2020 Resolved

If New Year’s resolutions are actual, binding commitments, then no, I would say I’m not inclined to make them.

To the extent the close of one year is a time of reflection on the 12 months just ended with thoughts on goals or what I could do better in the 12 months ahead, then yes, I almost always do that.

Even though it should go without saying, I have a weight loss goal for 2020. Twenty pounds.

I had a weight loss goal in 2017, and I met it and held steady for about 18 months. Then came a lot of disruption in 2018–moving, job change, lot of job-related events that ate into exercise time and put fattening food in front of me that I ate into. Plus, one of Bill’s ways of being supportive and encouraging as I settled in to the new job was to make sure a good meal was always waiting at dinner time. Next thing you know, 10 pounds has crept back on–just like that–and I can’t ignore it because I had almost everything I own altered to fit after losing much more than 10 pounds in 2017.

In about 20 pounds, I should have all of my closet available again, not just the “fat” clothes. Which is a pretty good motivator, since I refuse to buy bigger sizes.

So there, now you know. That’s my intention, too, since I’m sharing this goal as a means of accountability.

Similarly, I am resolving to swear less in 2020 and from now on. And now that I know that you know, that’s also a means of accountability. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t “cuss like a sailor,” but I don’t need to drop swear words in frustration–or not–with a frequency that is all too frequent. Swear words don’t mean I’m a bad person, or uncouth, and they certainly don’t mean I’m not a person of faith. But they don’t reflect well on any person, and their usage is probably confusing to others’ observations of someone who is supposed to be a person of faith. In me, they’re just a bad, weak habit to break.

Other goals:

Better time management and productivity at work. I’m not a time-waster and I tend to be fairly high-output, but I need to be more intentional about priorities and how I will keep those in mind as time-killing distractions arise.

Read more. At work, my time is spent reading, writing or in meetings. The kind of reading I do at work is not what I’m hoping to do more of. I probably didn’t read more than three books in 2019, and I intend to put the smart phone down and pick up books more often in 2020.

Increase hiking and walking mileage. I’m a pretty faithful 10,000-steps-a-day person already, so I’m starting from a decent threshold. But 10K-a-day is only about 4.5 miles for me, and if I can do better at the preceding two goals, I might be able combine them with this one and succeed in all three.

Such as, be more productive at work and better preserve after-hours time for fun, like listening to audiobooks while getting in more weekday mileage. My friend, Hank, has had a goal of hiking at least 50 miles a month ever since he retired almost eight years ago. For me to do that means averaging 12 miles hiked every weekend, since weekends are my only real opportunity except for holidays and days off. Once February rolls around, I’m gonna see if I can target at least 40 miles a month on average.

I’m also going to get back on the bike this year. I have a spinner bike for indoor training and I have a high-end road bike on which I once logged 3,000 miles a year–no, I’m not kidding–but I haven’t gotten onto either of them in at least two or three years. That changes this year. My goal is to be on my wheels as a participant in the October Cycle Sequatchie Century Ride. Century rides are 100 miles. I’ve done many before, and I want to do this one this year.

I can’t commit to a goal, but I do strongly hope that Bill and I may find a church home in Chattanooga sometime in 2020.

We were part of an incredible church family we loved in Knoxville for 20 years until a doctrinal issue led to a separation in the congregation in 2014. For the most part, the division was respectful disagreement, but the reality of it still was painful.

Yet we remained among a group of at least 100 we had been worshiping with since 1995, and that group added some fine new people we got to know and saw every week until we moved to Chattanooga in 2018. I never realized how special that group was before discovering the difficulty of finding a place here with the potential to mean as much. We’re still looking and have decided we’ll know when we find the place we’re supposed to be.

Finally, as always, I want to work on relationship with God and with people. I want to strengthen my prayer life and have it strengthen me in my effort toward effective and kind relationships with everybody.

Like a great mentor has often told me, when a coffee cup is bumped, what spills out is what’s inside it.

When life bumps me, I want what spills out to be the result of a prayer life that instills the fruits of the spirit.

 

 

Auld Lang Syne to the Good Times

In a few hours and with a flip of the calendar, it’ll be 2020.

Just like that, we’re already closing the door on the first 20 years of the 21st century.

And don’t look now, but here comes a leap year, an Olympics year and another election year. I won’t necessarily leap; I definitely won’t take the field of athletic competition; and the last time I ran for an election was as a freshman senator in college.

On this occasion to see one year out and a new year in, I’m stopping to remember all the good that came my way in 2019. Set aside the fact we’re also rolling over into a new decade, 12 months is long enough to recount.

Hank, Bill, Jerry, me, Woody, Hank and Don

First, in chronological order, Bill and I got to spend a long January weekend with some exceptionally good, and good-hearted, people. Also known as “the Porch Gang,” for the group’s virtual–if not often, actual–gathering to support, pray with and encourage one another. It’s like the five best uncles I could have: two Hanks, a Woody, a Don and a Jerry. Plus Bill. Plus me.

We got together at Hank’s family’s mountain cabin. We cooked, we ate, we talked, we laughed, we hiked and we shared prayer concerns and prayers of thanksgiving.

The time was precious.

Then came the annual “Ladies Night” for us women alumni of the Knoxville News Sentinel. Sadly, only one of us still works at the newspaper, but we share a bond as friends, not just former co-workers, that brings us together once a year for the sole purpose of catching up. This year marks 20 since I left the paper, and I look forward more every year to gathering with this feisty bunch.

Springtime in the Great Smoky Mountains brought a day among the wildflowers with the most fun pair of hiking wildflower experts I know. Living in Chattanooga keeps me from getting to hike with Tami and Jennifer as much as I’d like, so I jump at any chance.

Chase Bradley Lankford at 2 weeks old.
Yes! She did it!

Almost too many good things to count came in May, starting with this little guy’s entry into the world. Pleased to meet you, Chase Bradley Lankford.

At work, I officially staffed spring commencement for the first time in May. A perk of the job, in my opinion. I took this photo and, every time I look at it, I remember having this feeling myself, though I never took my shoes off when I graduated.

At the two-week period in late May and early June when our wedding anniversary comes in between our birthdays, Bill and I treated ourselves to a long weekend at Cataloochee Ranch. It’s a patch of paradise high on the North Carolina side of the Smoky Mountains. The treat was because May 22 wasn’t just any anniversary–it was our 25th.

That’s right. The Big Two Five. The Silver Showdown. Celebrating Cataloochee-style was just our speed: Scratch-made meals; a cabin for two under starry skies; wildflower-lined hiking trails; and Hemphill Bald.

25th anniversary sky at Cataloochee Ranch

If you ever have the chance to go there, run, don’t walk.

 

And while we were in the neighborhood, we also got to swing by and visit with some of our favorite people and hiking partners–who kept the celebration rolling.

Good times with good people at work

Speaking of anniversaries, I marked my first at UTC, too. It had been a good year and I get to work with good people, so what to do? Order a delicious custom cake baked by the exceptionally talented partner of one of my co-workers, of course.

As summer got going, Bill and I got adventurous–looking up and checking out the trails to be hiked in, around and beyond the Scenic City. We hiked Signal Mountain; Lookout Mountain; the Chickamauga Creek greenways; Cold Mountain, North Carolina; Fort Mountain, Georgia; Sewanee, Tennessee; and even the infamous Fiery Gizzard trail on Monteagle Mountain.

Here’s a secret people who haven’t hiked the Fiery Gizzard don’t know: It’s not as bad as its reputation. Keep that to yourself, though–there’s a legend to maintain.

But the Mac-Daddy adventure of our entire summer came on July 3. That’s when we buckled up life jackets, climbed into kayaks for the first time, paddled three miles down the Tennessee River to downtown Chattanooga and took in the fireworks show from the water. Bobbling in comfort under the rockets’ red glare. That remains the most fun thing we’ve yet done in Chattanooga, and it was a good time I’ll never forget.

You can check it out here:

We also enjoyed visits from old, dear friends. We loved getting to see them and eagerly await the next times.

Tucked beneath “Umbrella Rock”

Where my enthusiasm for hiking and my job met, I took on the opportunity to talk about hiking with Chattanooga’s public radio audience. WUTC-FM is the Chattanooga National Public Radio affiliate and on the UTC campus. Its oversight is part of the Communications and Marketing Division–of which I’m a part–and when asked to contribute regular hiking segments to the daily interview program Scenic Roots I got to work.

Spending a little more time with the radio station team gave me a greater exposure to some of their special projects and underwriting partners. Voila! I learned about an annual benefit for Point Park, part of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park Site. Bill and I went to the informal party on the mountaintop and got to know more about this local gem and other gem-appreciating people.

Plus, we got to go behind the locked gate to “Umbrella Rock” — unlocked on this one day each year — and check out the remarkable balancing boulder up close for ourselves.

View from Mount Cammerer, stunning in any color.

We looked forward to hosting Thanksgiving for the first time at our place in Chattanooga and stayed busy through fall working to finish some projects on the house and make it ready for company.

But we still made time to get back to Great Smoky Mountains National Park for a hike up Mount Cammerer in all its fall glory.

Only summer didn’t know when to quit and temperatures were reaching 95 and 100 degrees even in the first week of October.

That put fall glory at least a couple of weeks late, but what are you gonna do? I had the time we had planned for the third week in October, and that’s when we went. Mount Cammerer was still glorious, even if not in a full fall foliage kind of way.

Next thing you know, Thanksgiving was here and we had a lot of fun feeding family and friends around our table.

And, since Thanksgiving came right at the end of November this year, Christmas got here just three weeks later.

We had a good one, better than we deserved and every bit appreciated.

On this last day of the year which also ends a decade, I’m remembering hearing of a New Year’s Eve tradition once when we spent that holiday with dear old friends who then lived in Columbia, Missouri.

The city’s organized festivities included an opportunity to write your burdens of the year ending onto pieces of paper and then toss them into a fire–symbolically casting off those burdens and starting the new year with a clean slate.

I’ve been intrigued by that notion ever since. I’ve wondered if its origins might be in this verse from the 55th Psalm, verse 22:

“Cast your burden on the Lord,
And He shall sustain you;
He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.”

I’m not always good at remembering to leave things to God or that what happens is according to His will, but in the year ahead I want to strengthen my prayer life toward being more in step with and seeking His will. Because whether there are pictures or video to prove it, every day of every year brings a blessing.