Broken resolutions and Life Lessons for 2017

The holidays are over, and life is back to normal. For those of you who made New Year’s resolutions, maybe you’ve already broken some of them. I’m not saying this to criticize. At the beginning of January in decades past, making a resolution then breaking it a short time later often caused me some discouragement.

The website, www.timeanddate.com reports, “…according to some studies almost 80 percent of all people who make New Year’s resolutions abandon them sometime during the year.” That’s why, a couple of holidays ago, I made a resolution not to make any more resolutions. Instead, when I need to change something in my life, I try to work on it right away.

This philosophy is coming straight from the keyboard of a former procrastinator. After all, one of the most noteworthy lessons I’ve learned along life’s path is that important tasks that we put off, rarely get done. It’s best to tackle an issue as soon as possible to make sure that it doesn’t get lost in the whirlwind of everyday living. This anti-procrastination principle is more significant than some other beliefs that are part of my life repertoire. For example, I’ve also come to believe that a person should never buy a single pair of socks or gloves. The law of probability ensures that when socks are placed in the dryer, frequently they will disappear into what I refer to as Sock Heaven. Solo socks take this mysterious journey into the unknown never to be seen from again.

This theory holds true when purchasing gloves, too, although I doubt there is a metaphorical heaven for missing mittens. Instead my lost gloves are probably strewn throughout Ohio left in restaurant booths or on roadways. Missing gloves aren’t too high on the life lesson priority list, but keeping in touch with family and friends is crucial. In our hectic-paced world, social isolation becomes a daily challenge.

This means taking time to share more than an occasional Facebook “Love you” post, text, or hurried email. Instead chatting with a true friend or loved one over a meal can be exhilarating. Don’t take your cellphone along, as the constant distraction will frustrate the flow of genuine conversation. When we are with folks who truly care for us, we somehow remember who we really are. The pieces of our life fit better, and we can bask in the camaraderie that comes only from authentic relationships, where we are accepted imperfections and all. Still, getting together can be especially tricky in this geographically mobile society where families and close friends are often separated by countless miles for employment opportunities.

Although speaking of not being perfect, another painful lesson that I’ve learned from life is that people won’t always like you. This can be a bitter pill to swallow, but it’s true. No matter how hard you try, you fall short in their acceptable category. According to clinical psychologist, Dr. Ben Michaelis about 15 percent of folks won’t like you, if you are emotionally healthy. “If 85 percent of the people you meet like you, you are probably doing something right,” writes Michaelis in an archived  Huffington Post blog, “If everybody likes you, you are doing it wrong….you are probably doing too much to get along.”

The experienced psychologist says that when, “You ignore your own needs in favor of others,” it’s not healthy. Of course, they like you, everybody likes a doormat. Unfortunately, a doormat gets worn out and has to be thrown away after too much use. Yet, if more than 15 percent of people don’t like you, you might actually be too difficult to get along with.

Lastly, there is a life lesson that involves “letting go.” It can be a spiritual breakthrough forged in prayer. Or an internal follow your heart and instincts moment that allows a person to sense when it’s time to cut your losses and venture out on a new path. It might be something as substantial as a job change or having the courage to end an emotionally destructive relationship. To let go and embrace change willingly is a challenging life lesson, because by nature most human beings are creatures of habit who hang onto familiar circumstances.

So, for the first month of this New Year, I didn’t make or break any resolutions. Yet, I did celebrate another year of new beginnings, counting my blessings, and reminiscing about all the lessons learned on life’s path.

Christina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com

Taking back the Table: Dinner isn’t just about Food

From Tablet to Table by Dr. Leonard Sweet

From Tablet to Table by Dr. Leonard Sweet

If we’re honest, most of us are foodies, but we don’t think of ourselves that way. The online Free Dictionary defines a foodie as, “One who has an ardent or refined interest in food; a gourmet. Also called foodist.” There might be a slight disconnect here, because when you throw in the word, “refined” that probably disqualifies a lot of us who like to woof down a greasy burger and fries occasionally. Although Merriam-Webster’s definition of foodie is “a person who enjoys and cares about food very much.” There you go, back in the group.

Despite all this talk about doing food with flair, perfect Pinterest dishes, and cooking shows like syndicated Food Network celebrity Rachael Ray’s, it appears most Americans aren’t doing a great job when it comes to doing dinner right. According to best-selling author, Dr. Leonard Sweet, our culture is in desperate need of remembering how to share a meal. “We consume fast food in front of our smartphones, never facing each other, barely acknowledging the existence of one another,” this quote is from the back cover of Sweet’s recent book, From Tablet to Table. “The majority of US families report eating a single meal together less than five days a week. And even then our ‘dinners together’ are mostly in front of the TV,” writes the author of more than sixty books. Apparently, my hubby and I aren’t the only ones who are looking forward to supper watching a new season of The Voice or Downton Abbey.

After all, with local pools closing for the season, along with experiencing a few unseasonably cool days, discerning Midwesterners can sense that winter is just around the corner. When the frigid temperatures and snow keep us indoors, summer barbeques and dinner on the patio will become a distant memory. That’s when many individuals hunker down in their homes on icy evenings, but it wasn’t always this way.

Just look at the recent feature, “Bairs Share Secrets of Long Love,” by Melody Vallieu, TDN editor. The story documents the 70 year marriage of Casstown residents, Frank and Betty Bair who were part of the annual Miami County Fair’s Golden Couple Anniversary photo. “They got to know each other during the long Ohio winters where families would take turns hosting evenings of food and games,” writes Vallieu.

If it wasn’t for sharing a meal and conversation during those bitter cold nights, perhaps, the Bairs might never have fallen in love. That’s the point, as a society we used to not only break bread, but we also spent time talking about the things that mattered to us at the dinner table. It was even more entertaining, when we were joined by a few interesting guests. photo (9)

In today’s society, we don’t always take time to sit down to share a meal either. Instead we grab a sandwich on the run. Sweet’s book reports that, “We eat one in every five meals in our car.” How many busy football and soccer parents out there can attest to the fact that sharing a bag of fast food in the minivan is a way of life? Even if we are seated at a table, how possible is it to have a significant discussion with another human being with our cell phones ringing and texts beeping? That’s why at the Sweet family table, technology isn’t allowed.

Still, not all parents are willing to make suppertime a no technology zone for themselves. A 2014 Psychology Today article by Anne K. Fishel Ph.D. explains, “According to our Digital Family survey responses of over 300 parents, only 18% of them allow their children to use technology at the dinner table, while almost twice that number of parents believe that [it] is OK for them to use their phones and screens at the table.” As a nation, we seem deeply concerned about issues like obesity and food insecurity. But have we considered how our new way of eating meals is affecting our kids? Sweet cites information compiled by sociologist Cody C. Delistraty for Atlantic Monthly, “The #1 factor for parents raising kids who are drug-free, healthy, intelligent, kind human beings? Frequent family dinners….The #1 predictor of future academic success for elementary-age children? Frequent family dinners…” etc. From Tablet to Table is also a deeply spiritual book that only church futurist Sweet could write. The consummate theologian always points us back to relationship whether it is relationship with others, or ultimately our relationship with a God who wants us to dine at His table.

To improve our culture, maybe we could institute a guideline like the unwritten Code of the West found on www.legendsofamerica.com. It reads, “Remove your guns before sitting at the dining table,” updating it to say, “Remove your technology before sitting at the dining table.” If you don’t, someone might call the sheriff!

Christina at The CarolineChristina Ryan Claypool is an Amy and Ohio Associated Press award-winning freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Her Website is www.christinaryanclaypool.com.

 

Warning: Valentine’s Day is on the Way!

With St. Valentine’s Day rapidly approaching, I find myself confident that I won’t be forgotten. Being a hopeless romantic and having spent years of Valentine’s days alone, I know firsthand what it is like to not have any expectations Valentine's Candyfor the holiday. But for a dozen years, I’ve been married to a man who wouldn’t think of forgetting.

Still for over a decade as a single mom, I knew that no bouquet of flowers or balloons, or even a card bearing my name would arrive. Back then, I worked as a reporter at WTLW TV 44. With a videographer’s assistance, I went out into the community and did a “Man on the street” investigating what Valentine’s Day meant to other people.

One 90-year-old gentleman I polled proudly told me that he would definitely have a surprise in store for his wife. When I asked him if he had ever forgotten the day dedicated to lovers, a grim look crossed his countenance. With the camera rolling, he replied hesitantly, “I don’t think I better talk about that.” So he had forgotten once.  I could tell it had been such a painful experience that it had never happened again. After all, a woman scorned can be a formidable foe.

Anyway, other folks freely told me about the cards, chocolates, roses, and teddy bears that they were planning to present to their beloved. Although one honest young man revealed that he couldn’t remember the last time he had received a Valentine’s Day card. The fact that he look like a ski model from the cover of GQ soothed my own wounded ego back then.

My quest for more information about Valentine’s Day led me to investigate its history. There are conflicting stories about the day’s origin. The one that I like the best deals with St. Valentine as a third century priest. At the time, Emperor Claudius II decreed that marriage be outlawed, deciding that single men made the best soldiers. The History Channel website reports that, “Valentine realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret.  When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.”

The demise of Valentine was as melodramatic as any opera one could attend. Coincidently, a decade ago on Valentine’s Day, I surprised my spouse with opera tickets. This was a real sacrifice, because opera is his love, not mine. Still, I thought that I would never outdo the display of undying affection that I assumed my hubby must have planned, since we were still almost newlyweds.

When that fated Valentine’s Day dawned, I awoke with the expectation of a kid on Christmas morning. Despite the fact, there was no breakfast in bed, or even a rose anywhere in sight, I excitedly guessed it was only a matter of time before I would be presented with some token of his enduring love. That Saturday passed quickly in chores, errands, and general weekend routine. By late afternoon, I began to get suspicious that the love of my life might have forgotten. However, being married less than two years I rationalized away that ridiculous fear.

Finally in the car on the way to the opera, Larry confessed that he had overlooked the arrival of Valentine’s Day. Being a bachelor all his life, he tried to find a good excuse for his lapse, but none of them were working. Needless to say, it was a rather subdued evening after that.

Yet when we returned home, there was a small bag hanging on our front door. Inside was a beautiful Valentine’s Day card with a silver bracelet bearing one heart charm. There was also a note from my husband’s best buddy explaining that Larry must have accidentally left these items at his house on an earlier visit.Valentine's Couple

Sounds too good to be true? It was. Something about the card just didn’t seem right. So being a former investigative reporter, I simply asked, “Did you buy me these things?”

Larry’s honest character caused him to immediately blurt out, “I called my friend right before we left for the opera, and told him I needed help.” All I could do was laugh, because I knew that in the future my hubby would understand even “old married” couples should celebrate the gift of love. I guess people like me are born hopelessly romantic, while others become romantic desperate for survival. No matter what kind of romantic you are, Happy Valentine’s Day!