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Column: Examining our choices in the new year
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Column: Examining our choices in the new year

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Anne VandeMoortel, a regular columnist, is a Moline school nurse, blogger, grandmother of five, Prader-Willi mother, serial hobbyist, and collector of people and their stories.

The cheeses and crudites appear shriveled in the fridge, and the taste and texture of all of the Christmas cookies have become indistinguishable. A holly covered goblet, which got missed as the seasonal dishes were packed away, sits on the back of the counter.

Wrapped in decades-old crocheted afghans, I sat with a steaming mug of peppermint tea and listened to the wind howling outside a not perfectly insulated window. The crystal images on the inside of the glass could be scraped off with my fingernail. Realizing my drowsiness was from too much holiday food and too little sleep, I snuggled deeper into the comfort of my cushions. My head nodded and I noticed the book I was reading had fallen to my chest. Cool tea and a chin damp with drool indicated my nap was more than a simple nod of the head.

I pondered the past 12 months, considering whether or not I had achieved any of last year’s resolutions. I’m not keen on making lists and don’t live my life with goals in mind, especially not lists of New Year’s resolutions. Whenever I tried to make a list it would always turn out to be things I try to do on a daily basis anyway. It didn’t seem legitimate to write them down knowing I’d be able to quickly cross them off. It kind of reminds me of going to confession as a child; there was a list of sins one had probably committed each week. We would decide if we had disrespected a parent, or been mean to a sibling, or coveted a friend’s "Mystery Date" game, knowing the choice would result in a certain number of Hail Marys.

The scratchy sound of the confessional screen sliding open caused a paralyzing fear that I might mess up the memorized greeting. I tried to say it as quietly as possible so that if I murmured an error it might go unnoticed. That plan failed as I was firmly beseeched to speak up.

I remember having a hard time coming up with a sin I could report in the confessional. One week I simply gave up trying to choose which sins I had committed and reported that I could not think of anything I had done wrong (thinking I had done nothing wrong should have made me realize I could use vanity as my sin!). The priest, optimistic of making me see my misguided ways, quizzed me on sins that he hoped I would remember committing. He went through the usual list, and I was adamant that I had not done any of those things. The parish priest, who blessed me through all of my sacraments, gave me a penance and instructions for the following week to examine my thoughts, words and deeds more carefully and honestly.

A week into the new year, I have heard people say their resolutions have shriveled up like my leftover crudites. Even with my ban on goals and lists, in recent years I have vowed to be kinder to my body and soul. I remember throughout the year there were days or weeks when that vow was thought about less than the forgotten holly goblet, but what I remember more were the times when it was remembered. I have an amazing doctor who celebrates the little changes one makes, which can lead to big differences. She points out that although something wasn’t done in the best way possible, it was done better than it had been in the past. Just like my priest had done years earlier in the confessional, her encouragement helps me to examine my choices more carefully and honestly.

Anne VandeMoortel, a regular columnist, is a Moline school nurse, blogger, grandmother of five, Prader-Willi mother, serial hobbyist, and collector of people and their stories.

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