Resolutions for 1998

“You say you want a resolution, well, you know, we all want to change the world.” — John Lennon

Oh, sorry, wrong world. Err, word.

New Year’s resolutions aren’t about changing the world, they are about changing ourselves, right? But, in some small way, doesn’t that change the world, too? Maybe that’s why it’s important to take New Year’s resolutions seriously. It is a time of year where millions of people resolve to do things to change themselves; some of them come true. If even some of those resolutions come to pass, it means a slight change in the world as a whole. The good news is that resolutions are generally devoted to positive changes, so that means this is a time of year where, if we take our resolutions seriously, we can make positive changes in ourselves, thereby bettering the world.

Sound a little far-fetched? Maybe so, but I’m a firm believer that the more good is out there, the better off we are. Any constructive change in ourselves will reflect outward to other people, hopefully reinforcing others’ constructive self-images. Often, one person’s success at keeping a resolution can become contagious, helping others to do the same.

I would like to create an anonymous list, to be posted on this website, of others’ resolutions. Perhaps we could check back later in the year, say every three months, and see what percentage of resolutions have been kept. Again, these will be anonymous, and any resolutions submitted can be vague to protect identities.

To get the ball rolling, I will list the resolutions that I intend to work on over the next year, not specifically in any order. (As I said, your submissions may be less specific than these. Also, all submissions will be held in strict confidence.) (Note 10/6/2014: This never happened.)


Stace’s New Year’s Resolutions

  • Spend more time with my son and stepson in constructive activities
  • Save at least $100 per month, no matter what
  • Start Christmas shopping early — like July!
  • Submit at least three short stories for publication
  • Learn more songs on guitar and perform publicly more often
  • Take (and pass) some MCSE classes
  • Ride my bike more and drop at least 30 pounds
  • Finish my Bachelor’s Degree in English
  • Volunteer time to Colorado Recording for the Blind
  • Volunteer time to Colorado Department of Education as a Knowledge Bowl reader
  • Make a dent in my Student Loan and other important debts
  • Continue to keep up with this website and learn more about advanced HTML features.

Hmmmm, doesn’t sound too tough. (cough!) Some of these will be easy, but they represent increases in time and money spent (or saved, as the case may be) for me, both of which are fairly rare commodities in my life. It will take work. Perhaps knowing that other people are trying to make difficult resolutions come to pass also will help me meet mine, and vice versa. I’m excited to see what kind of resolution bulletin board we can generate!

Remember, if you are celebrating this New Year’s Eve, please be safe. If you are drinking alcohol, know your limits and have a driver available if you have had too much.




Christmas, as it is celebrated in predominantly Christian countries, is a time of giving. The gifts people exchange are meant to be reminiscent of the gold, frankincense and myrrh brought to the Christ child by the Magi, the mystical kings of distant oriental lands.

All too often, we fall into the trap of thinking that the gifts are the focus; we feel obligated to give gifts to certain people at Christmas time merely because of social norms, or may even want to give gifts but are not sure whether the recipient is comfortable receiving them. How will the person react? What is the appropriate price range? Will others feel left out? These social rules take away from the simple act of giving and throw the emphasis on the material objects themselves, as well as on the social status of the giver.

When removed from the glare of social enlightenment, gift giving takes on an entirely different hue. It becomes apparent that you don’t have to actually give a material gift at all. Gifts can range from the physical to the purely emotional or even spiritual, and the higher the level on which the gift is given, the greater it actually is. When a person hand crafts a gift for another, she is really giving of herself and her time; the physical manifestation of the gift is merely the product of the work done in the name of another person. This is what often makes hand made gifts so special to the recipients. They think of the work that went into the gift in their honor, something that is completely intangible and may never even be vocalized.

Given that, it seems that the true gift here is in the process, not the product. This is a higher level of gift giving than the merely physical/material/social level. There is nothing to say that this only need happen during a single time of the year, however. Perhaps one of the best gifts a person can give is to volunteer time to an organization, individual or cause that they support. I have found that I enjoy volunteering time to non-profit organizations like the National Sjogren’s Syndrome Association or the San Juan Board of Cooperative Services. I identify with the goals of these organizations, and have spent significant time with each in an effort to help them promote their causes. In both cases, part of my motivation is to repay some of the kindness that these organizations showed me or my family in the past. There is a certain element of peace that comes from reciprocation like this; I feel I have given something back to people who have given to me. This peace is not present in such purity when I exchange material gifts with others; it seems to be more of a spiritual thing.

Many have speculated that giving of ourselves is a way to engage in spiritual healing, patching the holes in our soul. I can understand that. There have been times in my life that I have not felt good about myself and helping others has helped me get back on track. I think this is probably one of the purposes behind including community service in criminal sentences, but I’m not sure it works if the motivation to help doesn’t originate within the person. In such cases, the energy spent may actually translate into anger, resentment or hatred for the person imposing the sentence, which does not help the psyche of the sentenced at all.

There does come a time when it is appropriate to say “No,” and it is important to acknowledge that time so that one does not burn out. If I push myself too hard in helping an organization or individual, I find that the purity of purpose and the energy exchange do not happen as often. Occasionally, I need time away from volunteer actions — and sometimes from particular people — to restore the drive to help. At times like this, I know I am not helping anyone, particularly myself. I need time away.

A moderate use of “yes” and “no” will do wonders to help us balance our lives. I tend to err in saying “yes” too often; I have to be careful not to let frustration build up and worm its way into the projects on which I am working.

How do I know what to volunteer for? Look back in your past and identify something that you feel was successful and helped you develop into the position you are now. Often, this is a good way to zero in quickly on turning points in your life. For example, I feel that being on the Knowledge Bowl teams in junior high and high school contributed more to my education than anything else I did in school. When I graduated high school I immediately started volunteering to help setup the local competitions and act as a question reader for them as well. By engaging as a question reader and organizer, I helped to positively influence the lives of those younger than me, reciprocating the effect that I received from such great people as Bill Brown, Bob Sauer, Barry Owen, Steve Thweatt, Marietta Sears, Nick Rampone and many others. For the last several years, I have not been involved in Knowledge Bowl, mostly because I lived in Arizona, where there is unfortunately little interest in academic competition of this nature. However, now that I am back in Colorado, I intend to volunteer as a reader again for the Colorado Department of Education.

Often, the greatest gift we can give is our time. It can transcend material or monetary offerings and help to heal our inner selves, too. If you have never volunteered your time (say, at the local library, if you loved books as a child) I urge you to try it. You will meet fascinating people with many of your same interests and learn how there really is time in your life to help others, even though you have always said there wasn’t. You may even affect repairs on your soul. Give it a shot. Gifts are not just for Christmas, you know.


Recently, a man told me a joke — at least, I think it was a joke. “Why didn’t Superman save Princess Di?” he said. Being a good little drone, I shrugged and said, “I don’t know. Why?” “Because he’s paralyzed!” I walked away, shaking my head wondering why he thought that was funny. The night before, he had told me another Princess Diana joke, but I refuse to contribute to its longevity. I’ve already done enough damage repeating this one.

Why is it part of our nature to laugh at other people’s apparent misfortune? We laugh at Chevy Chase’s pratfalls, Jim Carrey’s weirdness, Urkel’s dorkness, Mr. Creosote’s fateful “wafair-thin mint.” We “ooooh” and make hash marks in the air when someone insults another with particular flair. We tune in religiously to watch real people have silly things happen to them on “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” but it’s okay because the winners are getting paid to have half of the country laugh at them. (That kind of makes me wonder about the others, who are just sending the videos in so they can brag to their friends, “See, Joan? Little Billy hit me right in the crotch! Ain’t that the damnedest thing you ever did see?”)

Often, people make light of a situation in order not to become upset by it. A friend in San Francisco told me shortly after the major earthquake at the end of 1989 that locals were calling it the “Pretty Big One.” In order to deal with the situation, people naturally were drawn to humor. Along the same lines, I suspect (though I have no proof) that racial jokes are created by the need for intolerant people to deal with their own insecurities about people seemingly different from themselves. Shock jokes like the one I used to start this essay are a way for insecure people to fight back at the world; “Here! I want you to feel as uncomfortable as I do!” The greater the insecurity, the more crass the subject matter.

I’m convinced it is a learned behavior rather than a natural reaction. I don’t think we are born with the instinct to laugh at others’ misfortune; I think we are taught that it is okay. Recently, my eight year old was introduced to the concept of formula laughter. He had confused the states of Iowa and Oregon and was laughed at for his mistake. His best friend was present, and rather than defend him, she laughed as well. He went to bed that night upset that she would laugh at his intelligence, thinking she was no longer his friend. I tried to explain to him that she was still his friend and did not intend to hurt him. She was merely laughing because someone else was laughing. It is a learned social behavior to laugh when the rest of the crowd laughs, but he was not used to being on the receiving end of it from this particular friend. I tried pointing out how he laughed at people in the same way, and that he would have to learn how to deal with that to make it in life. He would have to learn how to take a joke, like we all do. It certainly felt sad to be chopping away at his innocence and sensitivity like that, but it is a necessary skill to have in today’s world and he would be in for a lot of pain if he didn’t learn to laugh at himself every once in a while.

The last point demonstrates possibly the most common use of laughter: as a defense mechanism. We laugh at things in order to take the focus off of what we are nervous or anxious about. To avoid the pain of rejection or ridicule, we often learn to laugh at ourselves, even when we don’t really think something is funny inside. There are numerous instances from my childhood that I am embarrassed of, but I laugh when people bring them up so I won’t feel the pain from those experiences flooding back. This may not be the most direct way to deal with the problem, but it gets me through the situations with a minimum of discomfort. For this reason, I taught my son that it is okay to laught at yourself occasionally too. Though I wish I could let him hang on to his innocence forever, he does not live in a protected world where that is feasible.

There are types of humor that are not fueled by the pain of others. Puns are the best examples I can think of. They usually require the use of some intelligence to understand, they are meaning-based, rather than situation-based, and they usually don’t require the misfortune of another. In fact, they are a celebration of another’s intelligence because they often require making a connection between seemingly unrelated concepts. Making that connection requires a little effort, and the reward is a small bit of humor. I try to be a humorous person, constantly looking for pun opportunities. Often, I am met with groans or glares, but I know that a groan is a sign of appreciation when it comes to puns. On those rare occasions when I am asked to leave the room, I know I have done my best. :{D

I know I participate in the various types of humor I decry above. I admit that I laugh as hard as everyone else at various gross, violent, sick and twisted animation festivals. I like an occasional dirty joke, too, though I don’t like the really graphic ones as much as I used to. However, my favorite pieces of humor involve the intellect: philosophical humor, puns, historical humor — things that I have to think to understand, basically. Perhaps if we all were to concentrate on this kind of humor our kids wouldn’t have to lose their innocence and learn social defenses so quickly.


The title of this essay was going to be “Kids.” I was frustrated with the interaction of my stepson (16) and son (8), both only children until they were thrown unexpectedly into sibling life in a two-bedroom apartment last year. (Parents, don’t try this at home.)

I was prepared to outline all kinds of annoyances about both boys when I realized (for the thousandth time) that I was the one being annoyed and they were just working through a situation that neither of them had predicted or asked for. That’s when I decided to shift the focus from ragging on them to examining my own viewpoint.

Recently, a man in Byers, Colorado, frustrated with the incessant crying of his baby boy, threw the child against the wall and ceiling until he stopped crying — forever. Whoa. Is this where it leads when we, as parents, don’t monitor our own reactions?

Both my children realize that they can annoy me easily, and they (by virtue of being kids) will take advantage of that. That appeals to them, perhaps unconsciously, because it is a way for them to control the actions of someone who is usually trying to control their actions. And that’s where the difficulty comes in for me as a parent. I am somewhat ashamed to admit that I sometimes want to control their lives. I don’t want them hanging around certain people or doing certain things, I want them to have stronger interests in creative endeavors. I want them to be more independent, but I don’t want to give them the freedom to do so.

Somewhere, there must be a line to follow. As a parent, it is my job to guide (not necessarily control) their actions so that they can go into life armed with the skills to survive. It is also my job to protect them and care for them. However, too much “protection” fosters rebellion, especially from teens. Rebellion itself is necessary for them to form their own self image, and is helped (perhaps less significantly) by identification with what they like. Yet, at times I must put my foot down so they know where the lines are drawn. How do I identify when I am pushing too hard? If I am careful, and watch the signals from the kids, perhaps they will let me know.

A person whom I respect greatly once told me that kids “pretty much turn out okay no matter what you do.” That was heartening when I heard it as a 21 year-old, but I think there were some conditions implicit in that statement that I didn’t detect until several years later. First, you must be involved in your kids’ lives. If you don’t show interest in what they are doing, they will look for that attention elsewhere. Second, you must not be so controlling that the kids can’t develop their own personalities. I remember that this parent placed few restrictions on his kids’ coming and going, but he always knew where they were and when they were expected to return. Third, be consistent. Don’t change the rules on them without reason. When disciplining them, make sure the punishment fits the crime; don’t ground them for a month when they come home twenty minutes late. I’m sure there was more unspoken advice in his simple statement, but he was wise enough to know that I was not ready to hear or understand all of the baggage.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m ready even now. Myriad are the times I have reacted first and then realized that perhaps I should have handled a situation differently with my kids. How important are those slips? If I am to believe what I tell the kids, they are very important, just like every decision we make (or refuse to make). Even small acts can act as catalysts and start larger events in motion. It follows that it would be of utmost importance to think through all interaction with your children before it happens, or at least before you act.

Yeah …. Right.

There are at least three problems with what I just wrote. Number one, whether we like it or not, occasions arise where emotions cloud our sense of rationality and bring the issues out of focus. There are also occasions when we do not have the luxury of time to consider our “proper” course of action. Secondly, even when we do have time to consider, we rarely have all the information in a given situation. Even decisions that seem to be good at first can come out harmful in the end (and vice versa.) Finally, we will go neurotic if we let ourselves get so far out of balance as to think we have to be infallible with our kids. I think this is the true core of what my friend above meant. It was not so much a statement about the kids as it was the parents.

In a nutshell, I guess my best option is to do the best I can with each individual circumstance. When I have the luxury of reflection, I will use it. When I don’t have that luxury, I will try to see past the emotions and make rational decisions based on what information I have. And, occasionally, I will be wrong.

But if I make an effort to follow my own advice, maybe they’ll turn out okay anyway.

Michael Hedges Eulogy

Michael Hedges Eulogy

Michael Hedges


With the brisk winds of late fall came the passing of Michael Hedges, recording artist, acoustic guitar visionary, and father of two. A single car accident, reported on Dec. 2, 1997 claimed his life.

Born in Enid, Oklahoma on December 31, 1953, Hedges studied music at the University of Oklahoma and the Peabody Conservatory before embarking on a commercial career with the Windham Hill record label in 1981. He developed a unique acoustic guitar style, full of right-hand tapping, unconventional full chord hammer-ons and contrapunctal playing that attracted listeners from the rock and pop world to new age Windham Hill music. Though he was pegged as a New Age player, his background included a wide variety of music, from Celtic to hard rock. His favorite singer/songwriter was Joni Mitchell, and because of her influence, Hedges rarely played in standard guitar tuning.

For Hedges, the music was the primary experience. Though he could have played easier pieces and carried the same (or greater) popularity using standard equipment and tuning, he knew that would not meet his own requirements. Tapping and alternate tunings were a method he used to generate a kind of sonic landscape unique to each of his pieces. The melodic and percussive sounds he brought from his instrument were inimitable. When he began experimenting with harp guitar (an acoustic guitar with an extended soundbox and several bass harp strings attached to the extension) he sounded like a full acoustic band, complete with bass, percussion, rhythm and melody.

Hedges’ talent for acoustic guitar was indisputable, but he did not want to be limited to that instrument. He also played flute and enjoyed synthesizers, and once said that the only reason he became known as an acoustic guitar player was because he played for Will Ackerman’s Windham Hill label. Many of his compositional directions lay elsewhere.

I was lucky enough to see Michael Hedges at Purgatory Ski resort one summer, along with fellow Windham Hill artists Andy Narell and Liz Story. The resonant guitar sounds set against a background of high mountain summer scenery created a sensory experience that will never leave me. Hedges moved to his music constantly when he played, directed in a sort of impromptu dance by the notes flowing up the mountainside.