Sunday, February 6, 2011

Fast Away the [New] Year Passes...

"Fast away the old year passes..." So says the Christmas carol, "Deck the Halls," and I think we'd all agree. But it feels like the new year is rapidly passing away, too. Where did January go?

Bust of Janus - Vatican Museum/Public Domain

January, named for the Greek god Janus, who had two heads--one facing backward toward the past, the other facing forward to the future--is when most of us set "resolutions" or "goals" for the coming year. To do that, we reflect on the year that has just ended, see how much progress (or not) we've made on last year's goals, and what areas still need work. The idea here is not to beat ourselves up over our failures, but to take the lessons we've learned from them and build on those. There will be some things we will need to "let go" of, but it's not always easy deciding what to carry into the new year with us, and what to purge.

A few months ago, my son and daughter-in-law decided to leave Chicago and spend the winter in Mexico. To accomplish this goal, they had to make some hard decisions about what they could keep and what they had to leave behind or sell. Reducing their possessions to what would fit into two suitcases was both a challenge and a sacrifice. But after storing a few things, packing the essentials, and selling the rest, they headed south of the border to fulfill a dream. (You can read their story at and click on the "About" and "Blog" tabs.)

Davy and Tracy (photo by Davy Russell)

The older I get, the less "baggage" I want to carry around. I don't want to waste precious energy on things that hold me back, drag me down, or generate negativity. I want to travel light entering the new year. So, I have adjusted my goals for 2011 accordingly.

One of my biggest challenges is paper. I read 90-100+ books a year, plus magazines, newsletters, and online blogs, e-newsletters, e-mail, articles, etc. Paper multiplies in my household, and I have found that it is my biggest source of clutter. Last year, I began sorting through and throwing out; but there's still a long way to go. So, I decided that one of my goals for this year would be to only subscribe to those publications I have time to read--both online and in print. Those that accumulate unopened, will not be renewed, no matter how good a deal is offered. If I'm paying for something that is going into the recycle bin unread, it's NOT a bargain! Several January invitations to subscribe to publications have already found their way into my recycle box or shredder.

Similarly, I decided to only buy the print and paper editions of books that have some special value to me, such as those by my favorite authors that I wish to collect, or those that have some other lasting significance such as books on writing, or books needed for learning a new language or skill. As I sort through my books this year, I hope to donate or recycle the vast majority of them. For all other books and publications, I'll use the Kindle I received for Christmas. I have already donated the first batch of books, and the Kindle is earning its keep.

Another goal was to greatly reduce the use of credit cards. This means paying off credit card balances on a monthly basis (or, if unable to do this, to pay more than the minimum), and planning ahead and saving up for things instead of whipping out the plastic. Credit cards will be used for emergencies (and, hopefully, there won't be too many of those this year) or for purchases that can be paid in full when the statement arrives. Seeing those "zero" interest charges is a great morale boost!

Baby sweater--the "before" photo
 (photo by Donna B. Russell)

Third, I wanted to be more "crafty" this year by knitting some things for my grandson who is due in April, and maybe brushing up on crocheting, as well. I also wanted to take more time to practice sketching, and learning to paint on glass and ceramics. The yarn, needles, and pattern for a baby sweater were ordered at the end of January, and I'll be starting the actual knitting this weekend.

And last, I want to create a more workable daily schedule that includes time set aside for writing, being more consistent with blogging, and participating more fully in one or two online writing groups. One of my writing goals was to launch an online version of the print "PetWise" column I write. I'm happy to say that "PetWise Online" launched February 1, with my guest, Nadine M. Rosin, author of The Healing Art of Pet Parenthood. You can read it and give me your feedback at

What goals did you set for 2011? Did you make a good start in January, or have they already fallen by the wayside? Share your goals and your plan for achieving them in the comments section.