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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 May.

PERSONAL FITNESS

1. Don’t die.

I managed to avoid COVID-19 and two jerks who ignored stop signs and nearly ran me down on my bike during the month of May.

I also discovered that my father was exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam, and his multiple heart attacks are likely the result of his exposure to the chemical. This means it’s unlikely that I have any genetic link to his heart condition, so all of the extra testing on my heart has probably been unnecessary, and all the of the excellent results have been real.

So that’s good news.

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 May, despite my wife’s nearly daily baking of bread.

Credit my rapid weight loss not to any crash diet or insane exercise regime, but instead to a few, simple switches in my life:

  • Avoidance of all vending machines (a lot easier now)
  • Zero candy bars in 2020
  • One cheeseburger per week
  • Healthy, low calorie lunches of oatmeal, fruit, and soup
  • Identification of low calorie, much loved snacks

When the gym closed, I also pulled the bike out of the garage and started riding. I’m riding 10-15 miles per day now, rain or shine. I haven’t missed a day since March 12, which includes biking in one snow squall and one hailstorm. I can’t believe I didn’t do this sooner. I’ll be biking long after COVID-19 is the thing of the past.

Oh, and jumping jacks. I do a lot of jumping jacks. They are easy, burn calories, and make me feel good. Also, research indicates that just four seconds of high intensity several times a day and counteract the effects of sitting for long periods of time and increase your metabolism.

That’s it. Simple switches like boosting effort during the exercise I was already doing, avoiding high calorie foods that don’t fill you up, and finding the right snacks.

Simple switches. I believe in this strategy.

My job now is to maintain the 20 pound weight loss and lose another 20 pounds, which would bring me down to my high school pole vaulting weight.

Maybe unrealistic, but I lost 20 pounds in three months without much effort, so another 20 pounds in 8 months feels doable.

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

Done! Crushing this. 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. When you teach from home, this gets a lot easier. Five minutes to kill between calls? Do three sets of push-ups.

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. Two months later and I’m still not even close. However, I purchased a device to turn planks into a game. This may help.

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.

I played about ten rounds of golf in May. I have yet to break 50 for nine holes, but I’m striking the ball much better, hitting it a lot farther, and definitely improving. My friend, Scott, has also changed my putting stroke, which will supposedly improve my putting. Eventually.

WRITING CAREER

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

I met with my new editor, Alice, in February to confirm that she doesn’t think the next idea for my new novel is stupid, and she doesn’t. She seems to like it quite a bit, so it’s full steam ahead.

I was also working on revising my first middle grade novel, but my editor was recently laid off, meaning this book will now be handed off to a third editor and probably delayed.

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 at a glacial pace.

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 had encountered unexpected and unavoidable delays, but we are getting back on track now. We spoke at length this week about the project.

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

DONE!

One more piece submitted in May for a total of six 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 shortly.

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 a behavior to try:

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

Another behavior I’m considering:

Engaging in the weirdness of ASMR, but it might just be too stupid to try.

If you have any suggestions, fire away.

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

I added 25 subscribers in May for a total of 4,250.

I need to pick up the pace.

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

14. Write at least six letters to my father.

One new letter written in May. Five written in total in 2020.

15. Write 100 letters in 2020.

Four letters written in May.

A total of 21 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.

I may wait to launch the podcast in conjunction with the paperback release of my novel.

STORYTELLING/SPEAKING CAREER

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

This goal has become much more challenging to accomplish, but I haven’t given up.

Elysha and I produced a virtual solo show back in April in collaboration with MOPCO Improv Theater, bringing our total number of storytelling shows in 2020 to five.

We have scheduled our first virtual show for June 20, and we also have another solo show and at least one more Speak Up show in the works.

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

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

TEDx Salem State University, TEDx Hartford, and TEDx Yale.

TEDx Hartford passed. I await word from the others, but I suspect that at least some will be cancelled.

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 The Moth’s first virtual Mainstage performance in April, in addition to three Moth StorySLAMs earlier in the year.

Four events so far in 2020. The pandemic has made this a lot harder.

21. Win at least three Moth StorySLAMs.

I won a Moth StorySLAM in March at Oberon in Boston. It was my first win in 2020 and my 48th Moth StorySLAM victory in all.

My name will be in the hat for tonight’s virtual Moth StorySLAM in NYC.

22. Win a Moth GrandSLAM.

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

Given that all live Moth events have been cancelled in the foreseeable future, this goal is going to be much more challenging now.

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

Elysha and I produced just one episode in May. It was a tough month.

A total of 16 new episodes in 2020.

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 16 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, 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 May and no performances in 2020.

Given the nature of the world, this goal is going to be much harder now.

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

No stories pitched in Mat. No stories pitched in 2020.

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

No pitches sent in May. 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 May.

Twelve 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.

I taught an online storytelling workshop in April to about 70 people from 17 different states and 8 different countries in partnership with MOPCO Improv theater.

I just completed a six-week storytelling workshop to six storytellers in Seattle, Chicago, Massachusetts, Georgia, and Singapore.

I start a new one in two weeks.

Ultimately I want to develop asynchronous offerings using recorded instruction, but this is 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.

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.

Windows are purchased and ready to be installed. Unfortunately the pandemic is preventing new construction jobs from being started, so it may be a while before our windows are installed.

So the windows sit in a warehouse, waiting for the day when they can be installed.

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 May. 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 May. 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.

This pandemic has done wonders for cooking skills.

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

DONE!

Sixteen rides with Charlie and Clara in May. Twenty-six in all.

40. Plan a reunion of the Heavy Metal Playhouse.

No progress. This is probably impossible in 2020.

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.

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

42. Surprise Elysha at least six times in 2020.

I surprised Elysha with a pin from the Smith College Botanical Garden in a moment when she was feeling sad. She missed the annual flower show this year because of the pandemic, so I managed to find the pin for her, knowing how much she would love it.

Other surprises thus far:

  • I bought her an adjustable standing/lap desk in April.
  • I bought tickets to Mike Birbiglia’s appearance in New Haven in May, hoping to surprise Elysha, but that surprise was postponed.
  • I also sent Elysha a bouquet of flowers to her workplace on her birthday in January.

Four surprises so far in 2020o.

43. Play poker at least six times in 2020.

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

Five games played so far in 2020.

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

Bengi and I went on a long walk in May, which was one of my favorite moments in all of May.

We rescheduled a second walk because of weather and hope to see each other next weekend.

NEW PROJECTS

45. Understand Instagram better.

No progress.

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

Done! We are listening to a lot of music in the house right now.

Where have all the bands gone?

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.

48. Complete my Eagle Scout project.

No progress.

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

No progress.

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

Done.