I’ve been thinking about New Year’s resolutions lately. Mine usually involve something along the lines of “go vegetarian,” “exercise more,” “shrink environmental footprint,” etc., etc., etc.

“Quit swearing” has been on my annual to-do list for 20 years. This year, I actually made it all the way to July 21 with no f-bombs (and only a few of the six other words you can’t say on TV). Then we got new computers and software at the office, and after two months of remarkable patience on my part, I discovered one afternoon that “THE word, the big one, the Queen-Mother of dirty words,” was really the only term sufficient to express the true scope of my delight over the joys of trying to put together two sections of the newspaper on deadline while playing fun games like “Find the Hidden Toolbar,” “Figure Out What Top-Secret Red Button You Just Accidentally Pushed to Put That Gradient Box Around Every Object on the Page,” and “Guess Why the Macs Aren’t on Speaking Terms with the PCs This Week.”

My performance in the area of watching my mouth has been spotty since then. I want to emulate my practitioner’s Zenlike ability to remain perfectly calm and utter something profound in the face of a crisis of epic proportions. I’m not there yet. But I am trying. In the meantime, I console myself with the knowledge that I can drive from south Tulsa to Red Fork during rush hour every evening without flipping anybody off or mouthing any obscenities. So let’s call that one a work-in-progress, accept as given that I will continue to make gradual improvements in this area, and drop the silly pretenses about everything magically changing at the stroke of midnight on Dec. 31.

Looking at the bathroom scale, I can see that I need to lose about 20 pounds. Maybe 25.

Looking at my house, I can see that I need to sort my files, organize my possessons, run the vacuum, buy a curio cabinet to hold the ever-expanding assortment of Route 66 detritus cluttering up the mantelpiece, repaint several rooms, and tack up the bibs I collected at my last five races.

Looking at the stacks of unread books and magazines piled all over the house, I can see that I need to spend more time reading and less time driving around aimlessly in search of ways to amuse myself while I try to think of a good reason to avoid doing whatever it is I am supposed to be doing. (Really, I should probably work on that whole procrastination thing while I’m at it.)

But I am not going to make any New Year’s resolutions about any of these things.

Instead, I am going to focus my entire attention on something my practitioner keeps hammering on: the concept of “taking no thought.” Every time I call Brad with some flavor-of-the-week crisis, he points me toward the Sermon on the Mount, and his standard M.O. involves reminding me about Jesus’ admonition to “Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on.” Approximately 99 percent of the problems I call Brad and whine about are a direct result of my apparent inability to apply that concept to the matter at hand.

My New Year’s resolution for 2007, then, is to take no thought. I am going to spend less time worrying about stupid stuff and more time listening to the little voice in the back of my thought that advises me to do stuff like grabbing Songdog’s leash and taking him for a jog in the pouring rain, or stopping at QuikTrip for a can of Slim-Fast and a taquito so I don’t spend my entire morning thinking about food because I skipped breakfast, or throwing out my to-do list and spending my entire Saturday afternoon curled up on the couch with this week’s Sentinel.

I’m guessing that after an entire year of “taking no thought,” I will see some changes. I expect my environmental footprint will shrink on its own as I quit deluding myself into thinking that $60 worth of forgotten organic groceries rotting in the fridge will somehow cancel out all the takeout lunches I’ve eaten out of styrofoam boxes in the past week. My waist will probably shrink as I stop eating just because it’s lunchtime and start eating when I’m hungry (and not eating when I’m not hungry). I’ll get more exercise by allowing myself (and my dogs) the childlike joy of recess. I imagine the swearing habit will fall away as my spiritual understanding grows — which is bound to happen when I allow myself to study whenever I feel like it instead of waiting for some preset time and place that sound good in theory but may or may not work out in practice.

I may be wrong. But even if I am … who cares? I won’t be any worse off than I am now. And at least I won’t have the added guilt of having broken yet another
unrealistic New Year’s resolution.

What’s your New Year’s resolution for 2007?



Wrap it up. I’ll take it.

So I went to kung fu class this morning. I think that’s the most fun I’ve had since I moved to Tulsa. I have no idea how I managed to make it almost three years without setting foot on a mat. Guess it’s like any addiction: You’re OK as long as you stay away from it completely, but as soon as you get another hit, it’s all over. 😉

After some initial stretching and a few crunches and push-ups, we went right into stances, blocks, rolls, and falls.

A lot of the moves are the same things we did in karate, except they have different names, but there were a lot of stances I hadn’t learned yet, and some of the blocks were different.

One major difference is in the way we hold our hands: In karate, we usually kept our hands in fists so we were ready to punch the snot out of an attacker. In kung fu, we keep our hands more open — often in sort of a tiger-claw position — so that’s a big thing I’ll have to remember.

The best thing about this morning: I finally got the hang of forward rolls. My new sifu (instructor — the Chinese equivalent of sensei), Chris Johnston, made me do them over and over and over and over and over and over and over until I got them. And I didn’t get to start from a kneeling position like we did in karate, either. I had to dive right in from a standing position. Scary. Awesome, but scary. And as soon as I got the hang of rolling over my right arm and shoulder, he said, “Good! Now, try it with the other arm.”


I didn’t do that quite so well, but I intend to move the furniture out of the way in the living room and devote part of next week to left-handed zempo kaitens. (I don’t know what we call them in kung fu, but that was what they were called in karate.) I don’t do weakness, and I don’t do fear. Both got the best of me this morning, but that’ll be the last time I let that happen. If I can’t work through those claims by myself, I’ll just cheat and call a practitioner.

If anybody in Tulsa is looking for a good place to work out, this class meets at noon Saturdays and 6 p.m. Wednesdays behind the QuikTrip at Southwest Boulevard and 33rd Avenue West. It’s in the strip mall up behind the QT. Sifu Chris Johnston and his wife used to hold classes over on Sheridan, but they live in Red Fork and got sick of driving all the way across town for class umpteen times a week. The new location isn’t “officially” open, but Chris says anybody who’s interested is welcome to come in and work out for free. Once he finishes remodeling the new space, he’ll start charging for classes and holding more workouts per week. In the meantime, you’ve got a primo chance to come in and see whether kung fu is your bag.

I found martial arts to be a very liberating sort of thing. Besides being a terrific workout, it gave me a lot of confidence. Ron was laughing about it today, remembering how different I was before my first lesson. I spent 25 years scared of my shadow, afraid somebody was going to attack me. After about three lessons, I was sort of hoping somebody would try something stupid so I could test-drive my latest kick.

A few years later, I’ve mellowed considerably, but I’m still the one who gets up to see what went bump in the night. These days, I’ll certainly respond to an attack with prayer … but as far as I’m concerned, if somebody tries to hurt me, there’s no reason I can’t recognize his innocence as a child of God while he’s lying face-down on the ground with his arm pinned behind his back, waiting for the cops to show up. My practitioner assures me that we always have the right to restrain error. Beating the poor schlep senseless just for the fun of it would be considered conduct unbecoming a Christian Scientist, but dealing with an emergency in a sensible manner is certainly not out of line.


The Street of the Lifted Karateka

Two random topics this morning:

1. In my eternal state of dementia concretia, I have decided that I simply cannot live without a replica of the Lorax’s Last Stand in my garden. What you can’t see from the picture on Amazon is that the circle of rocks left behind when the Lorax departed includes a half-moon-shaped stone engraved with the word, “UNLESS.” This thing is going in my garden. Probaby around the dog waste composter. Too bad I can’t find something that looks like a Truffula tree to plant in it. I wonder if that would make a suitable site for a Bottle Tree instead?

While we’re on the subject of the Lorax, has anybody else noticed that magic scarves bear a striking resemblance to Thneeds? I keep thinking I should get a bright pink one and wear it with a Lorax T-shirt and just see who gets it….

2. Two and a half years ago, after four years of combat karate lessons, I packed up and moved to Tulsa, where I promised myself I would get back on the mat somewhere as soon as humanly possible. Then, in typical Emily Priddy fashion, I got sidetracked and found myself up to my teeth in dozens of other projects. But it appears that a new dojo, a new sensei, and a new fighting style are about to materialize right here in Red Fork. A guy who lives here in Red Fork but ran a kung fu school on the other side of town has secured a space in the strip mall down the street, and at noon today, I will be bowing into his dojo and finding out just exactly how combat kung fu compares to combat karate.

Which means I’ve got about 10 minutes to get dressed, pull my hair back out of my eyes, and figure out where I put my gear. Let’s see … tonfas? Check. Gi bottoms? Check. ‘Chuks? Bueller…? Bueller…? Ah, fuhgedaboutit. If they’re working nunchakus, I’ll borrow a set. I have no idea where I put my belt. Which doesn’t matter anyway, because this is a new art and a new instructor and I’m starting back at the bottom of the food chain. Maybe I can figure out where my white belt went before the next lesson….


Stuff I have learned

I was thinking about all the stuff I have learned in the past year. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but I think it hits the highlights pretty well:

1. A fiery temper should be considered a manifestation of error, not a personality trait.
2. Nobody is really an idiot, although a good stunt double can make it look that way sometimes.
3. It is entirely possible for conservatives and hippies to get along, even without the assistance of beer.
4. Chivalry is not dead.
5. Every girl should know how to defend herself against an attacker, change a tire, and perform basic home repairs. It should not, however, be considered antifeminist to allow a man to do any of the above for you if it seems appropriate.
6. Richard Bach was right: “There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in its hands.”
7. And the real gift is understanding that there is really no such thing as a problem. Period.
8. Bruce Lee was right: Sometimes your opponents are your best teachers.
9. Mortal mind is a terrorist. Don’t negotiate with it.
10. When you believe you’ve been wronged, take the Hitchhiker’s Guide’s advice: DON’T PANIC.
11. In a pinch, it is perfectly reasonable to expect God to supply you with quarters for the parking meter.
12. In heavy traffic, it’s funny to flash a peace sign at the guy who just flipped you a bird.
13. Life is prettier when you pay attention to sunsets.
14. Wintergreen Lifesavers really do make sparks in the dark.
15. One well-placed ladybug can restore your faith in humanity.
16. Feeling competent is not a prerequisite for successful healing work.
17. Helping somebody else will soothe a migraine faster than Excedrin.
18. The Beatles had it right: All you need is Love.

What have you learned this year?


Diamond Girl

I don’t remember whether I’ve owned up to this previously, but I am a HUGE Neil Diamond fan. This song is the primary reason. It’s from his soundtrack to the movie Jonathan Livingston Seagull, which was more or less based on the book by Richard Bach.

The movie was a trainwreck, but the soundtrack was phenomenal, and when I pulled it out of my mom’s closet during a day off from school my sophomore year of high school, it inspired me to reread the book — which has, in turn, inspired more or less every gutsy thing I’ve ever done in my entire life: teaching high school, conquering my fear of heights, running my first marathon. You name it — if it tested my courage or my confidence, I probably read the book again before I tackled it.

If you want to know what makes me tick, read Jonathan. It’s all in there.

In the meantime, the lyrics to “Be” will stand in for Cliff’s Notes:

On a painted sky
Where the clouds are hung
For the poet’s eye
You may find him
If you may find him

On a distant shore
By the wings of dreams
Through an open door
You may know him
If you may

As a page that aches for a word
Which speaks on a theme that is timeless
And the one God will make for your day

As a song in search of a voice that is silent
And the sun
God will make for your way

And we dance
To a whispered voice
Overheard by the soul,
Undertook by the heart
And you may know it
If you may know it

While the sand would become the stone
Which begat the spark
Turned to living bone
Holy, holy
Sanctus, sanctus

As a page that aches for a word
Which speaks on a theme that is timeless
While the one God will make for your day

As a song in search of a voice that is silent
And the one God will make for your way

— Neil Diamond

One of the coolest things I’ve ever done involved teaching the students in a special ed English class to interpret symbolism and write a five-sentence paragraph using Jonathan Livingston Seagull as the basis for the lessons. I was observing in their classroom one semester in college, and their teacher (who loved them dearly, but who had enough classroom experience to believe in the concept of limitation) assured me that there was no way any of them would be able to write a paragraph, but I was welcome to beat my head against that wall if I wanted to.

Over the next few days, the class and I read the book together, talked about what it meant, identified some symbols in it, discussed their significance, and then every last one of those kids wrote an essay called “The Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done.”

They got it. And by the time they were done, I think their teacher did, too.

Deep down, we are all Jonathan.


Signs of life

OK … it’s the day after Christmas, and I’ve got a mosquito buzzing around my office. Something isn’t right here.

Ah, well. If that’s the price I pay for a mild winter, I’ll take it. It’s chilly out, but not horrible. It was much colder last night, but I didn’t mind too much, because we had a warm fire going. Scout spent most of her Christmas stretched out next to the stove, soaking up the warmth. It takes a lot to coax her off the papasan, but the stove can do it.

I went to the Country Store today, just because I was in the mood to think about planting stuff. Bill and Kathey were happy to see me. Bill said the sight of me wandering into the store gave him hope that spring wasn’t too far away. “You’re like the first robin,” he said. “The first spring customer comes in, and I know the winter will be over before too long.”

I liked that.

The day the Cubs’ pitchers and catchers report to camp is the day spring training (and thus, to my way of thinking, spring itself) begins … which means we’re 50 days away from the first day of spring. 😉

Just wait ’til next year!

Oh, yeah — I bought a bag of sunflower seeds for the birds while I was at the Country Store. I’m hoping to attract bluejays. I haven’t really seen any since we moved, although Kathey says they’re all over the place. Maybe I can coax them into our yard. Mom and I used to have a ball watching the bluejays fight with the squirrels over the maple seeds that came twirling down from the trees in front of our house when I was a kid. Grace and I used to pick up the beautiful blue feathers the jays dropped, too.