By the time the clock strikes midnight to launch us into 2013, it’s a safe bet that many Oklahomans will be resolving to make themselves better in the new year.
After all, New Year’s resolutions are as much a part of the holidays as pumpkin pie (hence the ever-popular weight-loss declarations), lavish gifts (and the perennial vow to save and spend more wisely) and family gatherings (which may end with your adopting the overarching aim of “becoming a better person”).
If you’re looking for a little variety and a lot of guidance in your annual goal-setting, though, we’ve asked local experts to help us compile tips on how to become more cultured, spiritual, social, healthy, etc., in the coming year.
Finding culture in central Oklahoma
If you’re looking to become more cultured in 2013, the key is exposure. Fortunately, free and low-cost opportunities to experience the visual, performing and musical arts are booming in Oklahoma City.
“You’ve got Lyric Theatre. You’ve got one of the finest symphonies anywhere around that you can go see amazing ... performances all year round. Shakespeare in the Park at the Myriad Gardens is absolutely stunning. We really have a lot of performance opportunities,” said Peter Dolese, executive director of the Arts Council of Oklahoma City.
“Then there’s the First Friday (Gallery Walk) in the Paseo and the second Fridays in the Plaza District. You know, there’s four or five art openings every single weekend all year round, it seems like.”
Aspiring art fans can get started on their quest to cultivate their cultural side before next year even starts, with the Opening Night New Year’s Eve festivities in downtown. The 27th annual celebration features nine venues staging more than 40 performances, ranging from classical piano and Latin American dance to improv theater and American Indian flute.
All-inclusive Opening Night wristbands are $8 in advance or $10 at the event. For more information, go to www.artscouncilokc.com.
But the Arts Council of Oklahoma City’s mission to connect the community with the arts continues year-round. Its free Festival of the Arts is a local rite of spring.
In the summer, the Twilight Concert Series offers free Sunday night concerts, featuring performers making music in an array of genres at the Myriad Botanical Gardens.
In August, the council will partner for the first time with the Oklahoma History Center for its annual Storytelling Festival.
In between, the nonprofit organization coordinates Art Moves, which brings 255 free lunchtime art programs to 14 different downtown venues over the course of the year.
“That’s happening downtown every day of the week, Monday through Friday at noon ... 51 weeks a year,” Dolese said. “It’s always fun and always free.”
For residents who want to actually try their hand at creating art, the Oklahoma City Museum of Art and City Arts Center are among the organizations that offer adult classes from drawing and painting to weaving and glassblowing. Costs range from $25 to $330.
In Norman, the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art is celebrating a free new opportunity to share its fine permanent collection, special exhibits and educational activities.
Last month, the University of Oklahoma museum announced it is now offering free admission every day thanks to a new annual $60,000 gift from the OU Athletics Department.
BRANDY MCDONNELL, Entertainment Writer
Stay motivated for fitness
If you told yourself at Christmas dinner that this would be your last unhealthy meal binge, you’re not alone. Dieting and exercising are usually rated the most common New Year’s resolutions and the holidays are an ideal time to plan for a healthier new year — in between bites of pie and sips of egg nog, anything seems possible.
Getting excited about losing weight and getting in shape is easy but staying motivated to keep up the hard work of calorie-counting and working out is the tough part.
Finding a healthy mix of eating right and exercising starts with finding a healthy mindset.
“First you have to decide if you are going to have a good day,” said Robyn Pendleton, wellness and fitness coordinator at The Oklahoma Publishing Company.
“Wake up and tell yourself ‘I am going to have a good day,’” Pendleton said.
If you start your day with a positive attitude, even life’s hiccups will be easier to manage, she said. And, with a good attitude, you’re more likely to take the time to treat yourself well and eat right.
Pendleton says thinking of her family keeps her motivated to stay healthy so she can stay active with them.
“I have learned and know now all the things I would have missed or might miss with my boys if I had not kept moving,” Pendleton said. “I have, along with my husband, taught them the importance of staying active and living a healthy lifestyle.”
Whether it’s your family that motivates you to be healthy, or it’s something else such as improving your self-confidence, figure out what your desired outcome is and keep that goal in sight.
Finally, Pendleton says to keep your daily workouts fun by making them a game or a challenge.
“I am competitive, so being behind frustrates me,” she said. “If the guy next to me is swimming a little faster, I will probably kick it up a notch.”
And on days she can’t find much motivation to get moving, Pendleton said she taps into that competitive nature and challenges herself to get active for at least 15 minutes. That much activity alone usually lifts her out of the doldrums that had sapped her motivation, she said.
Heather Warlick, Staff Writer
Finding a church home
If you’re seeking to become a more spiritual person in 2013, finding a house of worship to call home can help you fulfill that pledge.
The Rev. Thomas Harrison, of Tulsa, critiques churches on a regular basis as part of his consultant work as the self-described “Secret Church Shopper.”
Harrison, an ordained Assemblies of God minister, visits churches at clergy leaders’ request to give a friendly critique of things like the house of worship’s cleanliness, friendliness of members and other key elements. Harrison said church leaders often use his information to become more welcoming.
“I think it’s the greatest time in all the world for the church to be involved in people’s lives,” he said. “People are searching for something of substance.”
He said there are several things people shopping for a church should do before, during and after they visit.
Before the visit, do your homework. Go on the church’s website and find out everything you can. Harrison said churches often have podcasts of the pastor’s sermons, plus other helpful information on the website. He said viewing the church’s Facebook page also can be helpful. Harrison said he also advises individuals to Google the church’s name and the pastor’s name. It also wouldn’t hurt to send an email to the church requesting information, he said.
Also, before visiting the church, ask friends and co-workers if they know anything about the church. People who are planning to move should ask their current pastor for information about churches in the area where they are moving.
Harrison said during your visit, it’s important to note several things: Watch and wait for people to come and greet you and talk to you. Watch for people to invite you to meet the pastor.
Harrison said it’s also important to participate in worship, giving and prayer.
Harrison said take notes of your experience and the pastor’s sermon.
Hopefully, you will be offered a bulletin that you can take home.
He said after the visit, wait to see if you receive a follow-up call or letter from the church. Have a family meeting regarding the visit and find out what each family member thinks about the church.
Ask each family member, particularly children and teens, what they liked best and what could have been better.
Harrison said choosing a church home is one of the most important decisions one can make.
“Unfortunately, more people put more research into what car or house they will be purchasing rather than what church they will attend. Why would we not make an informed decision about what church we attend?” he said.
CARLA HINTON, Religion Editor
Planning a party
One surefire way to get more social interaction in the new year is to plan a party or two of your own.
“The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it” by Ralph Waldo Emerson is one of Christi Coyle’s favorite quotes and she sometimes prints it on a tag and attaches it with a pretty ribbon to a party favor to give to her guests at one of her parties. The enthusiastic entertainer loves sharing her home with her friends.
Recently, she shared her passion for entertaining as she gave a training session on hospitality to a group of fellow Junior League members.
“The secret to great entertaining is … just play with it,” she said. “Find out what works for you and just do it.” Remember, votive candles are inexpensive and make everything look more elegant. Don’t be afraid to mix good china with less expensive pieces. I have used mine (good china) with clear, heavy duty plastic utensils for a large crowd, she added.
She also added that good games can add to the value of the party.
“It’s all about making memories. So, just know that having people in your home is so personal — make it fun, cozy and memorable.” Coyle created a booklet of her recipes to give to the crowd. She named it “Small Bites Entertaining.” Here are two of her favorite recipes:
Party mix for a crowd
2 cups canola or vegetable oil
2 packets dry Hidden Valley Ranch original dressing mix
2 tablespoons lemon pepper
3 tablespoons dry dill weed
3 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1 box (12 or 16 ounces) regular flavor Cheez-Its
1 box (12 or 16 ounces) white cheddar Cheez-Its
2 bags (6 ounces) of Parmesan goldfish crackers
1 or 2 cans of mixed nuts (cashews, almonds, pecans)
2 bags (6 ounces) of large Chinese noodles
1 box (12 ounces) of Crispix
Whisk first six ingredients together to make the dressing. Dump everything in a very large bowl and mix together. Pour dressing over crackers and toss to evenly coat. Cover and let sit overnight. Toss every once in a while. Feel free to add substitute Chex, Cheerios, pretzels.
2 packages (8 ounces) of cream cheese at room temperature
8 1/2 ounces crushed pineapple (well-drained)
2 cups chopped pecans
1/4 cup minced green pepper
2 tablespoons minced or grated onion
1 tablespoon seasoned salt
Mix all, except 1 cup of pecans. Chill well. Form into a ball and roll in remaining cup of pecans.
HELEN FORD WALLACE,
Parties, Etc., columnist