We had a wonderful Christmas season this year; I hope you did, too. Like many, I confess that I overindulged, and I find myself thinking today about New Year’s resolutions.

My resolutions fit into four categories. In each case, they derive from something I learned or reconsidered over the past two weeks.


Take Care Before Giving Care: Being a full-time caregiver is exhausting. Based both on our own plans and nursing availability, we were on our own with Gabriella more often during the holiday season. This outcome offers pleasure with every appreciative smile, but it takes its toll on us physically. Lifting her and repositioning her in the chair and on the bed results in aches in our backs, but also on our wrists and hands.

With the return to our normal schedule, it’s important to care for ourselves. For me, this means not only setting aside those delicious Christmas cookies and returning to neglected exercise routines, but also looking for little ways to help my amazing partner on this lifelong adventure, my wife Lisa. For us, this is the ultimate team sport.


Make Time for Loved Ones: One of the great things about the holidays is the chance to spend time with family. My brothers are spread across the eastern United States, and last year, like most years, it was the only time we had to be together. We also got several opportunities to see good friends.

My new writing-and-blogging schedule enables me to fulfill a lifelong dream, and as an introvert I often enjoy my seclusion. But I will make more effort as well to share time with loved ones.


Show Gratitude: The six weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s offer an ideal opportunity to express appreciation. Lisa always recognizes the people who contribute to our daughter’s care, from her nurses to her instructors at her program to her bus driver, among many others. Gift-giving is a two-way expression of gratitude.

At the same time, I want to make sure I don’t wait 46 weeks to say Thank You. My nephew Daniel has a unique philosophy: rather than waiting for birthdays or Christmas to give a gift, he buys one whenever he finds something he thinks someone will love, and he gives it right away. He is as excited as the recipient at the prospect of presenting his find, and the gifts themselves are always thoughtful. This year, I’ll strive to adapt Daniel’s philosophy to expressing my gratitude.


Seek Out the Wondrous: The Oxford English Dictionary defines “wonder” as a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar or inexplicable. I have been fortunate to find this emotion in many places, from stories to nature to my relationships with family and friends. Often I discover wonder in our life with Gabriella.

Last year I wrote about attending a sensory-friendly performance of Mary Poppins at the Papermill Playhouse. Over the holidays, ten members of the Van Heest family returned to Papermill to see Annie, again in a sensory-friendly environment. We all enjoyed the show, but more so we found a sense of wonder in Gabriella’s joy. She had never seen even a video recording and was unfamiliar with the music, but she clicked and made whoopee-noises throughout. In 2018, I will seek wonder anew, for myself and for our daughter.


Time will tell how well I stick to my New Year’s resolutions, but here on January 1st, I am filled with optimism.

What are your New Year’s resolutions?