Resolutions With No Expiration Date

It’s late January – time to check expiration dates and clean out seriously questionable food items purchased for holiday consumption. The eggnog is now laying rotten eggs, the 40-proof rum cake is producing penicillin and the turkey has a greenish hue.

My husband, the ex-POW, sees expiration dates as exaggerated suggestions that contribute to food waste. His seven-year diet in the “Hanoi Hilton” would make “murky” turkey a treat. What I won’t eat is, to him, who nearly starved, “just barely over the hill.”

But despite his resistance, the fridge is now clean, a metaphor for my bare calendar all ready to fill up with lofty goals, new attitudes and no expiration dates.

1) I have vowed to get fit – well, fitter. It’s been almost three years since sciatica sidelined me, and now after availing myself of every known sciatica remedy outside of surgery, I’m now mostly pain-free. But after such a long layoff from cycling or running, I’m taking the approach all “mature” folks should take: slow and slower. Unrealistic expectations are the enemy of muscle-building and freedom from injury. According to a great online resource,, 24 percent of people who make resolutions don’t succeed and, shamefully, only 14 percent of people over age 50 achieve their goals, as compared to 39 percent of those in their 20s. There’s no expiration date on youthful persistence.

2) Curtail the whining. I’ve done my share of it, a shameful admission, given I live with someone who was tortured for seven years, has had four heart attacks, six knee surgeries and never whines. It seems like we’re becoming a nation of whiners. American women whine over not getting free birth control pills and men whine over sexual dysfunction. Taxpayers through Medicare (for 65-plus-year-olds) paid more than $172 million for penis pumps between 2006 and 2011. Can an already strapped health care system sustain such indulgences? Please put an expiration date on taxpayers having to subsidize personal choice.

3) Study about other nations. Last week PBS Front-line aired an illuminating special, Secret State of North Korea, which revealed what its despotic Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un desperately wants kept hidden: starvation, concentration camps and executions. It also showed a glimmer of hope: defectors who escaped to the South encouraging their countrymen through smuggled film and television programs. This protest movement is small and gravely dangerous for those trying to communicate with the outside world from a country in which every third person is a government snitch and punishment is life in a camp or death. But a seed planted can grow. This year I pledge to learn more of real struggles of people who live, not by choice, under cruel regimes where repression and fear destroy hope, which should never expire.

4) Go back to Africa. After six years of traveling to Swaziland to serve with Heart for Africa, health issues kept me from returning since 2010. If my passport arrives on time, I’ll be holding babies there by the time you read this column. HFA’s nonprofit initiative called Project Canaan now cares for 48 abandoned babies rescued since 2012 and brought to their El Roi care home. All have medical challenges, some very serious, but most are meeting them and are astoundingly resilient. On my first trip in 2005, I thought I was going to Africa to help. Soon I realized that the humble, grateful people I met there helped me get over myself. No expiration date on opening eyes to the humanity of other nations.

5) Participate in electing better state representatives. This is an election year, a season I usually dread. But how can I complain about the state of our state if I’m not willing to get involved, know where the candidates stand on issues and hold incumbents accountable? Polls show that we’re all disappointed in our public servants, who seem to push their own imperial agendas without regard for the majority will. I plan to get on board in some way to make my will heard. No expiration date on good citizenship.