Happy New Year, dear friends and followers (both of you)!
Once again the calendar has turned over and I find myself taking stock, making new plans, and thanking God for this wonderful life. One year ago I wrote a post explaining the new turn I was taking with this blog. It was 9 years ago – January 1, 2011 – when I began writing this blog under its current form. I still feel that the best is yet to come. Let’s take a look at an excerpt from my post on that day…
“I will begin by relaying a story about my son. He’s recently taken to watching a BBC claymation series called Shaun the Sheep. I know BBC and “kids’ programming” don’t normally seem like a natural partnership. Just go with it. Tonight he was being such an angel that I allowed him to watch just one more episode before bed. Sidenote: must figure out BBC claymation control lock on Netflix. When Shaun went over I informed him it was time for bed. Up the stairs we went. Lest you think he’s only a couch potato he loves to have stories read to him at night. He also now likes to hold his own book and “pretend” to read. I haven’t the heart to tell him that every word in The Cat in the Hat is NOT “cat” so again, we simply go with it. Tonight’s selection? “Daddy? Sheep book?” Oh that’s right. There’s a book on his shelf called Good Night Sheep or Bedtime Sheep or Go to Bed You Damn Sheep or something and he rather likes the pictures of all the animals in it. Figuring on how tired he must have been — it was getting late for him — I pulled a fast one. I flipped the light off and, laying him down on the bed, said: “It’s OK, son, Daddy can read in the dark.” How hard could it be. Here’s what transpired next. “The stars are out. It’s bedtime. Night night, sheep. The stars are out. It’s bedtime. Night night, lion. The stars are out…” “ZZZZZ” It worked. I made up a half-decent kids’ story on the spot and my son was out like a light. Brilliant. What? You doubt the brilliance of my children’s book? See if I care! My kids’ book is better than any kids’ book you’ve ever written. Ha! Oh, I see… YOU’VE NEVER WRITTEN A KIDS’ BOOK! So there! I win!!!”
Not bad for a first go-round… What’s truly funny is that I can actually remember that night vividly. You know who else “remembers” that night? My son. Somewhere in the middle of 2019 he discovered that his old man had been keeping this strange journal of our life together for just about as long as he’s been alive. Intrigued, he asked me to read him some selections. I haven’t read to him every night but on the nights I have, I’ve read multiple posts. Believe it or not, we haven’t nearly covered all of it. Prolific much? I’ll say. The best part is that he is spellbound. It would seem I write better posts than children’s books.
That brings us to my traditional New Years Day post. For the past few years I have made a solid effort to post something meaningful every year on this day. It sort of started way back with that first post in 2011. At that time the good folks at WordPress were running a feature called “Postaday”. It was a challenge. I like challenges. The goal was to post every day of the year. The eventual outcome and my success or lack thereof is not that important. What is significant is that it got me posting something every January 1st, hence this very post. Last year I used the New Years post as an opportunity to completely re-tool my blog. I changed the header image, changed my focus almost entirely toward writing thankful posts about my life with the kids, and archived over 1500 posts – making them private except to me. You could say I turned a new leaf. I also purchased my domain name finally.
My first post of 2019 was a story about the virtue rocks. On December 31, 2017 my wife passed a bag of gardening stones around the table and invited the kids, me, and our guests to take one. On the rocks were painted the names of virtues. This stemmed from an unfulfilled project I had been working on at a job I had just quit. It was a virtues-training program for our school children. My wife had simply re-purposed these rocks and put them to better use. The virtue painted on the rock that each participant took would be the virtue he would focus on improving in his life in the upcoming year. Mine was gratitude. That was tough. I wasn’t happy with where my career had gone and found it hard to be grateful for too many things. But as I said, I love a challenge. I focused on practicing gratitude in thought, word, and deed for the next 12 months and I think I actually got quite good at it. More importantly, I came to recognize the joy in my life again.
Last year I pulled “generosity”. I’d like to think this wasn’t a virtue I’d have a hard time with. As anyone who knows me will tell you, I’m the guy who gets up at 4:30 to drive you to the airport without hesitation. As anyone who knows me will also tell you, that’s because I’m obsessed with airports. OK, so there’s always room for improvement.
This year I reached into the virtue rock bag and pulled… HUMILITY. Looking at the shiny potato stone in my hand I pondered a moment before saying, “Honey? How in the hell am I supposed to practice humility when I’m so damned perfect?!” I wish I could have pulled something useful like “shredded” or “published”. And then I remembered that I am far from perfect. And that’s the point of this exercise – to grow by the daily practice of virtue. Ben Franklin once engaged in a similar project. He (incorrectly) identified something like ten virtues that were most helpful in living a good life. He further figured he could “master” each virtue in a week. He kept a journal of his progress. If I were to do the same it might read like a comical collection of stories written by a demented dad about his kids and their strange life together.
This year should be fun. By this time next year I’m sure to be the most humble person you’ve ever met!
And if I fail? I can probably throw the rock at someone.