A new year brings with it new expectations, goals

Remember those old Etch A Sketch toys?

You would use two clumsy dials in an attempt to manipulate aluminum powder in a way that would create a majestic work of art, deftly maneuvering between the knobs to create horizontal or vertical lines before taking that heroic dive into artistic flair by turning both knobs simultaneously to create — gasp! — a diagonal line.

Each time I would sit down with the little red device, my mind would fantasize about the natural landscapes or killer robots I was about to capture with my trusty Etch A Sketch. Daydreams of elaborate art openings featuring my line drawings filled my head as I twisted and turned the knobs with a grace and dexterity previously never seen by man, and I could feel the hairs on my arms stand at attention as I knew I neared the final product. Perfection, adoring fans, was right around the corner.

Of course, at that point I would realize that my interpretation of the sun setting on the Potomac River looked more like a giraffe having inappropriate relations with a toaster oven, and I would give my Etch A Sketch a firm shake and begin my art all over again from the beginning. No harm, no foul. Clean slate.

And isn’t a clean slate what many of us hope for from time to time? Being able to just start over again from the beginning, shake away all our past mistakes and move on to bigger and better things? In fact, isn’t that what we try to do with each new year that comes our way?

We make resolutions that often demand we make major changes in our individual lives. We hate that we let ourselves get out of shape or spent another year pulling on cigarettes or just haven’t done a good enough job of spending time with family, and hope that a changing of the (Coastal Point) calendar will offer a fresh beginning — a shaking of the Etch A Sketch, if you will.

I’m no different, obviously. Every year I start out with the best of intentions, and every year I find myself sitting on the couch with a bag of Doritos in my hand and cartoons on the television when I know I should be eating a celery stick with my cartoons — or, maybe, doing something other than watching cartoons. But with a quick shake of my Etch A Sketch, I get to look at 2013 as a clean slate.

So, without further adieu, I offer these somewhat managable resolutions for myself for the coming year:

• I will read six more non-fiction books this year than I did in 2012. By a rough and quick estimate, I made it through about 15 books based on real history or events last year, and I would like to add about one more every two months this year. People work very hard on researching and writing books that offer the promise of teaching us more on particular subjects than we knew before. The least I could do is read some of their work.

• This is the year I’m going to finally start getting back into shape, and this year that shape won’t be oblong. Look, I know I won’t ever get back to the condition I was in when I was in my early 20s, but I also know I can get into a more human-like state, and hopefully be able to walk up a flight of steps without a sherpa and an oxygen tank. Baby steps, people.

• I will not chase flush draws. I will not chase flush draws. I will not chase flush draws ... ooh, a flush draw!

• This will be the year I get my desk under control again. There are times, particularly during the busy summer months, when my desk looks like a paper factory exploded on it, and that makes it pretty tough to find that sole piece of paper that I really need at a given time. How am I going to know I hit the lottery if I can’t find my tickets?

• I’m going to write a letter a month this year. You know, taking a pen and a piece of paper and actually writing somebody a letter, then putting a stamp on an envelope and mailing it? I can’t think of the last time I did that, and I fear that is something that is going by the wayside with emails and text messages taking its place. I’m not bemoaning the newer forms of communication in the least, as I like the instant gratification of receiving an immediate response, but there’s something to be said for writing, or receiving, a letter.