries to the women’s shelter, gave away my leftover potting soil on Freecycle, played the vocabulary game on FreeRice, donated old Christmas cards to St. Jude’s Ranch, donated old VHS tapes to Alternative Community Training, gave away my bridesmaid dress to Operation Fairy Dust, and used Facebook’s Causes application to fundraise enough money to cover the cost of adding myself to the National Marrow Donor Program. And when it comes to money, a little bit goes a longer way than you might think. One of my happiest moments of 2011 was when I paid for the coffee of the man behind me at my local Starbucks drive-through. He followed me out of the parking lot and pulled up next to me at a stoplight and raised his cup to me with a big smile. It was the best $2.32 I spent all year.
LEE MARTIN • Columbus, Ohio
Pulitzer Prize finalist author of The Bright Forever and numerous other books and professor of creative writing at Ohio State University • leemartinauthor.com
1. I’m proud of my students who last year let themselves be vulnerable in their writing.
2. I’m proud of those I know who shouldered through tough times in their personal lives and never lost their spirit or their love.
3. I’m proud of how many times I revised the novel I’m working on (I’m still revising) without losing sight of what brought me to the material in the first place.
4. I’m proud of all the stupid jokes, corny puns, and the windup toys that I brought to my classes. (I waited too long after New Year’s to uncork my champagne; it was a bit spumanti-climactic.)
KRISTIE LOWRY • Bowling Green, Kentucky
Literary Outreach Coordinator at Western Kentucky University and SOKY Bookest Queen
My top five, are as follows:
1. I lost 30 pounds. I didn’t mean to, but I did and I’m healthier for it.
2. I lost roughly 220 pounds in the form of a now-ex-husband. Okay, you probably shouldn’t post it like that. However, I didn’t plan to do it in 2011, but I did, and I’m healthier for that too.
3. I started work towards my Masters Degree. That was actually my resolution for 2011, and I accomplished it, so I’m especially pleased by that.
4. I reconnected with my sister. Not that we’ve been horribly out of touch or anything, but over the past year I feel that we’ve regained some of the closeness that we lost as we both became mommies, moved far away from each other, and developed lives that only seemed to intersect on holidays and special occasions.
5. I gained another close friend in the form of Molly McCaffrey (and bonus friend by extension, Dave). I’m incredibly thankful for that accomplishment!
SHERRY HAMBY • Sewanee, Tennessee
Research Associate Professor at the University of the South, author of Web of Violence, and editor of Psychology of Violence
1. It happened to be my friend’s father’s birthday while we were visiting them at the Jersey Shore this summer. I decided to make him a yellow scratch cake with raspberry filling and buttercream frosting for his birthday, even though their beach house kitchen was devoid of all the ingredients. I spent $65 buying cake pans, a bottle of vanilla, an entire 5-pound bag of flour, everything! But he was surprised and delighted. He passed away this fall so that turned out to be his last birthday. Best money I spent all year.
2. I let my students in my Psychology of Gender talk me into letting them make a movie for their final project instead of an exam. They shot hours of footage interviewing classmates and created a sensitive, funny, and thoughtful movie that will surely stay with them longer than any test ever would. Plus, I learned what “sexiled” means.
3. I let my hairstylist pick my new hair color! At first it was a little more than I bargained for–a reddish purplish brownish color unlike any I’ve worn (should have seen the looks on my students’ face when I went to class the next day!). But now I love it.
4. Also, my colleague John Grych and I wrote a book called Web of Violence and I completed the first volume of the new American Psychological Association journal I edit, Psychology of Violence. Those were great experiences too—more fun than they sound!
TOM HUNLEY • Bowling Green, Kentucky
Poet, author of five books of poetry and two books on poetry, associate professor of English at Western Kentucky University, and founder of Steel Toe Books
1. I practiced playing bass guitar just about every day in 2011, following up on my 2010 New Years Resolution, which was to stop being so single-mindedly focused on my career and try something new. I also purchased three basses in 2011. I love them like I love my own children, the daughters I never had.
2. I coached my son’s U7 soccer team to an 8-2 record last fall. We expect to win a title this coming spring.
3. My textbook, The Poetry Gymnasium: 94 Proven Exercises to Shape Your Best Verse, was released by McFarland in November. This was a huge project that took over four years. Dozens of my students and former students wrote sample poems for the book, and I received permission to reprint poems by Sherman Alexie, Billy Collins, Denise Duhamel, Gabriel Gudding, Matthea Harvey, David Kirby, Allison Joseph, Charles Harper Webb, John Yau, Dean Young, and many others. I’m prouder of this book than any of my others.
This year I spent a lot of time and energy helping a lot of my friends. Many of our friends have ended their marriages this year and a good friend of ours had a major stroke following quadruple bypass. I have spent lots of time holding my friends’ hands (our other hands were often pouring and drinking wine) and talking with them about their struggles and confusion. And, it turns out, I’m viewed as a wise person and my advice is valued! One of my friends in particular keeps thanking me for keeping him grounded and always being a voice of reason while he figures out why his wife left, how to single parent, and how to manage his family’s finances. Similarly, one day while visiting my ill friend in the nursing home, another friend of his complimented me on what a natural caregiver I am to him and that she can learn from me. So, for me, with age, I’ve matured, grown wiser, kept a sense of humor in dark times for a lot of loved ones, and found something new about myself. I’m taking my new confidence in my “wisdom and counsel” and am applying for some new positions where I’ll be using these skills and further developing personally and professionally.
My kitchen is not optimum.
Two of the stove’s burners don’t work, and the maintenance man, a haggard, prison-tatted dude of middle age with a JESUS LOVES trucker hat, managed to scorch his fingers while trying to fix them. His flesh is the last thing they’ll ever cook, since they returned to a state of permanent non-heat immediately after the incident.
There is—I’m not kidding—zero counter space. When I chop carrots I have to use the dish-drying surface of my sink, an enamel area some previous tenant painted creamy white, which is now chipped and peeling and the color of chicken bones.
Storage in the freezer door consists of a dirty shoelace (once again, not kidding) looped through the holes where plastic bars once kept the ice trays from falling out.
That said, I still fix dinner at least four nights a week, most of the time from scratch. I like to cook. It makes me happy. It makes my girlfriend happy. There is an element of “chop wood, carry water” to the task I find appealing. It’s the sort of unassuming accomplishment that’s a good, immediate reward (Tasty food! Full-belly pleasure! The admiration of my significant other!) that works as an antidote to how I spent most of my mental time (well, if I move the bank robbery to chapter three, then I can have them . . . hell, that won’t work because of the mouseketeer convention in chapter five . . . only six more months of this and I’ll have a book . . .).
If there’s any non-resolution I can make this year, it’s to acknowledge this cooking routine is a good thing. I lost a little weight without really trying. I feel better. My blood pressure thanks me.
I hardly cooked when I was in graduate school, opting for the quick, dirty pleasure of a #8 from McDonalds, the boiled boot leather combo (kidding this time . . . it was the chicken nuggets meal, whatever number that is. Though boiled boot leather probably has more nutritional value than anything that hellish clown peddles).
I like to cook. It makes me happy. It makes my girlfriend happy. After all, developing a solid repertoire of meals to fix for friends and family is a far more interesting thing do with one’s life than saying, “Yes, I would like barbeque sauce with those nuggets” again and again.
This year I’ve:
1. Made the dean’s list at the college I attend.
2. I didn’t procrastinate on my finals!
3. I cleaned my room. This is a huge feat for me.
4. I beat Portal 2 in one week.
5. I spent time enjoying myself with the people I love.
I think this year was a great year.
Did I do five right things this year?
1. I got back a job I love; now I have to keep it!
2. I saved a lot of animals (Molly’s Mutts and Meows).
3. I read like a fiend.
4. I created a new syllabus for my writing class that I am really proud of.
5. I continue to make new friends in LA, which is a challenge!
1. Had a beautiful baby girl after turning 40.
2. Traveled around the country with my mom and newborn—quite the adventure!
3. Started a sock drive to help the homeless at my other daughter’s elementary school. The students donated 356 new pairs of socks and over 100 brand new toys for the homeless.
4. Painted the basement pink without asking for anyone’s permission. Thank goodness the husband likes the end result. We did buy a house with a basement with the intent of making the basement kid-friendly. Mission accomplished!
5. Wrote periodic love notes to my daughters that share some of the smaller events in life that made me smile while being with them.
1. I went back to school to get a master’s degree in a subject that I absolutely love.
2. I made straight A’s in all my graduate school classes for the first semester.
3. I went to Joplin, Missouri, and cleaned up tornado debris.
4. I started writing again, for the first time in a long time.
5. I said yes and embarked on the terrifying, heart-breaking, roller-coaster ride that is adoption. And when that little girl gets here, she will make every tear worth it.
Well…I’m a work in progress—always. But, the one big thing that I did for myself this year was to run my first ever 5K. And believe it or not…I’m still running. I’m not fast but, I keep telling myself I’m running to run, not to win a race. And I feel good!
I am preaching on Sunday, and what I am preaching on is a similar topic. So many people decide to make New Year’s resolutions, and very few are actually kept. So, what I am calling the congregation to do is to rejoice in what they have done and realize how great they already are. Here is my top 5 things I did right in 2011:
1.) I not only graduated from college, but was the commencement speaker. (While graduating may seem the “norm” in today’s age, graduating from my rocky institution was a huge accomplishment.)
2.) I was accepted into graduate schools and finally picked one.
3.) I decided to go to Dave’s book signing and see two great people I haven’t seen in three years.
4.) I allowed grades not to matter anymore.
5.) I decided I should try and learn English grammar. We will see how this turns out. Molly knows how that this might be a challenge.
BARRETT GRIFFIN • Bowling Green, Kentucky
College student, future anthropology professor, and photographer • Apushingandpulling.tumblr.com
1. Changing my major to anthropology. I’ve gained more from being an anthropology major and from the anthropology program at Western Kentucky University in a year than I did from the photojournalism department in two and a half. I love what I’m studying now.
2. Going to India and shooting a film. I had some of the most amazing experiences in my life during those two short weeks in Gujarat, and I wouldn’t trade the memories and the people I’ve met for anything. It has changed my life and set a new bar for the goals I want to achieve.
3. Not being afraid to ask questions has really done a lot for me this year. At the end of last semester, I asked a certain professor if we could hang out sometime after classes ended, and she’s become one of the best friends I’ve had during my college career and a huge inspiration to being creative and setting goals for myself. I think she knows who she is.
4. As hard as this is to say, breaking up with my boyfriend of three years was something I did that was right. It made all of the above either possible or better, and it has been good for both of us in the end, despite the fact that it is still difficult every day.
5. Reading Cemetery Girl by David Bell and How to Survive Graduate School and Other Disasters by Molly McCaffrey.
Dissolving the Disillusion of the Resolution
Because I couldn’t stop for dread this year
I was in love, in mourning, in transition, in the country and in a dress size or two up from when January saw me last.
What I did right was what I am doing now: not apologizing to myself or anyone else. I indulged. I went to the beach for champagne brunch with someone beautiful who loves me and who thinks that I look better than when he met me. Too thin, he says. Too thin? Two Januaries ago I would have wondered how that was possible.
I am taking care, taking care of lots of things, not the least of which is my regard for myself. I have not punched once at the fuller legs that don’t fit in my pencil skirts any more. I have not self-berated, and I won’t. It’s been a full year, lots of joy and sorrow, some wonderful cakes I baked and, for once, allowed myself to try. Some celebratory margaritas at my favorite Mexican place ever where one can try to eat fat free, but why would one? And I am paring back a bit, for my health. To keep moving, to keep enjoying this life and eating it up every minute that I can. But I will not be dieting. I will be upping the activity and the healthy food choices. I will be celebrating my new chapbook with Cindy King and my healthy little froglets saved from a backyard pool when they were just eggs. I will be crossing my fingers for that promotion to associate professor and I will be patting myself on the back for getting a very nice portfolio in on time. These are all my good-dids of the year. Nothing I said last January could have predicted any of them. That’s why I dig the non-resolution. When I need resolve, I can always stir some up.
MARIANNE HALE • Seattle, Washington
Editorial assistant at Seattle Magazine • http://twitter.com/#!/mymyhaleyes.
1. I’m glad I had the gumption to pick up my whole life and move from my Kentucky homeland to Seattle.
2. I’m proud of myself for baking the old-fashioned way. In January, I gave up box mixes for good and, with the help of “Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes,” whipped up dozens of cupcake and icing recipes for my friends, coworkers and professors.
3. I’m happy to have (mostly) given up fast food. Living in Seattle, where fast food joints are few and far between, makes a steady fast-food diet virtually impossible. But even when faced with an opportunity to eat rubbery chicken nuggets, I’ve declined. Besides, what woman in her right mind would eat McAnything when her cook boyfriend would happily concoct a killer beef stroganoff at home?
4. I’m honored to have donated my hair. In high school, an ex-boyfriend told me, “Guys don’t like girls with short hair.” In the spring, I mailed off ten long, blond inches to Locks of Love and rocked a new short do. And as for guys not liking girls with short hair (Who cares anyway, right?), I think my current boyfriend put it best when he said, “You look great either way, but you look sassier with short hair.”
5. I’m thankful that I spent money on important-to-me things. In the winter, my boyfriend and I ate cheaply at home so we could afford to go to concerts. In spring, I spent my college graduation money to take a trip through the southern U.S. with some of my best friends. In October, we sold our furniture to help pay for our move to Seattle, so we could “follow our dreams.” Wow. It really has been a great year.
Took some singing risks in 2011:
1. Sang at my mother’s memorial service (U2: MLK).
2. Wrote and sang a lesbian parody of “Making Whopee” at my sister and her partner’s wedding reception. They went to Iowa to be married and returned to Illinois for a civil union–after 28 years together. They thought they were just getting a toast–but I was ready with an mp3 of Nathan Bowman’s accompaniment. Big laughs and standing ov! Best line:
Now you can kiss in public
But not on a plane
There’s still some breeders
Who might complain
‘Cause don’t forget folks
There’s always some folks
Who need a little Whoopee
3. Sang with Nathan’s band for an Xmas party. First time for me getting paid to sing!
1. I like that I altered my work schedule to be available and present for my children even though it cut into my practice.
2. I like that despite all the challenges of being married with kids, my husband and I can still be silly and have fun with one another—making “us time” a priority.
3. I like that my brothers and I have become closer over the years and stay in regular contact.
4. I like that I have many rich and deep friendships and continue to make more friends and add to my “family.”
5. I like that I’m not afraid of a challenge or new adventure.
MOLLY KOENEMAN • Chicago, Illinois
Working college graduate and budding writer • mollykoe.wordpress.com
1. After two years of writing, stressing, and editing, I finished my undergraduate thesis with a mark of distinction.
2. I graduated from Western Kentucky University and was award Outstanding English Literature Major, 2011.
3. After a post-graduate summer wrecked with indecision and no direction, I threw caution to the wind and moved to Chicago.
4. I won NaNoWriMo, writing the first 50K words of a novel!
5. With the help of libraries, friends, and family, I watched 365 movies I had never seen before, completing my 2011 New Year’s Resolution. (I wanted to add something to my life instead of taking away something like chocolate. I love chocolate.)
RICK ROBINSON • Ft. Mitchell, Kentucky
Lawyer and author of three award-winning political thrillers: Manifest Destiny, Sniper Bid, and The Maximum Contribution • authorRickRobinson.com
I, Rick Robinson, being of sound mind, [strike that] do hereby resolve in 2012:
1. Not to buy the Lindsay Lohan edition of Playboy unless Lindsay and I are going out partying afterwards.
2. Not to watch any reality show, unless it involves public execution as opposed to being kicked off the show.
3. Not to buy any product offered on a late night infomercial … at least more than once.
4. Not to vote for any buttheads. (I know, that kinda clears the field.)
5. Not to drink any beer made with wheat. (Guinness is made with Rye, so I’m covered there.)
LESLEY JENIKE • Columbus, Ohio
Poet, author of Ghost of Fashion, and assistant professor of English at Columbus College of Art and Design • lbojengles.blogspot.com
I’m running farther and faster than ever before, and when it doesn’t hurt, it’s pure joy.
I stayed two weeks with my husband on a half-civilized island ten miles off the coast of Maine and had the time of my life–without television.
By the time this year ends, I will have at last completed Moby Dick.
I made lots of students laugh and in the process taught a few how to write better lines.
I’m turning my life-long obsession with film into something useful.
My writing has matured; it cares less about what’s fashionable.
For long periods of time this year, I got up early every day and worked hard at what I love.
This year, I fostered fabulous new relationships and rekindled old ones with people who are true and funny and smart and kind.
1. I let my guard down to the right woman. (I know she’s the right one because I can write it down.)
2. I completed my bachelor’s degree and dragged my GPA above that magic 3.0 line.
3. I discovered that I can work well with others as long as we are producing something from a script that I wrote.
4. For the tenth year in a row I found a peaceful solution every time I was offered a fight. Like Ben Harper, “I believe in a better way.”
5. I finally wrote something that got accepted for publication. (Thank you, Main Street Rag.)
1. Personal: I ran two half marathons, one 10M race and the largest 10K on the planet in 2011. Having only started running in September of 2010, I consider this a huge accomplishment, so these races were a significant source of pride for me and will continue to be for a long time.
2. Professional: I quit my job. Yes, in this economy! I quit my job to be a homemaker, and I’ve caught a lot of flak for this decision. It has been quite the slap in the face, realizing that the opinions of my “enlightened, progressive” peers and friends toward me were pretty caustic. In 2011, I was accused of “selling out,” “selling myself short,” and “wasting my potential.” All because I took an amazing opportunity—to work full time on running a family and home, which, with a special needs child involved, absolutely requires full-time effort. And in 2011, I didn’t apologize about that.
3. Filial: I hosted my mother for Christmas. Any woman who had any type of maternal figure in her life knows how utterly daunting and petrifying this is, no matter how wonderful and understanding her mother. But I did it, and it went off without a hitch, and I can’t wait to do it again!
4. Romantic: I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and turned my entire world upside down to move to an unfamiliar city to be with my partner.
5. Platonic: I saw my long-distance BFF four times in 2011. When I hear about people who have been friends for decades, those people always have this in common: they make the effort. They get on the planes, they schedule the Skype, they meet during layovers. Because it matters. Because it’s important. I want my relationships with my best friend to outlive…everything. I’m proud to have seen her that often in one year when so much happened in both of our lives.
The things I did right this year:
1. I ate right. Though my notion of what is healthy continues to change (my current super food of choice is, wait for it, liver!), I am very happy with my healthy diet.
2. I ate well. Boy, did I eat some delicious meals in 2011!
LISA HOSOKAWA GARBER • Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Author of The Second Son and proprietor of Senba Designs
My boyfriend and I took our rescue pit bull to her second and third training classes to show people that she’s about as scary as a kitten.
I supported local over big businesses. Our weekly CSA (community-supported agriculture) box saves us money, comes to us from a local organic farm, and forces us to cook with ingredients we’ve never even heard of before. I still don’t really know what to do with mustard greens.
I made my own clothes. Take that, Victoria’s Secret.
I started my own business. As sole proprietor of Senba Designs, I make jewelry using mostly found, repurposed, and recycled materials.
I gave myself a break from writing. My mother is a Hiroshima survivor and it’s not been until the last few years—which I’ve spent interviewing and writing about WWII Pacific veterans—that hers and both Japanese and American veterans’ ongoing torment has become a reality for me. When I found myself dreading waking up in the morning, never mind writing, I took time for therapy and away from the topic. Now, after a year of being a blogger-for-hire, involving myself in the local community, and twisting metal into pretty shapes, I’m ready to make good on my promise to the veterans. For the first time in several years, I look forward to writing again.
LAURA BAIN-SALBO • Bowling Green, Kentucky
Social worker turned potter • thepotsplace.com
1. I helped move my mother-in-law to Bowling Green for what turned out to be the last months of her life. I spent time with her, listened and loved her and hopefully made the end better for her. I certainly learned some things about living and dying.
2. With financial help from my mom, I took my son to England as an early high school graduation present. This may seem easy, but England has been my special place that I have not shared with anyone else, outside my family of origin. I also drive my son a bit nuts, so it was risky for both of us. We had a great 10 days. Unbeknownst to me, he met and we spent a memorable last time with a friend of mine of 37 years. She died in October.
3. With the help of a friend, we single (double?) handedly put siding up on my studio addition that I helped my brother-in -law build a year ago. It looks darn good if I do say so myself.
4. I started running again for the first time in over 20 years and participated with a team of 12 in The Bourbon Chase Relay. I finished and survived! It felt great.
5. I realized that none of my accomplishments were achieved on my own, but were possible only because I have the love and support of some incredible friends and family. I am non-resolving to better nurture those relationships in the coming year. (I know, I just broke the rule!)
I became a certified nursing assistant.
I am still living with the man I will someday marry!
I ate mushrooms on a pizza for the first time.
I reunited with an old friend.
I survived a car crash.
I discovered who I am as a Christian.
I perfected the art of eggs sunny side up.
ALLISON MILLET • Bowling Green, Kentucky
Owner/Instructor of Bowling Green Backyard Bootcamp FUNctional Fitness Classes
I have focused on helping my family and others improve their health and lifestyles through a better diet and exercise. bgbackyardbootcamp.com
I have tried to simplify and focus on what’s most important…God, family, friends, helping others and good health.
I am proud to be at a place in my life where I am happy with who I am and where I am.
I just got back from a karaoke bar in Wicker Park, the hipster haven of Chicago, where I was busting out tunes by artists from the likes of Garth Brooks to Rihanna. When I think of 2011, I will always think of the songs that defined my life this year. From Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” which summed up my resolve after a traumatizing and devastating breakup, to Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory,” which embodied my hope for a new life as I moved to Chicago as a result of aforementioned breakup, I was singing at the top of my lungs. I sang without abandon, no matter if it were in my bedroom, in the shower, at a karaoke bar or even on the street. Spontaneously busting out in song was my mantra in 2011, and I loved every moment of it.
I’m a vegetarian, but I ate goat two weeks ago. Why? Because I’d never tried goat before, and I was fairly certain it wasn’t factory farmed. (When was the last time you saw goat chops in the Kroger deli?) In 2011 I managed to eat some of the most delicious food I’ve ever tried, from that goat (tastes a lot like pot roast) to curry (the national dish of India, perfected in Britain). I found a store that caries Marmite (love it or hate it, it’s my fave) and I fell in love with soyrizo (vegan chorizo). 2011 was a year my palate celebrated life, and thanks to leaving Kentucky for Chicago, where being a vegetarian didn’t limit me to salads, my life celebrated my palate.
2011 is somewhat of a blur, I admit. But really, can you blame me? I went through the worst breakup of my life, moved to the biggest city I’ve ever lived in, and was unemployed but living on daddy’s dime for the first half. What 25-year-old wouldn’t live it up in those circumstances? I will always remember 2011 as the year I bid adieu to adolescence in supreme style, sending off my carefree college days with a champagne—and beer and merlot and tequila—toast. I drank a lot this year, but I make no apologies. After all, you only have one liver and one life to live, and you’re not young forever. And after spending my entire life dependent upon my family, and the last year dependent upon my ex, I needed to cut loose and feel free. In my libations, I found liberation.
Yes, it makes my breath stink. Yes, it stains my fingertips. Yes, it’ll give me cancer. I’ll probably die from it. I don’t care. This is so politically incorrect that it borders on controversial, but I’ll say it—I love smoking. The tingle on my lips, the taste on my tongue, the cool but refreshing smoke in my lungs. I make no apologies—smoking cigarettes is a guilty pleasure. It has also proven to be one of the most effective ways to meet people. Moving to a city where I knew nobody was daunting, and being a smoker proved to be my golden ticket. The most interesting people I’ve ever met are smokers, and it has been the fastest way I’ve made friends since moving to Chicago. Don’t know anybody at a bar? Walk into the alley behind it and ask for a lighter. You instantly have five friends. And some of them will be friends long after you leave that bar. This year, smoking saved my social life.
2011 didn’t start easy for me. Tears were shed, gunshots were fired. It only got worse from there. My boyfriend dumped me on Valentine’s Day, nobody showed up to my birthday party four days later, and then said boyfriend strangled me a week after that. To top it all off, my “best friends” decided they liked him more, and— BAM—I was alone. I spiraled out of control, drinking myself into a stupor and contemplating all sorts of unsavory resolutions to my problems. If you had asked me on March 13th, I would have told you my life was over. But three months later, pushed to the realization that I was fighting a hopeless battle in Kentucky, I was on a Greyhound to Chicago, and I’ve never looked back. Once here, I found some amazing men, terrific friends, and a promising career. Life hasn’t turned out the way I hoped it would, but it has still turned out fabulously. When I compare where I was in February to my life today, it astounds me that I’ve made such drastic and positive changes in such a short amount of time. Some people say I have big balls. Some people say I have guts. Some people say I’m courageous, and still more have called me crazy for uprooting my life. Say what you will, but if 2011 has proven anything, it’s that I’m resilient. And when you’re resilient, you don’t need resolutions. You’re too bad ass to care.
I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on 2011 while I’ve been under the weather. It was a pretty awesome year. We bought a house and brought our dog, Bernie, home. My husband, Craig, was put on tenure track, and I directed my first musical. 2012 should be pretty awesome, too: returning to Chicago and Ireland and (hopefully) more publishing for both of us. But I gotta say this being sick is a rough change over.
1. I kept alive a streak of getting my passport stamped yearly with two trips to London over the summer.
2. I earned tenure—though I guess this happened over the course of several years, it was finalized this year. I have yet to take advantage of it by shirking my responsibilities as a faculty member.
3. I helped (with other faculty and, especially, a generous donor) my college to create a prize for upstate New York poets—hopefully making the region’s literature a little more noticeable and vibrant in the coming years.
4. I watched one son turn three at the end of the year and, about a month earlier, watched a second one being born. And I get more excited about being a parent every day as they grow and become both more mature and sillier.
5. My 5th non-resolution might be that I have made much effort to get my chapbook into the hands of readers. You can find poems from it online at Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac and the title poem at an online journal. You can find me on Facebook or through Utica College’s website if you want to get a copy of the chapbook.
I usually approach each new year with caution, mulling over those run of the mill resolutions that so many people make around this time of the year when they have reached adulthood and have finally realized that they are—we are—all only getting older. To that end, I am trying to whip myself into shape. Well, a shape into which society is trying to mold me.
I am a plus size woman. I have, since childhood, been riding a veritable rollercoaster of ups and downs, with rare moments of plateau. I am also 31 years old and have been living with the societal sneers, slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune for so long now, I can barely recall having a socially acceptable weight. That being said, I shall not EVER resolve to lose weight for any year, new or old. I will do it my way and in my own time. I will, though, tell you some things about myself that I have discovered in the past year that are pretty damn awesome.
1. I am single…by choice
Think what you will. We large women are not all single because no one will have us. Quite the contrary, there are plenty of men (and women) who think that we are beautiful—rubenesque and curvy with plenty to love and more to hold when it counts. Granted, I was married once. But when you are with someone who constantly informs you of your size (as if you don’t know!), then stuffs cheese-smothered everything into his gaping gullet, you begin to realize that your priorities need to be reordered. Too much of a bad thing only gets worse, ladies. Being single doesn’t hurt. I promise.
2. I can write and I do it like a boss
I went to college to be a writer. Halfway through my college career, I suddenly decided to change my major from secondary education to creative writing. Pay cut please! Unspecified salary at any given time please! No guarantee of having anything published until I am dead please! Yeah, I know all of this and I am okay with it. I made this resolution to myself the day I switched majors: I will do what I love and be happy rather than do what I will come to hate before I am 40. Man, am I glad to have made that resolution.
3. I very much dislike other peoples’ kids…and I am okay with that because my kids are the best on the planet
You are probably asking me how this is at all related to resolutions or the lack thereof; but let me tell you that I am glad I realized this about myself. What if I hadn’t changed my major and graduated with a teaching certificate? Me, someone who doesn’t at all like children, teaching the very kids I don’t have great enthusiastic passion and nurturing concern for? I think I have spent it all on my own kids. You won’t find a better behaved pair. Just ask Molly McCaffrey. She’ll tell you. They love to sit through poetry readings, and you are sure not to hear a peep out of them. [Editor’s note: This is all true.] Terrific little sponges of intellectual pretentiousness and I love them all the more for it. None of this running around, whining because they didn’t get their way, throwing themselves in the floor and having tantrums bullshit. Nay, these kids are the cream of the crop and I got em. Pretentious you say? Boastful you say? Hey, I say I am a writer and that’s what the hell we do. Like a boss.
4. I graduated from college
Not much needs to be said here. I started college as a very nontraditional student—single mother, working two jobs, and attending classes full-time in order to make a better life for myself and my kids. About four years later, I zipped up the gown, pulled the oddly shaped square cap down over my cranium, and shook hands with the president of Western Kentucky University as he congratulated me with his big ole toothy grin. I made it. I resolved to do it, and it sure as hell took more than a shiny ball to drop, Dick Clark’s 150-year-old surgically enhanced face, and gallons of champagne to make me want it.
So there you are, folks. I told you a little about me—a few things that I have done and discovered, not just in the past year, but in the past 31 years—that I think are terrific. Happy New Year to you all. Instead of resolving to lose weight, why don’t we all resolve to just be awesome toward our fellow human? It’ll take more than a year for everyone to join that cause, but it’s the things that take the most amount of time to build that last the longest. Peace to you, friends.
CRAIG RENFRO • Charlotte, North Carolina
Author of You Should Really Get That Looked At and assistant professor of English at Queens University • craigrenfroe.blogspot.com
I won a teaching award.
I made it to tenure-track.
I killed the academic program I was directing.
I have a novel-length draft of the novel I’m writing.
I wrote this bit about my new hate/love with journaling (“How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Journaling”)
1. I didn’t accept “friends with benefits” and pushed him to let his guard down.
2. I submitted my work. Many did not succeed, but I managed to win once, and that is awesome.
3. I went for it and dyed my hair blue.
4. I magically pulled straight As this semester. (Thank God for classes that test.)
5. I split the holidays between my family and his, which proved to my family that I’m serious about making him a permanent part of my life.
1. Started making all of my meals by hand, which significantly reduced the amount of packaged food products in my home and allowed me to go for months without buying food elsewhere.
2. Took in several homeless animals, even though some of them did not get along with me and my rules, and helped them find homes. I also adopted an older, homeless pomeranian (which is probably one of the better decisions in my life since she’s perfect).
3. Focused my volunteering on the indigent and children. Volunteered quite a bit and took on new volunteer opportunities.
TERRI HAMMOND • Monroe, Ohio
Author of two books including Words of Wisdom from a Country Doctor Once Removed and customer service rep at General Electric • wordsandwreaths.typepad.com
I’m reluctant to look back on the horrible year that was 2011. But here are a few bright spots.
I basked in the success of fellow writers: David Bell, Molly McCaffrey, Karen Heumann, Jason Skipper and Michelle Boyajian.
I asked for and received great help from Brian Hughes (Butler Co. DD), Lori Ellis and April Cottle (Caregivers for Independence) and Michell Chambliss Shultz as well as lots of family and friends.
I watched the UK basketball team play in March Madness with my mother and brother, Jeff Hammond.
I got to hang out with the wonderful volunteers from the Monroe Lending Library.
My friend, Joyce Knuckles, is recovering well from throat cancer. She’s a real inspiration and a great friend.
JULIE MUCILLO • Chicago, Illinois
Solutions Architect at Thomson Reuters • muccillo.com
1. Not waiting until “I lose weight” to pursue my goal of a 1/2 Ironman. I did it in a respectable amount of time and I finished and am really proud.
2. Taking a chance and taking a new job that was different than what I thought I “should” do. And I couldn’t be happier.
3. Selling a house at some financial loss to gain freedom to do other things in the future.
2011 for me was a culmination of all-time highs. 30 Rock’s Jack Donaghey would define it as “Reaganing,” or succeeding at all your tasks, having a good day (er, year), on a hot streak. Well, I certainly “Reagan’d.” Here’s a few non-resolutions that defined my year that I can only hope will continue as 2012 begins to sink in (can 2011 really be over so quickly?):
1. Money Talks: Financial Gains and Being “all about da’ Benjamins”
My year began on a high note, obtaining a graduate assistantship with the English Department at WKU. This assistantship granted me a job as a writing tutor for composition-challenged students, but it also gave me a hefty stipend and a tuition waiver. But of course this wasn’t my only means of finances. My other job—working as a pharmacy technician—also helped me rake in the dough, as by the end of the summer I had become “certified,” meaning a bit more responsibility but better yet a higher salary. While it’s not quite the career I hope to have for the rest of my years, it’s at least paying the bills as I figure out my occupational future. Having both jobs allowed me to live comfortably in 2011, and convinced me to make a pivotal decision that leads me to my next non-resolution…
2. New Digs and Posh Cribs: Moving Out of the Ghetto and Into the Suite Life
There are two places to live in life: On the right side of the tracks…and the wrong side. Unfortunately for me, I lived on the wrong side of the tracks for two years of my grad student career. It was a smart move at the time, what with a fixed rent and all, but by spring 2011 I was ready to move the hell out of Cracktown, USA. This complex was filled with shifty types, and while I was never being robbed or mugged or assaulted, I was ready to move on. Thankfully, by mid-June of 2011, a friend had sent me the address of an apartment for rent that was closer to campus, within walking distance of downtown, and in a safe and quiet neighborhood. After one walk-through, I signed a lease the very same day. I (as well as my frequently-visiting friends…whom I host parties for when needed) have been happier ever since.
3. Getting “Out There:” Taking Trips and Forming Friendships
Of course, I didn’t spend 2011 shacked up in an immaculate apartment; I also hit the road with some fellow cronies who no doubt have made my life more interesting. I read an article that suggested by the age of twenty-five (which I am) you should have already decided who your greatest friends are. While getting out there in 2011, road tripping to Austin, Texas, for South by Southwest and mapping out a trip through “da Souf,” I grew closer to fewer yet fonder people I’m lucky enough to call my best friends. To share the experiences of SWSW ’11 and a cock-eyed caravan through the southern region of the states with these folks was indeed priceless.
4. An Eyeful of Music: Concert-going and the Truth About Glow-in-the-Dark Body Paint
I believe 2011 was a year chock-full of concerts of the pop and rock variety. Within that year, I managed to see Fitz & the Tantrums, U2 (with opening act Florence + the Machine), Ke$ha, and, most importantly, Stevie Nicks. I paid $10 for a winter excursion to Nashville’s 3rd & Lindsley to see Fitz & the Tantrums (of “Moneygrabber” fame), and that ticket got me a standing-room only front floor view of Fitz boogieing with his fellow band mates. I was so close I swiped the set list after the show and got it autographed by Fitz himself and co-singer Noelle. The last I heard their shows were now selling at about $25 per person. Clearly I had the upper hand.
I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions. Here’s what I said about them in a post a year ago:
“A resolution is something we should do, don’t do, resolve to do in the future, do a few times, and then fail to continue doing. Which makes us feel bad.”
I respond much better to commands. So I’ve started choosing one meaningful command that repeats in my mind as if yelled by a drill sergeant at top volume, or, better, as if sung by an awesome singer who repeats it as a refrain I can’t escape.
Last year—2011—my command was: Put Yourself Out There.
And I did! Against my own shy nature, I gave lots of readings for my book, developed my blog, made a new web site, won awards, applied for a competitive Fulbright post in Belfast (survived preliminary round!), submitted a (kick-ass) tenure dossier, gave more readings, and just generally Put Myself Out There.
Before that, in summer 2010, my first blogging summer, my command was: Finish What You Started.
I’d started all these manuscripts that I hadn’t finished, and this command, repeated over and over, helped me get focused and finish lots of projects.
For 2012, my command is: Live Lovely
Which basically means I’m tired of putting myself out there and I want to turn my focus toward living well, making art—literary, visual, decorative, culinary—and toward my loved ones.
MEGAN KEARNS • Boston, Massachusetts
Blogger, freelance writer, activist, and The Opinioness of the World
1. Quit my job to pursue my passion of writing.
2. Let go of past grudges.
3. Met my goal of blogging a minimum of 3 times a week.
4. Invested in my dreams. As a feminist vegan, traveled to NYC for Soapbox Feminist Winter Term and Portland, Oregon, for Vida Vegan Con to learn and network.
5. Despite weight gain, I embraced my appearance.
DAVID BELL • Bowling Green, Kentucky
Author of three novels including Cemetery Girl, assistant professor at Western Kentucky University, and husband to Molly McCaffrey (which is really a full-time job) • davidbellnovels.com
1. I stayed healthy and continued to exercise despite an even busier year.
2. I liked the way I looked in pictures and video.
3. I sold more books than I hoped.
MOLLY McCAFFREY • Bowling Green, Kentucky
Founder of I Will Not Diet, author of How to Survive Graduate School & Other Disasters, and English instructor/creative writing advisor at Western Kentucky University • mollymccaffrey.com
1. There’s been a lot for us to be happy about this year—we both had books come out (my first and Dave’s third, which was his first with a New York publisher), and I’m incredibly proud of both of those accomplishments. But I’m equally proud that we made it our goal to give back as much as we could this year and succeeded at that goal (in the form of donations to charities, libraries, and schools). I also hope this is something we can continue to do at the same level every year.
2. I am also equally thrilled that this year I finally feel at home in Bowling Green, Kentucky. It’s hard to move as much as I have moved—21 times in 41 years for me—and I have been lucky enough to find amazing friends with every move, but this year something changed. I not only made friends, I made a life. And I can’t thank the people who made that happen. (You all know who you are.)
3. On a related note, I also feel very lucky to have been able to visit so many family members and long-time friends this year. Being on the road so much was a real challenge (especially when trying to be healthy), but that difficulty was balanced with all of the happy times I had reconnecting with old friends. A big thank you to all of my friends and family who made the time to come out and see us.
4. This is more practical, but I’m so glad that I Will Not Diet is going strong and that I took the time to redesign the site (as well as my author site) this past summer with the help of my talented friend and web designer, Kara Thurmond. Working on a design project is never easy for me, it never comes as naturally as writing, so I’m especially glad that the end result is so outstanding. Thanks again, Kara!
5. Body issues are hard for me right now. As I’ve said here, I gained a few pounds at the end of 2011 despite the fact that I exercised and ate healthy food all year (which is something I’m incredibly proud of). On top of that, I’m ending the year feeling pretty sickly in the kind of ways that make you feel bad about your body. But I have to remember that all year I felt good about the way I look even though the number on my scale is not one most people think I should feel good about. No matter how much I am struggling right now, I have managed to keep a healthy sense of self-esteem all year in a society that tells me I should have none. That’s the reason I founded I Will Not Diet, and for me, that’s more than enough reason to be happy.