Holidays

Old Year’s Resolutions

This time of year, like many others, I like to take stock of my life and make some resolutions.

Except that I’ve always hated resolutions. My eighth grade teacher used to make us copy a quote each week, and sometimes she made us make up our own quotes, which we were too young to counter with “anything I say is a quote from me.” I remember the prompt the Monday after Winter Break: “This year I will _____________.” I filled in the blank with “make it to ninth grade.”

My teacher responded that that wasn’t really a resolution, as it was likely to happen anyway. Had I more self-confidence or experience in remonstrating, I might have asked why we should only resolving something that is not likely to happen.  Why did she want me to avoid accomplishing my Resolution? Why was she setting us up for disaster? Why did she want a bunch of thirteen year olds to start off a fresh new year by failing?

Because guess what? I ain’t gonna lose weight or learn a new musical instrument or write a novel or travel to outer space. Some of those might be doable, but January 1 has no bearing on if and when I decide to do them.  For instance, I started this blog in June and didn’t start posting weekly until September.  Had this been one of my New Year’s Resolutions, it would likely be deemed a failure, because we tend to determine their success or failure by the middle of January, not the end of the year.  So they’re really not New Year’s Resolutions, at all. They’re First Week of the New Year’s Resolutions.

You pick something you don’t like about yourself and say you’re going to change it because the calendar switched. But that thing you don’t like about yourself isn’t going to change because of something arbitrary. Willpower isn’t tied to a date on the calendar. Especially if you take something like losing weight, which is much easier to do in April or May, as the days get warmer and longer.

So I’ve decided to switch things up a bit, and instead of a New Year’s Resolution, I’m looking back and making some Old Year’s Resolutions. I am going to take a look back at the cool new things I’ve tried or accomplished over the past twelve months and make some belated resolutions. And, spoiler alert, I nailed every single one of them!

But, Wombat, isn’t that just a Year-in-Review? You may ask.

And my response is…

Shut up! My blog, my rules.

Resolution #1: I will have a wonderful baby girl.

Considering my wife was three months pregnant on January 1, this one might be close to my “make ninth grade” resolution. But a lot can go wrong in the second and third trimesters. Plus we did not know it was going to be a girl until ten days into the year, so had I tried to make this resolution at the proper time, I would have had a 50/50 chance of failing at the very beginning.

Of course, the more I think about it, I don’t have much to add to the whole “have a baby” thing. My part was finished in 2013, and if things go south, there isn’t much my resolve can do. My wife is doing the heavy lifting for the first six months of 2014.

So maybe I should change it to I will begin to raise a wonderful baby girl.

Yeah, I like that better. That’s something I can actually resolve to do.

Resolution #2: Take up curling.

In January, the Winter Olympics were still a month away.

Gosh, I wonder if they are going to be exciting! I’m sure the Russians will have beautiful Sochi in perfect condition for the wonderful athletes who have trained so hard to get there.

Hey, remember when I did that Learn-to-Curl back in 2013? That was fun. I wonder if I can find a place closer to home and recruit some friends to try it in February. If that’s successful, maybe a couple of us can join a league. And if we get paired with some veterans, maybe we can begin learning the ropes and go undefeated throughout the summer season.

Then maybe I can form my own team and skip during a bonspiel against really good curlers. Like maybe even a couple of those curlers that are going to spend February in those swanky Sochi hotels. Then maybe I could win a do-or-die, skip-vs-skip, closest-to-the-button tiebreaker at 2:00 AM for the right to advance in the loser’s bracket.

If all that happens, who knows, maybe I’ll end the year by asking for expensive curling shoes for Christmas and prepping my hand-picked team for an elongated Winter/Spring season in 2015, forcing my wife to coin the phrase “Curling Widow.” But the “Future Curling Star” onesie I would get for my daughter (see Resolution #1) for Christmas would be super cute.

But that’s crazy. I doubt all of that would happen in one year.

Resolution #3: Lose More Weight.

This is always the scary one, right? But let me tell you, it’s a lot less nerve-racking to make this resolution after the fact.

I lost a lot of weight in 2013. A pre-diabetes diagnosis and a new-fangled invention called the Fitbit put my ass (or, more accurately, my legs and mouth) in gear, and by early October, I was down close to forty pounds. Then Halloween hit, followed by Thanksgiving and Christmas. Combined with those shorter, colder days I mentioned earlier, and about ten of those forty pounds found their way back by the end of the year. But that meant I was still down thirty over the course of the year.

Could I repeat that in 2014? Probably not to the extreme I had the year before. After all, there was less to lose. And all those nasty indicators in my blood have returned back to normal levels. But still…

If I can go back to the Spring and Summer routines I kept in ’13, maybe I can take those ten added pounds back off by June. Then maybe I can take another ten to fifteen pounds off before Halloween kicks off Fat Quarter (which extends past the New Year to include Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day) again. That Fat Quarter will be even harder this year, because while I might be willing to go for a jog in the forty-degree dark when I get home from work, I’m not quite as willing to take the baby along.

But, hey,  if I can lose twenty-plus pounds by October, then I can still gain ten to fifteen back and still be weight-negative for the year.

Resolution #4: Win Camptathalon.

Every year amongst my friends, there exists a Men’s Camping Trip. Because when womenfolk come camping, we have to take more than five paces away from the fire before we drop trou and pee, and I’m sorry, but that just ain’t true campin’.

At said trip each year, there is something called the Camptathalon.

What is it? Only the most grueling competition of wit, acumen, and bravado known to mankind. Think Triathlon, but take out the wussified events like swimming and biking and running. And add things like Whose Horse Comes in Last at the Kentucky Derby. And the Butter Toss.

Oh, and the whole thing needs to be done as inebriated as possible.

Wait, did you say Butter Toss?

I did. And to find out more, you’ll just have to check back in April, when I devote an entire entry to the 2015 Camptathalon.

(That’s what the promotions biz peeps call a teaser.  “What common household object might kill you? Stay tuned until the end of this blog entry to find out.”)

But this year, I plan to win the competition. I came in dead last in 2013. I think I was second or third the year before. But this year, with the competition being held the same weekend as my wife’s baby shower, I feel it is my time to strike.

What would be even cooler is if it was tied at the end of regulation, forcing us to make up a sudden-death cribbage match to decide it all. And if I could be losing said sudden-death cribbage match going into the final turn before pulling out a 21-point hand and a 24-point hand back-to-back. Why, that would almost be as cool as winning a sudden death draw to the button at a curling bonspiel.

If I could also be the first ever Camptathalon champion to not yack his guts out the same weekend, that might be an added bonus. That’s a tradition that need not be continued. Unlike the Butter Toss, which is a tradition as true as the Tournament of Roses.

Butter Toss? Am I sure I’m hearing you right?

April, dude. April.

Resolution #5: Win in Reno

Every year, I make a few trips to Reno. This year, 2014, I’d like to win there.

To be clear, my definition of “win” does not mean to hit a jackpot or win a car or come home with a duffel bag full of cash. I don’t even define winning as being money-ahead at the end of the year. I know the math – giant resorts would not exist in the middle of the desert if customers won over the long run.

What I mean by “win” is I’d like to take one weekend trip wherein, after paying for gas, food, and my portion of the hotel, I’m still money ahead. Is the forty dollars I might win in October going to offset the two hundred I’m going to lose at March Madness? Of course not. But man, that forty dollars would feel awesome, like I’m a world killer! Something definitely worthy of being mentioned in a Year-In-Review,  Retroactive Old Year’s Resolution.

Here is how I would love for this particular resolution to play out. I’d like to win a little bit at everything I do. Put $20 in a slot machine, turn it into $60. Put $2 on a long-shot horse to show and have him eke out third place. Stick around a blackjack table long enough to get buzzed on the casino’s dime yet still walk away up $10. Actually feel like I know what I’m talking about when all of those sports results go final. That would be nice.

To keep with the curling and Camptathalon theme, I don’t know if any of those games I bet on can go to overtime, but maybe I could squeak out a photo finish on the ponies.

Resolution #6: Write.

I’d like to write more this year.

Maybe I can try NaNoWriMo again this year. Even if I only get 20,000 words into a novel, it would be an improvement over 38 of the last 39 years.

Maybe I could even take part in some flash fiction challenges. Writing an entire story from beginning to end might give me a sense of accomplishment. That way, I could also play around with different genres, different voices, different points of view. Who knows? Maybe after I’ve tried a few safe ones, like a standard scary story, I might even write a story from the point-of-view of a female drug addict.

Hey, remember that blog I used to have? I stopped writing anything on it in 2008. right around the time I joined Facebook, because why write a thousand words when I can write fifteen and get immediate gratifica-, er, feedback?

But seriously, in 2014, maybe I can start that up again. Then maybe after a few flash fictions there, I can start up a new one on wordpress instead. And get back to actual blogging in addition to flash fiction.

Maybe I could even make myself post a new entry every week. Sure, it’s arbitrary, but maybe there will be some weeks I don’t feel like writing, like maybe Christmas week, and then all of a sudden it’ll be Monday, and I’ll be like, “oh shit, I have to post a blog entry,” and then I’ll actually write instead of just putting it off. I mean, it could happen. And even if it only works for, like, the last fifteen weeks of the year, what would that be? Twenty thousand words? Thirty thousand? To add to the twenty thousand in the novel? Throw in some of the earlier flashes and I’d be over sixty thousand words written in a year.

Shit, that might almost feel like an accomplishment. ”Hey,” I’ll tell everyone, “I wrote what Ken Follett writes in his sleep!”

It also might be cool to learn how to hyperlink.

On to 2015.

Wow. If I could have made all of those resolutions in January, and followed through on all of them, what a cool year it would have become.

And if so, what would be in store for 2015? What plans should I make? Only one way to find out – wait until next December.

See you all in the New Year

By the way, it was a knife. A knife is a common household object that might kill you. Thanks for staying with us.

War on Saturn

Every December, I get annoyed by all of those cultural warriors that try to re-write history and put their own spin on what this holiday season is truly about. They’ve even gone so far as to change the name of the holiday itself, trying to force us all to use a different greeting than was originally used. Unfortunately, the holiday was named after a person, or a personified deity, so when they change the name, they’re taking it away from the true basis, the true meaning of the holiday season. It’s almost as if they’re trying to eradicate the poor person whose birthday falls on December 25.

Jesus? No, not that charlatan. He was probably born in early spring, by most interpretations.

The person I’m talking about is Saturn, the “Reason for the Season” of Saturnalia.

Oh, we could throw Yule in there, too, but I really don’t if that’s a person or a season or just some other random crazy thing the Krauts came up with.

Oh, you thought Yuletide was a Christian thing? Because Jesus didst spake unto the Rich Corinthian Leathers, “Bring unto me a chopped down tree that is in no way indigenous to the region. Oh, and a log that burns for a really, really long time, like maybe a Duraflame.”

No, Jesus wasn’t born in December and most of the things we associate with Christmas were around long before Christianity. Even if a specific birthdate existed, that date probably would correlate to our current calendar. December, based on its name, was the tenth month of the year. Ever noticed that? September, October, November, and December translate to seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth month. But then a couple of Caesars came by and wanted their own months plopped into the middle of the year, so the rest of the months got pushed back. While Julius had already been there by 1 AD, so maybe there was a July by then, Augustus had not shown up yet.  I don’t know if there were ten or eleven months on the calendar that year, but I do know that December 25, 1AD would not be the same as December 25. Except that December 25 would not be listed on the birth certificate, anyway.

That’s why Easter changes its date every year. It falls on the Sunday following the first full moon of spring. Had Jesus’s birthday ever been noted, it would have had one of those kooky always changing dates. If he was lucky, “Three Days after the Winter Solstice” would have sufficed. But it probably would’ve been based on the last full moon of autumn, which would’ve been hard for the Apostles to buy him presents.

Oh, and by the way, Easter is named after Ishtar, a goddess of fertility. Hence all the bunnies, eggs, and other fornication references. Wow, another holiday the Christians stole. I would chastise them for ignoring the 7th Commandment, but they stole those from the Jews, anyway.

So who was born on or around December 25? Saturn, the Roman god. But even Saturnalia’s date moved around a bit, as December shrank from 36 days down to 31. Because even Roman gods would have to move their birthdays around as the first day of winter changed.  After all, the Solstice is the REAL reason for the season.

Every primitive society had some sort of celebration around the Solstice, be it Yule or Saturnalia or Festivus.  I include Festivus because I can think of no better definition of “primitive” than standard def and having to sit through the commercial breaks.

Why the celebration of Solstice? It is the shortest day of the year. So the day after it, the sun begins its return. And if the sun is one of the things you pray to and define your life by, then you celebrate the fact that he/she/it is coming back. I know, it sounds so silly and pagan to say your god was born with the return of the sun. I mean, the son of God being born that day is totally logical. But an actual god? Don’t make me laugh.

Birthdays and gods aside, though, there was a much more practical reason for celebrating the first days of winter. The weather is about to get worse. Food is going to become scarcer. There will  barely be enough food for the humans to make it through the next three months, much less the animals.  So you keep a male and a female and slaughter all the rest. Then you enjoy them, maybe with some gravy, because it’s the last time you’ll by full before April.

In fact, the Agricultural Revolution was caused in large part by a dude named Turnip Townshend. In addition to playing the guitar with a distinctive windmill motion, he also discovered that turnips replenish the soil better than leaving it fallow. Even better, people now had a whole bunch of turnips that they could feed to the livestock through the winter. Livestock living through the winter equals a more stable food supply equals farmers being freed up (or forced) to move to the cities. Add coal and iron and, voila, instant industrialization.

But back to these solstice festivals. In addition to the culinary element, they were usually marked by gift giving and the upheaval of social conventions. Lords and peasants switching places. Getting drunk and making out with your co-worker. Secret Santas. No wait, that came later.

So early Christians were trying to get converts A Roman guy says, “Gosh, your religion sounds great, what with all the rising from the dead and the turning of other cheeks and whatnot, but it’s hard for me to give up the revelry of Saturn’s birthday.”

So the Christians didst respond, “Oh, hey, our guy was born that day, too. We just call it Christmas. But all the other shit’s the same.”

The Roman looked skeptical.

“Seriously. Just put up this nativity scene, and then you can do all of the pagan pipers piping you want.”

And, lo, Christmas was born.

Then it died.

In the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church frowned upon Christmas because it was too tied up with superstition and paganism. The Puritans then banned it, to the extent that December 25 was the only day of the year that British were not allowed to go to church. The Puritans were also the Pilgrims, so the alleged first American colonists didn’t celebrate Christmas. I say “alleged” because the Pilgrims actually showed up thirteen years after Jamestown was founded. But I’ll leave that for another day, because I can only destroy one misconception at a time.

But the next time a “War on Christmas” yahoo talks about the founding fathers being upset at what is happening to Christmas, be sure to tell them that the founding fathers didn’t celebrate Christmas. Even though most of them were Anglicans/Episcopalians, not Puritans, Christmas and its debauchery had fallen out of favor with many.

But like any good Christian, Zombie Christmas rose from the dead. Actually, better to call it a vampire, because it was much more intelligent and calculated than the randomness of a zombie.

What brought Christmas back from the dead? The very same thing that defines it still today. Love and joy? Ha ha, good one. No, I’m talking about money, money, money.

Our modern conception of Christmas comes from Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. You know the one. Ebeneezer Scrooge is visited by some ghosts and learns the true meaning of Christmas and Kermit the Frog and blah, blah, blah. But Dickens wasn’t describing the actual Christmas spirit that he observed, he was making up what he thought it should be.

So think about that. The true “spirit of Christmas” is based on a borderline Marxist attack on wealth inequality. I’m pretty sure Fox News leaves that part out.

The rest of the things we associate with Christmas were mainly marketing ploys. Rudolph? Invented by Montgomery Ward. Santa Claus, the way we conceive him now, was more or less solidified by Coca-Cola ads. Interestingly, the reason Coca-Cola used Santa so much was because they were not allowed to make any ads that specifically targeted or showed children. So they used Santa to market to kids without getting in trouble. Ah, consumerism!

Then there’s eggnog. Honestly, I have no idea where eggnog came from. I only know where it’s going: directly into my belly.

So enjoy your holiday, whatever holiday that may be, because we’re all really just celebrating the same thing. Go ahead and sing along with me the perfect carol for this wondrous season:

“Here comes the sun, do do do do, here comes the sun, and I say…

“It’s all right!”