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At the end of each month, I report on the progress of my New Year’s resolutions (or lack thereof).

Here are the result through the end of July.

PERSONAL FITNESS

1. Don’t die.

Still alive!

The coronavirus is still out there, trying to infect me, but happily, I live in Connecticut, one of the most successful state in the country in terms of flattening the curve with an infection rate of less than 1%.

I continue to wear my mask, social distance, and avoid large, indoor crowds because I believe in science, doctors, and common sense. I’m not a stupid, selfish idiot, and happily, most of the people around me are the same.

2. Lose 20 pounds.

Still done! I lost 20 pounds by the end of March, and I managed to maintain the weight loss through the month of July. I had hoped to drop additional pounds since March, but thus far I have only managed to maintain the weight loss.

My bike needed a tune up and was gone for a week, not helping this cause.

3. Eat at least three servings of fruits and/or vegetables per day, six days a week.

Done! I’m eating more fruits and vegetables than ever before.

Pandemic silver lining.

4. Do at least 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, and 3 one-minute planks for five days a week.

Done. I’ve got some elbow pain from swinging a golf club – a yearly occurrence – which hasn’t made this easy. But my wounded knee is almost entirely healed, so I’ve essentially traded a knee for an elbow.

I’d normally get some physical therapy on the elbow, but not in the age of COVID-19. Instead, I purchased some physical therapy devices that should help.

Also, after learning about a 62 year-old man setting the new world record for a plank at more than 8 hours, I’ve begun extending my plank time. I did one 6-minute plank in February, and I’m doing 2-minute planks now regularly.

I had hoped to do a 10-minute plank by the end of March. Four months later and I’m still not even close.

I’ve also been using this quote from the film The Edge as my personal mantra: “What one man has done another can do.”

5. Set a new personal best in golf.

Done! Kind of…

After struggling for two weeks to actually hit the ball and not the ground, my friend, Jeff, gave me a swing idea that has changed everything. Suddenly I’m striking the ball again. I’m hitting easy, relaxed shots. The ball has been traveling farther. It’s been amazing.

On Monday of this week, with temperatures approach 100 degrees, I played golf for the first time on my own. I couldn’t wait to put Jeff’s swing thought to use again. Plus the heat never affects me. I actually kind of like it.

I played on a short, par 31 course in town, listening to Springsteen as I played. I shot a 36. Five bogies and four pars. My best score by far for that course or any course. My previous personal best was an 11 over 47 on a regulation, par 36 course.

So did I complete my goal? I don’t know. The course is only 1,660 yard compared to a regulation course, which is between 3,100 to 3,500 yards for nine holes. Given that I struggle to hit the ball far, this short course favors my rapidly improving short game and excellent putting skills.

Yes, it was the best I have ever scored, but it also felt like cheating a bit in terms of my goal.

So I don’t know. I’ll think about it. And keep trying to best my 47 on a regulation course.

WRITING CAREER

6. Complete my seventh novel before the end of 2020.

Work continues.

My first middle grade novel was just sent to its third editor, too, so work should commence on that soon.

7. Write/complete at least five new picture books, including one with a female, non-white protagonist.

No progress.

8. Write a memoir.

Writing continues.

9. Write a new screenplay.

This goal has transitioned into a musical (sort of a screenplay) that I am now writing and will perform with my friend, Kaia, despite the fact that I cannot sing.

We have decided on a topic, theme, and overall plan. Forward momentum. Music is currently being written. I await the first song.

10. Submit at least five Op-Ed pieces to The New York Times for consideration.

DONE!

A total of six submissions in 2020.

None were accepted, but one was later accepted by the Hartford Courant and ran in the Op-Ed section in March.

Another has been accepted by the Hartford Courant and will be running this month.

11. Submit one or more short stories to at least three publishing outlets.

None submitted in 2020.

12. Select two behaviors that I am opposed to and adopt them for one week, then write about my experiences on the blog.

I’ve identified tow behaviors to try.

First, I’m going to read 50 Shades of Gray. I’ve always assumed that it’s a terrible book, but at a recent party, I listened to friends disparage this book (despite having never read it), which automatically made me want to defend the book based upon its commercial success and their hints of literary elitism.

I also have an oppositional disposition, so I almost instinctually take the opposing viewpoint in many situations. I’m a joy to be around

Second, I will engage in the weirdness of ASMR for a month.

If you have any suggestions, fire away.

13. Increase my newsletter subscriber base to 5,000.

I added 51 subscribers in July for a total of 4,318.

I need to find a way to increase subscribers more rapidly.

If you’d like to sign up for my newsletter, you can do so here.

14. Write at least six letters to my father.

Done! Seven letters written thus far in 2020. I’ve also received several letters from my father, which have been amazing.

15. Write 100 letters in 2020.

Just three letters written in July.

A total of 25 written so far in 2020.

16. Convert 365 Days of Elysha into a book.

No progress.

17. Complete and release my limited episode podcast on “Twenty-One Truths About Love.”

The podcast is nearly complete. Episodes with my editor, the cover designer, and more are ready to go. I need to record the first episode with Elysha and finish editing the last one and it will be ready to launch.

The plan is to wait until 2021 to launch the podcast in conjunction with the paperback release of my novel, making the completion of this goal impossible in 2020.

STORYTELLING/SPEAKING CAREER

18. Produce a total of 12 Speak Up storytelling events.

This goal has become much more challenging to accomplish, but progress is being made!

Elysha and I produced a virtual solo show in July, featuring students from a recent storytelling workshop. This brings our our total number of storytelling shows in 2020 to seven.

Two in real life, four virtual solo shows, and one traditional, virtual show.

We have three traditional, virtual Speak Up shows featuring a variety of storytellers scheduled for August, September, and October, plus a Voices of Hope virtual show in September. We are also in talks with a venue for a socially distant, outdoor event, which will get us close to the goal.

19. Pitch myself to at least 5 upcoming TEDx events with the hopes of being accepted by one.

DONE!

I pitched myself to five TEDx events in 2020 thus far:

TEDx Salem State University
TEDx Hartford
TEDx UConn
TEDx Wesleyan
TEDx Yale.

TEDx Hartford passed. I await word from the others.

I also helped two clients get accepted to speak in TEDx events in 2020 ands 2021.

I was supposed to be speaking at a TEDx event in the Berkshires in April, but that event has been rescheduled for later in the year.

20. Attend at least 15 Moth events with the intention of telling a story.

I attended three virtual Moth StorySLAMs in July, competing in all three.

Seven events so far in 2020. The pandemic has made this a lot harder, but thanks to the virtual world, it may still be possible.

21. Win at least three Moth StorySLAMs.

I won a virtual Moth StorySLAM in in Boston. It was my second win in 2020, my first virtual win, and my 49th Moth StorySLAM victory in all.

I also tied for first in another virtual Moth StorySLAM but then lost the tie breaking vote.

One victory to go.

22. Win a Moth GrandSLAM.

I completed in a Moth GrandSLAM in Boston in February and finished in second place.

I have several victories – both virtual and in real life – in the bank, but it’s uncertain if The Moth will even be producing any more GrandSLAMs in 2020.

23. Produce at least 40 episodes of our podcast Speak Up Storytelling.

Elysha and I produced three more episodes in July, including episode #100.

A total of 21 new episodes in 2020. We’ll need to increase the pace to hit the yearly goal.

24. Begin providing transcriptions of each episode of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast.

No progress.

25. Explore the monetization of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast.

DONE!

Our Patreon page is up and running, and so far 25 people have been kind enough to commit to a monthly contribution. In exchange for their commitment, they are receiving bonus content on the Patreon page, including interviews with storytellers, instruction material, behind-the-scenes ph0tos, and more.

If you’d like to become a patron and support the work we do at Speak Up, click here.

26. Perform stand up at least six times in 2020.

No performances in July and no performances in 2020.

Given the nature of the world, this goal is going to be much harder now, though I may start to look for online open mics. Or maybe doing my own virtual comedy performance?

That sounds terrifying, which is why it’s also appealing.

27. Pitch at least three stories to This American Life.

No stories pitched in July. No stories pitched in 2020.

28. Pitch myself to Marc Maron’s WTF podcast at least three times.

No pitches sent in July. Two pitches sent so far in 2020.

29. Produce at least one new video for my YouTube channel each month.

I posted one new instructional video in July.

Thirteen new videos in total in 2020.

Subscribe to my YouTube channel here.

30. Find a means of producing my storytelling instruction for an online platform.

DONE! I taught multiple an online storytelling workshop since the pandemic struck, starting in April with about 70 people from 17 different states and 8 different countries in partnership with MOPCO Improv theater.

In July, I taught a similar storytelling workshop in partnership with MOPCO Improv Theater.

I’m also currently teaching four six-week online storytelling workshops to six people each.

LOTS of online instruction happening now. Another pandemic silver lining.

Ultimately I want to develop asynchronous offerings using recorded instruction, but this has been an excellent start.

HOME

31. Print, hang, and/or display at least 25 prints, photos, or portraits in our home.

Art has arrived. The devices needed for hanging the art has arrived. Elysha is beginning to work on framing. I sent out one piece out for framing today.

Frankly, this is Elysha’s job now, but I’m confident that it will be done soon and well.

32. Replace the 12 ancient, energy-inefficient windows in our home with new windows that will keep the cold out and actually open in the warmer months.

DONE! 14 windows replaced!

33. Clear the basement.

I’ve been taking advantage of my town’s free bulk pickup each week. Progress is slow but steady.

Incrementalism, people. Some jobs are best done through consistency and vigilance.

34. Refinish the hardwood floors.

This might be a problem. Hardwood floors require at least a few days to be completed, and we have cats. The cats will absolutely not stay with anyone else while the floors are being done, so what the hell are we going to do?

Also, the coronavirus might make this impossible in 2020.

35. Purchase a new television.

Done! It’s large and beautiful and professionally mounted to the wall.

THANK GOODNESS we did this early in the year. Our new couch, chair, television, and streaming services have been invaluable during this period of social distancing.

FAMILY/FRIENDS

36. Take at least one photo of my children every day.

I missed zero days in July. I’ve missed 12 days in 2020. Social distancing makes this job much easier.

37. Take at least one photo with Elysha and myself each week.

I missed two of the four weeks in July. I need to find a way to do better, because I want more photos of Elysha and myself.

38. Cook at least 12 good meals (averaging one per month) in 2020.

DONE! I stopped counting at 25 meals. I’m well over 50 at this point.

This pandemic has done wonders for cooking skills.

39. Ride my bike with my kids at least 25 times in 2020.

DONE!

I stopped counting at 30.

Charlie also has a new bike. I drove the car over his old one.

40. Plan a reunion of the Heavy Metal Playhouse.

No progress. This is probably impossible in 2020. Though a virtual reunion might be possible and also awkward and awful.

41. I will not comment, positively or negatively, about physical appearance of any person save my wife and children, in 2020 in an effort to reduce the focus on physical appearance in our culture overall.

Still done. I’m not seeing many people these days, so this has gotten even easier.

42. Surprise Elysha at least six times in 2020.

DONE!

I bought Elysha two sets of stickers for use in her amazing, fantastic, super creative bullet journal. One is a roll of girl power stickers and the other is a collage of female heroes.

I also hired a musician to convert three of her favorite Francis England songs into sheet music for the ukulele so she could begin playing those songs as an anniversary gift. I also paid for three more songs to be written for the ukulele.

This was accompanied by a card that she loved. I take cards for the wrong occasion and transform them into a card for the correct occasion, which she has always adored. In this case, I took a “Congratulations on your child’s baptism” and turned it into a “Happy anniversary” card.

Not easy!

Surprises thus far:

  • Ukulele sheet music for Francis England songs
  • Bullet journal stickers
  • A pin from the Smith College Botanical Garden
  • An adjustable standing/lap desk in April.
  • Tickets to a now-postponed Mike Birbiglia’s appearance in New Haven in May
  • A bouquet of flowers sent to her workplace on her birthday in January.

Six surprises so far in 2020.

43. Play poker at least six times in 2020.

DONE!

My friends and I used a combination of a poker app, Zoom, Venmo, and Spotify to spend an evening playing poker one time in July.

Seven games played so far in 2020.

I’ll certainly be playing more.

44. Spend at least six days with my best friend of more than 30 years.

Bengi and I went on a long walk in July.

Four long walks in all in 2020.

NEW PROJECTS

45. Understand Instagram better.

No progress, but this can’t be that hard. Right? It’s just a matter of either reading and/or speaking to someone who understands it better than me.

46. Listen to new music via the Billboard Hot 100 Spotify playlist at least four times per month.

Done! I’ve been listening to this playlist while riding my bike. I like some of the songs, but boy do I miss bands with guitars and basses and drums.

47. Host a fundraiser for RIP Medical Debt, which would allow us to relieve the medical debt of struggling Americans for pennies on the dollar.

No progress. Though I still find this issue incredibly important, it’s hard to ask people to donate to a cause like this when there are so many needs in this work right now and so many Americans without jobs. As a result, I’ve been hesitant to start this project.

Perhaps the second half of 2020 will look better, but given what I’ve seen thus far, that is unlikely.

48. Complete my Eagle Scout project.

No progress. Though I would love to complete this goal, it will require me to travel to Massachusetts and do work that probably doesn’t make a lot of sense in the midst of a pandemic, so chances of completing this goal are looking slim.

49. Scan and send photos of Laura to her daughters.

No progress, but this is a goal that can be completed in a day with some concerted effort.

50. Post my progress in terms of these resolutions on this blog and social media on the first day of every month.

Done!