Long Story Short: I resolve…

Until the end of December 2005, New Year’s resolutions didn’t carry much weight in my world. Until that year that almost did us all in, feel-good nebulous self-improvement goals didn’t have the effect I needed.

As anyone who lived through 2005 in South Louisiana can tell you, times were tough. Yes, economically, things were booming. But I believe that if Queen Elizabeth had lived here, she would have revised her thoughts on England’s 1992 and decreed 2005 “annus horribilis.”

Such drastic times warranted a New Year’s resolution.

I had certain criterion for my resolution. I was looking for something concrete and something that would improve my life, as well as the lives of my family.

So, for 2006, I decided to do what I could to change the pace of life for my family. The way I decided to do that was to make the resolution to read at least one book every two weeks. I knew that if I were home being still, my family would likely be home, too. My plan worked like a charm. Since January 2006, my family has spent more time just being at home – especially on the weekends. My motherhood obligations don’t always jive with the reading I want to do, but I strive for a better balance than before. I’ve learned that if we miss a parade or play date, my children won’t be scarred for life. I believe the quality of our lives has improved dramatically.

For 2008, I decided another concrete resolution was in order. I decided to focus on my wallet. I decided to stop using credit cards and my ATM card at the drop of the hat. I did not resort to high-tech Quicken budgeting systems or Excel spreadsheets. Nope, I decided to actually use cash. It’s the simplest budget I ever tried. It works like this: I get paid and deposit my check in the bank. I give myself spending money – in cold, hard cash. I use that money and only that money until the next time I’m paid.

I had to start thinking in a way I had gotten away from in years past. I had to re-introduce myself to the timeless concept of asking, “Can I afford that?” But the lifestyle changes were healthy. Ultimately, my new cash-based budget worked well.

Since I’m on a roll with New Year’s resolutions that work, I’ve decided to get even bolder this year. This year I’m going to focus on character building. I am going to try – and this is going to be difficult – to stop gossiping. To keep me focused, I’m giving “gossip” a definition.

Gossip: Anything I wouldn’t say to or in front of said person.

I gave up gossiping one year for Lent. It was not easy, and I am not proud to admit that I am not completely keen on trying it again. My friends can validate that I love a good story more than most. I know what discipline is involved in keeping my newest resolution, but I also know choosing to do the right thing makes life in general work better.

What about you? Do you have a New Year’s resolution for 2009? Will you have a chance at keeping it if you tell someone? Your secrets are safe with me.

Jan Risher’s column appears Sundays. E-mail her your New Year’s resolution at jan@ janrisher.com

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