I am now marking the three-quarter milestone on my 2016 Resolution journey and already looking forward to not doing this again next year. Promises are a LOT easier to break or forget about completely when you haven’t written them down and shared them with the world. Or so I would imagine based on my personal experience of writing them down and sharing them with my thirteen beloved, but highly suspect, readers.
I’d love to share with you today that I’ve had some sort of personal epiphany and changed my entire life thanks to these resolutions but, ha, that ain’t happening. I’m not thrilled with my progress but neither am I fully distraught at my efforts. They have been and continue to be a mixed bag of success and failure and disinterest, not unlike life. Anyway, here is my Q3 report.
1a I will write a minimum of 1000 words every day, weekends, holidays, and sick days included
Well, you know I gave up on this one for very noble reasons at the end of Q1. And it will not coming back for very ignoble reasons. Look, if one thing is becoming searingly clear during my “year of the resolution” it’s that I am NOT a passionate writer. Frankly, I’m a borderline begrudging writer. I enjoy writing … once in a while, but I sure as hell am not driven to write daily like those household-name, successful writers and the slightly creepy, Fantasy genre fans you went to high school with. I just don’t have that need to write. I wish I did. I envy those that do. If my desire to write equaled my desire to consume chocolate I’d be more read than Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, and God combined.
1b I will write and submit a short story to a literary magazine by October 31st
I once read that Ray Bradbury wrote a short story every week. He kept a list of nouns from which he would choose two on Monday morning to write a story about and by Friday he would have a finished story and submit it to whichever pulp mag fit the subject matter best. This, of course, was in the days when pulp mags were a big deal and authors could earn decent dollars selling stories to them. That time has long since gone but in the first half of the last century, Ray was able to support a family on this stunning routine.
I, on the other hand, am struggling to write a single short story for which I’d given myself ten months to do so. I am now one month from my self-imposed deadline and I’m struggling to get a single sentence on paper. I have some ideas, vague hand-wavy ideas, the likes of which accomplish nothing. As Robert J. Sawyer likes to tell everyone, ideas are the easy part. He isn’t kidding. Turning an idea into an interesting, meaningful story? That’s where the professionals are made.
Still, I intend to at least try. I’ve scheduled blog posts into mid-November so I can focus my time on writing a story. If I fail, my only excuse will be my own ineptitude and lack of meaningful effort. I’d hate to think I’m going to fail at this resolution, one that for the most part was the easiest to accomplish. I never did state it needed to be a “good” short story, after all.
There was also that creative, non-fiction story I submitted to a CBC contest back in the spring. Well the winner has been chosen and it was not me. Neither was I short-listed or even long-listed. There were 32 of the latter. This was disappointing though hardly surprising considering it was my first time ever trying such a thing. And based on the list of finalists, my style of story was not in vogue with the judges this year. Apparently death, dementia, and disappointment are all the rage right now. Still, I thought my story was pretty good and genuinely funny. Recognition as a finalist might have been just the encouragement I needed to follow through on this resolution.
2 I will not eat a single morsel of chocolate until my birthday on March 1st
Ah yes, the one resolution I actually did achieve and the one resolution that threatens to be my only achievement in this seemingly ill-fated, year-long attempt at self-improvement.
I have not come close to recapturing the magic of those first two months. Honestly, I’ve not even tried. There are days when a nip of chocolate, or an entire quarter cake, feeds the very life force within me. My kids have been wonderful in attempting to stem my addictive intake of the brown ambrosia, but they are once again in school all day which leaves me susceptible to my addictive whims for too many hours. And Halloween is coming. And Christmas.
3 I will cut our monthly grocery budget in half before year’s end
Change is afoot in the grocery industry out here in Western Canada thanks to the purchase of Safeway by Sobeys. We are really starting to see the impact of this takeover on the shelves of Safeway stores as they are now offering deeper discounts when purchasing multiple items, a technique that has long been used by Real Canadian Superstores. As well, they are proudly announcing a permanent price reduction for over 1000 items on their shelves. Based on the brief snooping around I did those price cuts are significant.
I have yet to switch back to Safeway and Air Miles collecting, but the chasm between Safeway and Superstore pricing is shrinking, potentially dramatically. I intend to continue the bulk of my grocery shopping at Superstore for the remainder of this year in order to get a full year’s worth of data to work with, but come the new year I will have to take a long, hard look at which store is offering the best deals. There is something to be said for convenience and Safeway is certainly closer to my abode.
AND, another promising evolution in my local grocery store repertoire has been revealed to me. The Sobeys store nearest our home was closed and sold as part of the Safeway takeover; Government regulation and all that. What I just learned thanks to a Dairy Queen outing with the family is that that former Sobeys store is going to reopen as a No Frills. This is exciting news as there currently are zero No Frills stores in the south part of Calgary. They have some fantastic sales on items we buy but I’ve never found it worthwhile to drive to the Northeast of the city to capitalize on them. Now I won’t have to since this store will be a short five minute drive from home. This is excellent news.
In the meantime, let’s once again review my grocery bills for the past three months. It’s quite obvious by now that cutting our bill in half is never going to happen. That was a noble goal and definitely a stretch target but it’s patently impossible to achieve unless I drastically diminish the quality of food we eat or outright start starving us. That may do wonders for my weight loss resolution but for everything else it would suck tremendously.
That being said, I continue to make decent progress in cutting our monthly grocery bill. July and August were especially rewarding as I again saved over $200 each month compared to previous years’ averages. September was not quite as fruitful but still a savings. Considering I cooked up a bunch of bulk stews, chilis, soups, and muffins currently in our deep freeze it ain’t so bad. I’m pleased with this progress despite not reaching my envisioned goal or even trying particularly hard of late. Furthermore, I have currently accumulated well over $400 in savings via the PC Points program at Superstore. I’m on target towards saving $2000 this year compared to my norm and gaining an additional $500 in PC points rewards. That’s not too shabby if I do say so myself.
4 I will dedicate one full, uninterrupted hour each day to playing with my kids
This resolution remains a pain in the ass. I’m getting the distinct feeling my kids do not want to play with me an extra hour each day. In fact, there are days when it appears as though they’d be much happier if I left them the hell alone entirely. At nine and seven years old they may be growing weary of my daily presence, what with me being primary care-giver for most of their lives. As they grow and mature they are becoming more interested in friends and themselves and much less keen to play with Dad.
We do manage play together, perhaps not every day, but regularly. Be it new card or board games, roughhousing on the bed, or building Lego, I’m still finding ways to be with them. And hockey season has started again so I’ll be getting on the ice with them several times a week. But it still feels like this resolution is unfulfilled. When I see the online exploits of Dad-Camp and the incredible number of activities and adventures he has with his boys I can’t help but wonder if I’m just too damned lazy to actually achieve this resolution. Do I encourage my kids’ imaginative play amongst themselves because it’s good for them or because I can’t be bothered to make the effort to involve myself? And if they’re enjoying it, should I even be worrying like this?
I do hope to build on this resolution a bit yet before the year is over. A little effort and imagination on my part will get me a few more minutes of time each day but the reality is I’ve likely waited a couple years too long to really make a success of this one. The world is far too interesting for them to want to play solely with old Dad every day. And seeing how much fun and joy playing with their friends or exploring on their own brings them, I’ll convince myself to be happy if this resolution is doomed.
5 I will refuse to look at Facebook between the hours of 9:00 am and 6:00 pm
Why is this one so damned hard? Why?! I loathe Facebook and yet I can’t stop looking at it all through the day. Am I truly that lonely, that desperate? More often than not, my peeks at Facebook do nothing but bore me or enrage me, something that’s become all the more regular thanks to Trump’s rising popularity. I’d be happy to leave it entirely, as I did a few years ago, but my blog unpopularity still eats at me and Facebook is the only place I can share my work with an ever-shrinking audience. So I remain on and remain looking. It’s a damn embarrassment that this resolution has been such an utter failure thus far. I think I’ll go drown my sorrows in some chocolate.
6 I will lose 20 pounds by July 1st
Well, as you know I failed this one miserably, again for modestly valid reasons. Since my last update I have been feeling a lot better. The summer was good for my health, it seems, and a fantastic camping trip rejuvenated my spirit. I haven’t set the world ablaze with a new approach to life, but I have been nickel and diming my way to a better lifestyle. With the help of my loyal children and their watchful eye on my diet, I’ve made small progress dropping 6lbs since my last quarterly report. If the health gods are willing, I hope to continue towards this goal and may even achieve it by the end of the year. Some difficult times approach, though, as the triple peril of Thanksgiving, Halloween, and Christmas threaten to derail even the most dedicated weight loss practitioner. If nothing else, I’m happy to be trending in the right direction and my size 34 jeans are starting to fit again, though bending over remains a challenge. Baby steps.