Wednesday, January 5, 2011

New Year's Resolutions

My 2011 New Year's resolution is a guaranteed success: "Don't Make Any New Year's Resolutions."

Who relishes the idea of a stern shift toward good behavior when the kitchen is still brimming with holiday treats and the post-Christmas sales are in full swing?

I'd rather just have more fun, wouldn't you?

So, although I'm not technically making "resolutions," in 2011, I'm planning to deal with various issues that are getting in the way of my fun. I won't aim to improve myself, just my situation and conscience.

1. Family. I feel bad because we don't spend more time with my mother-in-law, because we're all so "busy." She lives nearby but we seldom have her (or anyone) over to our place. On New Year's Day, we invited her for lunch and a visit with Possum. She likes the other cats, but she's wild about Possum because he is so... Possumish. She's an art historian with a discerning eye, even for cats. We all had a good time, and then we did her errands before taking her home. It was a happy afternoon; we just need to plan more of them.

I also feel awful because I don't spend enough time chatting with my elderly relatives back home, especially my dad. I call him once a week, and for upwards of 90 minutes he talks while I try to listen. I hear about work problems he had 40 years ago, or about how cars or integrated circuits work (after decades of lectures, I haven't learned much). To fill air time, he might read aloud the ingredients on packages of frozen food or the side-effects of medications advertised in Reader's Digest. It's tough to have a conversation; he prefers to argue and disagree. But I can't believe he's enjoying our calls, either.

We should change our routine. He's lonely and needs to talk; he's my dad, and I need to connect with him. If we could have a few shorter, more meaningful exchanges throughout the week, we might both be better off. I'm going to suggest this, and maybe he won't get mad. I'll also try to come up with topics we can comfortably discuss (not the NRA, economics, or my views on Christianity). Asking him for advice is probably the best way to get going. Talking about family history is often good, too.

2. Money. I'm nervous that I'm not investing our savings as well as I should. I've tried to learn by reading books and meeting with Fidelity reps to review our "portfolio," but I doubt I've done a decent job. Since we got socked by the diving Dow like every investor, I've tried to ignore our statements and let our mutual funds take their course. Sometimes it's best to do nothing. But I'd like to do nothing intelligently, not ignorantly! We should find a financial planner — one that charges by the hour — who can tell us how to invest wisely, how to save more, and how to plan for a new condo. It will be great to stop worrying about this. It's not like we have much money, but we should be responsible about what we've got.

3. Cats. I feel guilty about giving our cats crappy canned Fancy Feast fish and Science Diet kibble. We'd given up on persuading them to eat healthier food. I tried at least a dozen high-quality foods when Possum and Wendy were small, but all four turned up their furry little noses. And our vet keeps telling us to feed the older cats anything they want to keep their weights up, even though they have kidney disease. Since the cats switch bowls during meals, everyone's eating Fancy Feast, aka Kitty Crack. It's like letting your kids live on Cocoa Puffs.

I'm about to try again. I bought five cans of Wellness (including one with lobster and one with herring) and a bag of Chicken Soup for the Cat Lover's Soul (kibble) on the advice of the folks at Brookline Grooming. Wendy and Possum seem to like the Soup, which I mix in small amounts with their regular kibble. I'll gradually mix Wellness with Fancy Feast to start, and hope it works.

4. Giving Back. I should be doing useful volunteer work since no one wants to hire me. Next week, I'm meeting with a cat shelter to discuss a graphic design project. It's a start, but I confess I'm most interested in meeting the cats.

With all this on my plate, I won't bother to improve myself in 2011. I don't feel so bad about myself anyway. I have generally healthy habits, massive sugar and chocolate intake aside. My weight is fine even if I'm not the twig I was. I like walking 10,000+ steps a day and taking strength classes; exercise is not a chore. I wish I were employed as a writer, reading more books, and spending less time online, but that's about all I may decide to change.

But I am resolved to have more fun — involving cake, The Clash, and cooking classes, among other things — in 2011.

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