A Doug's Life: Making Big Plans for 2012

As I understand it, New Year's resolutions are supposed to be one's commitments to accomplish things or take a certain course of action in specific areas.

Most people interpret this as a promise to "do better" in certain areas, such as losing weight or managing one's time better. Yet a New Year's resolution also can simply be stated as a goal to do something you've always wanted to do -- say, climb Mt. Everest.

I'm no mountain climber, but I'm pretty good at keeping lists. So as I close out 2011 and prepare to welcome 2012 in my new home of Menifee, here are my New Year's resolutions, in no particular order:

Read at least two books a month: I should be able to do much better than that, and I used to, before I started grading all those darn college term papers. I have dozens of carefully chosen books sitting on the shelves of my office, still waiting to be read. I think the goal is to devote at least 30 minutes each night to a good book before turning in. Now do I start with "Lonesome Dove" or "Gold Dust and Gunsmoke"?

Learn Menifee history: OK, so the town is named after a guy who was a miner in the area in the 1800s. There's got to be more to it than that. Recently, I joined the Menifee Valley Historical Society. It's time to go on some hikes and dig through some old documents.

Grade those papers on time: There's nothing like getting three weeks behind in grading papers when you have 80 students turning in two or three writing assignments a week. Trust me, I've been there -- like last quarter. My wife Kristen would say, "Can't I help you grade?" No, dear. They're like essays, not multiple choice quizzes. They require my personal expertise (sounds impressive, doesn't it?)

Take riding lessons: Horseback riding, of course. I've already lined up some possibilities. Hey, animals like me. Now, will my backside like the saddle after an hour or two? We'll find out.

Work out regularly: Last year, I was in the gym five days a week and lost 20 pounds. Then I had foot surgery and was on crutches for nine weeks. Now I'm 15 pounds heavier and feeling kinda sluggish. But I did find a nice local gym, so I'm back at it come Jan. 3. Until then, bring on the chips, soda and a whole bunch of football on TV.

Go camping: Haven't done it in years, unless you count a rented RV on the beach. I'm talking a tent and sleeping bags. This will happen during the spring or summer, when I can lay out under the stars without freezing my arsenal off. Anyone got any sterno?

Stay focused: I can be in the middle of a news article or grading a student's essay when my mind suddenly takes me to Maui or Dodge City. What the heck? C'mon, man, focus. I think it's today's society, which encourages us to log hours at work while checking Facebook status updates and tweets every 10 minutes. Something's got to give.

Explore the area on foot: I can't get everywhere I need to by car. There are trails, canyons, old mine sites and other cool spots I'll have to hike to. If my bad foot doesn't hold up, it's back in the saddle for me. It will happen.

Work on my family history: I've researched my ancestors back to 1531 in Germany and I created a website to tell others all about it. That's not good enough. Until I trace my line back to Adam and Eve, the work isn't done. Again, it's a matter of making the time. The information is out there. Anyone else got a horse thief in their family tree?

Drive from Newport and Antelope to the Countryside Marketplace parking lot in less than five minutes: Hey, you have to set your goals high.

Be kind to others: Not that I'm not already, but we can all do better. You know all those times you pass someone in the office hallway or on the sidewalk and keep your head down or look the other way? I think it's time to say "hello" and smile on more of these occasions. There's only maybe one chance in a million that person is an ax murderer. I'll take that chance.

They might even smile and say "hello" back.

Happy New Year, everyone, and here's to a great 2012 in Menifee.


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