Why I’m amending my resolution to write every day in 2017

My only New Year’s resolution for 2017 was to try to write something every day. So far, I’ve done it.

But I’m writing this to say that I’ve decided to amend the resolution a bit: I’m no longer going to write on Sundays. I believe in the biblical concept of having a day of rest, and Sunday is a good day for that. Not just physical rest, but mental rest. And just taking a break from what you do every other day. Rest is good.

Even though I managed to write something every day through Feb. 4, it wasn’t always easy. I knew it wouldn’t be, so it wasn’t a surprise. But on those days when the creativity wasn’t flowing and when no good idea presented itself, I’d often spend lots of time just trying to think of something to write. Instead of giving my time to my wife or my kids, I was thinking about writing. After hours. On my days off. At the dinner table. Wherever. I’d be in the room doing what everyone else was doing, but too often I found myself drifting into thoughts of what my next writing subject might be. That’s a fine place to be most days, just not every single day. Especially not for something as trivial and voluntary as this.

Not thinking is also good, so I’m giving myself permission to not think about writing on Sundays.

I don’t want to overstate this mental pressure. It’s not really pressure or stress. Not yet, at least. But I feel like if I keep up the write-every-day thing, at some point — perhaps soon — it could become actual stress, with the pressure to keep the streak going dominating my mind to the point of being counter-productive. I wouldn’t want to be up at 11:55 p.m. thinking “I’ve got to write something! I’ve got to write something! The streak! The streak!”

So, starting tomorrow, Feb. 5, I’m not going to write anything on Sundays. One caveat: If something with my real job requires me to write on a Sunday, I’ll do it. But the just-for-me writing won’t happen. Or at least that’s the plan.

Even having said all that, I still feel a little weird about doing away with Sunday writing. On the one hand, I feel like I’m giving up on my resolution too easily. On the other, it was just a resolution. I made it up. There were no stakes. It was meant to be fun. Or fun-ish. The idea of forcing myself to write every day was just to get in the habit of writing more. My January work tells me I’m well on my way. I feel much more creative now than I did a month ago, and more comfortable writing about things other than sports. So already the resolution is a success. Plus, I still plan to write Monday through Saturday, which is plenty.

So that’s the deal. I doubt anyone is disappointed by this development. If you are, it’s possible that you need a hobby.

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I wonder whether I can give up soda, tea and other unnecessary sugar for a month

If there’s a negative about Christmastime, it’s that it tends to send my diet on a downward spiral.

Not just from the delicious food and treats at the various parties and gatherings, but also the calorie-filled stocking stuffers. It usually takes at least a couple of weeks to get through all those treats, but the effects linger for much longer. I’m sure a lot of people can relate.

We’re more than a month removed from Christmas, and that lingering effect is still with me. The just one more or this won’t hurt thoughts have stuck around much longer than they should. I’m still allowing myself too many unnecessary treats: candy, soda, sweet tea, various chocolate-covered things. I’m still exercising, at least, but I won’t reap the true health benefits without getting my diet back on track.

Thankfully, I’ve not gained much weight. Maybe a pound or two. But I feel like I’m just a couple of craving-induced decisions away from letting myself go and making this sugar-tastic lifestyle permanent. So I’m going to try something: I’m going to see whether I can go a month without any soda, candy or other unnecessary sugar. I’ll still allow myself an occasional dessert, but I’m going to be much more selective. That approach has worked for me before.

I don’t have a weight goal in mind, but I’m bound to lose some if I eliminate these now-daily indulgences and keep up my exercise routine. Hopefully, after a month, the desire will lessen enough to where I can regain my pre-holiday self-control. Actually, that’s misleading — my self-control with this stuff has been lacking for about a year; it just got worse during the holidays. I used to be so good at saying no to sweets and soda, but here we are again.

No matter how disciplined you get with this stuff, it’s so easy to fall back into old habits. This will be my third or fourth attempt since around 2009 to get things on track. Usually, once I get back on track it tends to stick for a long time. It helps if people keep you accountable. So if you see me, feel free to ask how it’s going. I’ll be honest.

Still, I know this will be hard. It’s always hard. But I know I can do it because, well, I’ve done it before. I don’t like it when my shirts feel tight, so having not-tight shirts is a pretty sweet reward.

Not-tight pants are cool, too.

I’m not scared of refugees, even if some of them turn out to be terrorists

Perhaps the only thing more annoying than political rhetoric is people’s reactions to it.

Nobody wants to be seen as friendly to the other side, so any reaction to anything political must be a statement about your loyalty.

Take this refugee mess brought on by President Donald Trump’s executive order that bans people from (some) terror-affiliated countries from entering the United States. Reaction from center-left folks has been that it’s a bad, unAmerican idea.

From the center-right, we’ve heard … well, not much.

I’ll speak up: I think the ban, however you want to spin it, is a bad idea. It’s also sad. And frustrating. And, yes, unAmerican. As a conservative, and as a Christian, I feel a little lonely saying that. Why?

Enter that annoying, wrong-headed party loyalty.

Not only are Republican politicians who fairly recently called such a ban unconstitutional now silent and/or approving, but a surprising number of former #NeverTrump-ers are reverting back to their old political habits.

“Republican under attack! Must defend! Something, something, talking points! U-S-A!”

I can’t overstate how much this annoys me. Somewhere along the line, the thinking on both sides of the aisle became, “If the other side is against it, it must be a good idea.”

This is ludicrous.

It’s especially bothersome among conservative Christians (my people), many of whom parrot Republican talking points out of habit because they see Jesus wrapped in an American flag rather than sitting at the right hand of God.

“Nope, can’t agree with a godless liberal. That would make me a godless liberal, wouldn’t it?”

Even when Republicans/conservatives have actual reservations about something, like the refugee/Muslim ban (and let’s be real; it’s a Muslim ban), the urge to line up with the party is just too strong for most to speak up about those reservations. After all, can’t risk not being allowed to hang with the cool kids. Gotta keep that seat at the table, amirite?

My conviction tells me the ban is a short-sighted approach to national security. I keep picturing those images of dead or wounded refugee children, and I hurt for them. I don’t understand how anyone, especially a Christian, can see those images and think, “Sorry, not my problem. That’s just the price of keeping America safe.”

Even if that’s not been an actual thought, it’s the logical conclusion of the position: that you’re cool with innocent, scared kids dying in terrorist attacks so you can make the extremely small chance of you dying in a terrorist attack get slightly smaller. I just don’t get it. Yes, I understand that the government’s primary job is to keep the country safe. I just disagree that this ban will keep us safe. I don’t understand it from a biblical perspective, and I don’t understand it from a logical one.

Seriously, if one of those refugee kids came to you, crying, injured and scared, would you really look at them and their equally scared parents and say, “Sorry. Helping you is just too risky”?

I don’t think 99 percent of people would do that. But, again, never underestimate that good ol’ party loyalty. (And, yes, I know that the government isn’t required to help anyone who doesn’t live here. But that doesn’t mean we can’t.)

I’m not scared of anyone, regardless of religion, race, nationality or any other such identity. No Christian should be. The love of Christ destroys those silly fears. I don’t understand why people choose to bow to their fears rather than their faith.

Despite what the rhetoric might tell you, it’s true that you’re way, way, way more likely to be killed by a falling dresser than by a refugee. If it’s criminals who scare you, there are already plenty of American-born bad guys doing bad stuff that threatens your safety.

Look, I get that some of the refugees could be terrorists. I’ll even grant you that a relative few probably are. ISIS is sneaky and resourceful. I get it. I really do. I still don’t care. I’m not afraid. I refuse to be ruled by fear. And, no, this ban isn’t rooted in caution. It’s just plain fear at best, and bigotry at worst.

To compare it to another crazy topic, it reminds me a little of the gun-control debate. I’m not an anti-gun guy. I’m not a pro-gun guy, either. I’m actually quite indifferent toward guns. But I do know we have a LOT of guns in America. And a LOT of people who probably shouldn’t have guns do have guns. There’s much greater reason to be concerned about gun violence than terrorism, just because of the law of probabilty. But, strangely, conservatives just aren’t afraid of guns. This is despite guns being used in a lot of violent individual crimes, in mass shootings, in suicides and in accidental deaths.

Gun deaths happen by the dozens every day in the United States. Terror attacks don’t. But, yes, as a conservative, I’m supposed to love guns and fear terrorists. I’m supposed to list potential terrorists coming into the country as one of my greatest fears.

Well, sorry.

I don’t know how else to say it: I’m not scared. I wish people — especially Christians — would stop trying to convince me that I should be.

Dreams are weird. Here are some recurring themes in mine.

I’ve never had a recurring dream. At least not one in which the details and outcome are always the same. I guess that’s good, as those are almost always associated with something negative.

I have, however, had recurring themes in my dreams. Just like everyone else, I have the ones about being back in high school and realizing I’ve forgotten to attend a class all semester — on the day of the big test! I’ve also had many others like that, dreams where the situations and details vary, but the central idea is the same.

Here are some examples:

— Water trouble: I’ve had many dreams where a sudden surge of water comes out of nowhere and floods the area right outside my house, or wherever I happen to be. I never get caught up in the water, but I often watch it come right up to my window, sometimes halfway up the window, and wonder whether it’s going to overtake the building. I’ve also had dreams where I’m at the beach and a giant wave, like 500 feet high, suddenly becomes visible. There’s usually not panic, but more of, “Oh, I should get out of the way of that.” I’m usually also fascinated by it and continue to stare. In other versions, I have to get somewhere, but the main road is completely flooded by a rushing torrent. Sometimes I try to make my way through it anyway. I always wake up before anything bad happens.

— Heights: I don’t consider myself afraid of heights, but I’ve had many tense dreams where I’m somewhere high, such as hanging onto the wing of the plane as it flies through the air. There’s never a thought of, “Why the heck am I on the wing of an airplane?!” I’m always scared, but mainly just thinking, “Man, I hope I can hold on until we land.” Once when I was a kid, this dream had me sliding down the roof of the old Charlotte Coliseum (now Bojangles’ Coliseum).

— The opposite of anxiety: The back-in-school dream is supposed to mean you’re anxious about something. I’ve had many dreams where the opposite is true. For example, I might be back in high school (sometimes at my current age) and be about to make the baseball team, or maybe fill in as a spot starter — as an adult. It’s a great feeling. Sometimes in the dream I think, “Wait, I’m 40. This can’t be legal.” That’s usually when I wake up.

— Tornadoes: Similar to the water dreams, these usually involve me being out somewhere and spotting a tornado forming or approaching. I’m usually in some unidentified town’s commercial area. There are always buildings around, but they are always small. So there’s never a safe place to go. Sometimes I even tell myself something like, “Wow, you’ve had all those dreams about tornadoes, and now here’s a real one.” I’ve never actually seen a tornado in real life.

— Great accomplishments: In these, I dream that I’ve done something really great. Once I dreamed that I was back stage about to host “Saturday Night Live.” Another time I was back stage waiting to do a walk-on on “SNL.” I’m not sure what I did to earn those appearances, but it all seemed very exciting. In one version of the “famous Jason” dream, I was a retired Major League Baseball player. This one was real enough that I woke up and briefly thought to myself, “Wait, did I really play in the majors?” No, Jason, you hit .200 for the JV team in 10th grade and got cut in 11th grade.

— Alien invasion or the second coming of Christ: In these I usually notice something in the sky, look up and see a massive ship or something that convinces me that I’m witnessing the return of Jesus. In both cases, I think, “Oh, this is really happening.” I always wake up before anything else happens.

— Previously unknown rooms: In this dream, I discover a previously unknown room in my house, or someone else’s house that I’ve visited many times. It’s never a small room, either. It’s always a large, awe-inspiring space that causes me to think, “How have I never seen this before? I could do so much with this!” My all-time favorite version of this dream was one I had as a kid, where I came upon an underground ballroom-size room at my grandparents’ house. It made for an eerie/happy/surprised/confused feeling. In a related version, I’m in my house — but it’s not my house; it’s much larger than anything I’ve ever owned, but I’m not surprised by it. I just think, “Yep, it’s going to be cool taking advantage of all this space.”

— Naked and embarrassed: I think most people have experienced some version of this one. But I feel like I have an inordinate amount of dreams in which I’m about to leave some place — a hotel, the mall, school, a theme park, or even church! — and I suddenly realize I’m completely naked. “Oh no! I forgot to put my clothes on! I need to hurry back to the hotel/locker room/private space and put them on!” But I can’t find it. So I usually cover myself as best I can and try to find a place that will offer sanctuary. There are always lots of people around, but for some reason they don’t seem too bothered. Most don’t even seem to notice, and the ones who do are just like, “That’s weird, but whatever.” In some versions, I’m not completely naked, just in my underwear.

I don’t know what any of these mean. I’m sure there are legit psychological reasons for each one of them. Except for the happy/exciting ones, I’m always thrilled to wake up.

Maybe I have buried anxiety, a burden of unmet expectations, feelings of inferiority or of being a phony. Or maybe I just watch too much TV or eat too close to bedtime.

The answer is probably somewhere in there.

When mom is away, the boys will play. (Please pray for us.)

For the next few days, I’m a single dad. My wife is out of town for a wedding, so my boys and I will have time for some male bonding.

By “male bonding,” of course, I mean naps, unlimited screen time and Doritos for dinner. Not really. That’s an exaggeration. But Doritos did make an appearance at dinner, a meal that met recommended nutritional standards by the slimmest of margins.

Parenting is hard. Even when it’s not really “hard,” it can be a challenge to always give it your best. Like tonight, when my boys begged me to eat out for dinner — even though we ate out for lunch. My wife would’ve given a quick, firm “no” and the questions would’ve stopped. I, however, can sometimes be a pushover. I love eating out. I know it’s not good for me, but sometimes I just can’t help myself. I know my weaknesses as a person and as a parent. So the questions — and the begging, pleading and attempted deal-making — went on for about 30 minutes.

I don’t like to admit it, but sometimes I give in with enough badgering. I’m not proud of it. But like I said, I’m aware of my weaknesses.

This is part of why I definitely needed a wife. The Bible says it’s not good for man to be alone. I believe it. Especially this man. You know that cheesy part of “Jerry Maguire,” where Tom Cruise says, “You complete me?” That’s how I feel about my wife, Liz. She’s like an enhanced version of the part of me that keeps me from giving in to my unhealthy desires. Wait, “desires” sounds super serious, and possibly a little risqué. Don’t get the wrong idea. All I mean is that she’s like a more logical, more mature, upgraded version of me that helps keep me from going overboard and/or making unwise decisions. Often, those decisions revolve around food and being healthy:

“You know, you shouldn’t eat that candy bar if you’re trying to lose weight.”

“You know, if you’re tired all day, maybe don’t stay up so late binge-watching ‘Friends’ on Netflix.”

“You know, if you’re trying to give up soda, maybe don’t buy a 12-pack when you go to the store.”

She’s always honest, always willing to tell me what I don’t want to hear, and always able to keep me humble. She’s the best.

Just having that encougement/accountability/razzing is usually all it takes to keep me from making a food-related decision I’ll regret in some way.

This is especially apparent when she’s away.

Every summer she takes the boys on a trip to visit her mom or her sister for a girls-only week. Husbands are welcome, of course, but not really invited. It’s fine. Really.

I look forward to that week, which I usually take off as well. The picture in my head is always so exciting: house to myself, all those movies I can watch — I can do whatever I want!

By Day 3 I’m usually a sloppy mess. Junk food. Feeling gross. Staying up way too late. Just like I did when I was single. “How did I ever survive as a single man?” I almost always think to myself. Inevitably, I picture myself if I’d never gotten married. In that vision, I’m 20 pounds overweight with chronic heartburn and a checking account that’s constantly on the verge of an overdraft.

I don’t like that version of myself. I remember that version of myself. I thank God that He saw fit to bless me with Liz.

Truth be told, Liz is the reason why I didn’t give in to my boys’ request to eat out twice in one day. Don’t get me wrong: I know it’s not healthy to eat out a lot. I understand that the quality of most restaurant food isn’t the best. Not to mention that we’re trying to tighten our budget. All that certainly contributed to the decision. But the main reason is because I know Liz wouldn’t want that for me or the boys, or for our bank account. She’s big on healthy eating — and on not spending money unnecessarily. That’s not to say she never gives in to a hankering, but she definitely has much better self-discipline about that stuff than I do.

To have eaten out twice today would have been to dishonor Liz. The Bible commands husbands to honor their wives, to love them sacrificially as Christ loves the church. I think that includes little things like not eating out twice in one day just because we thought it would be fun. I want to honor Liz with everything I do as a husband and a father. So the boys and I ate at home tonight.

Things like this matter in a marriage, particularly in a marriage that seeks to honor God.

So, anyway, Day 1 of the The Three Foster Bachelors was a success. Two more days to go. Six more meals to go.

Prayers accepted.

My silly, ongoing and possibly pathetic quest to get verified on Twitter

I know it’s mostly meaningless, and a little silly, but that blue checkmark on Twitter is so appealing.

The blue checkmark means you’re “verified.” Being “verified” means, well, it means you are who you claim you are. I want people on Twitter to know that I’m me. But Twitter apparently thinks that isn’t necessary.

See? I told you it was silly.

But it’s not totally silly.

If you don’t know, the idea behind verification is that prominent people — actors, musicians, athletes, politicians, etc. — can have “official” accounts so users know they’re actually following the real person. As in, with a blue checkmark, people know they’re following the real Cam Newton and not someone who created a fake account pretending to be Cam Newton.

I realize there’s probably not anyone out there pretending to be Jason Foster. I’m not famous. However …

Celebrities aside, Twitter also verifies accounts “of public interest,” including those of journalists. (Hey, that’s me!) It’s not at all uncommon for reporters/columnists/writers to have verified accounts, regardless of the size of their news outlet and regardless of their number of followers. The idea, again, is that when these accounts tweet news or other information that it can be trusted because it’s coming from the real reporter you see on TV or read in the paper or online.

In other words, the blue checkmark adds legitimacy and credibility — both important qualities in public-facing journalism.

This is where my silly, ongoing verification quest comes in: I’ve been rejected for verification five times — and I have no idea why.

(This is the part where I brag a little. Sorry. I really do feel weird about it. Trust me.)

Despite having been a working member of the news media for more than 16 years, having worked at publications large and small, having won multiple journalism awards and having had stories and columns read and shared literally hundreds of thousands of times, each of my five verification attempts has been met with a form email that says, “We reviewed the account, and unfortunately it is not eligible to be verified at this time.”

Huh? Not eligible? I meet the criteria. I’ve followed all the steps. Plus, I figure members of legit media outlets should be a slam-dunk for verification. Like, it’s not even given a thought. Automatic. But no.

There’s no reason given for your rejection, no you’re real close, but we just need this last piece of information prompting. Nothing. It just leaves you to guess and try again in 30 days.

Because I have no idea what they’re looking for, or what I was missing when I applied, I’ve tried various ways of appearing more verifiable to the Twitter Verification Board or, more likely, the Twitter Verification Algorithm. I’ve tweaked my bio in various ways (all the advice says to make yourself seem as important as possible, while obviously remaining truthful about what you do), I’ve changed my header photo, I’ve used different links in the show us links that indicate why we should verify you section, and I’ve changed things up in the 500-character use words to explain why we should verify you section.

Still, nothing. Five times.

This is where I usually tell people that I’m aware there are no real benefits to being verified. I know this isn’t a big deal at all. I can still tweet the same way whether I’m verified or not. I don’t need a blue checkmark to break news or write good columns or be an entertaining follow for readers. I know! I get it! Like I said, I realize this is a silly quest.

Is it an ego thing? Maybe a little. Maybe a lot. I honestly don’t know sometimes. I’m even undecided on whether writing this column is pathetic, sad, funny, justified, helpful or some combination of those (I lean toward pathetic, but whatever).

At this point, though, after five denials, I really just want to know what the heck is going on. It just doesn’t make sense. Why do I keep seeing all my colleagues at other outlets — again, the publication size doesn’t seem to matter — get verified by the bushel?

Did a human being really read my request, see my rationale, look at my links and then laugh and give me a “Gladiator”-style thumbs down? Or it is something more technical? Along that line, I think I might have figured it out.

The verification instructions say you need to upload an official photo ID as part of the process. But on my computer(s), there’s no place to do that. I’m told this happens to others, too. Meanwhile, other people report having no problem uploading a photo. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the whole thing.

In case you’re wondering, my sleuthing has revealed that Twitter’s @support account is almost useless, and there aren’t any helpful email addresses. So I remain Jason Foster, an unverified and unvalidated Twitter user and media member who you can believe and/or take seriously at your own risk.

It’s been more than 30 days since my last rejection, but I’m unsure when I’ll try again. I’m 99 percent sure the photo thing is the reason for the denials. So, until that field magically appears on my screen, it might be a pointless endeavor to try again.

If I eventually get that blue checkmark, that validation that I am who I say I am and can be taken seriously on matters of sports and life, I’m sure I’ll feel just like I did after the Braves won the 1995 World Series and after I graduated from college: So that’s it? I thought I’d be more excited.

I’ll keep you posted.

UPDATE: 1/27/17: I woke up today to an email saying I’d been verified — without ever having uploaded a photo. I don’t think this column had anything to do with it, as only one person has ever clicked on it. Thankfully, though, this great crisis is finally over.

This was one of those days when it just didn’t come together. So I wrote this.

Days like this are frustrating for writers.

I started my day with a good idea. It came out of nowhere this morning while scrolling through Twitter for work.

I was relieved. I had my thing to write about for the day. It was baseball-related, so I figured it would be easy. I formed a rough version in my head. It would be easy.

A couple of hours passed as I took care of other things, but I never forgot the idea. I looked forward to writing it.

I finally opened a file to start. Then … nothing. I’d type a few words, then delete them. I wrote a headline first, hoping that would provide inspiration. It didn’t.

What is happening? This was a good idea. What’s the deal?

After a few more starts and stops over an hour or so, I finally conceded: It’s just not happening. Not with this thing, anyway. Classic writer’s block.

Today was one of those days I knew would come, those days when things just don’t come together for whatever reason. Even with a good idea — or, at the least, a decent idea — the words just never came to me today. But that’s the risk you take when you pledge to write every day.

So, sadly, unless new inspiration strikes in the next few hours, this explanation of how I had writer’s block will have to suffice as my writing entry for the day. But I think even this post has value. I’m still putting my thoughts into words, hopefully intelligently, keeping my skills fresh for the next time I find myself both with a great idea and in The Zone.

Writers know about The Zone. It’s similar to when athletes seem unstoppable — that hitter who just can’t make an out or that point guard who hits every shot he puts up. I suppose there’s a version of it in every profession.

For writers, it’s that time when — (sigh … a minute elapsed between that dash and these next words, proving I’m not really in The Zone today) — your thoughts just pour out clearly, cleanly and in the best way possible. As in, the sentences you type are perfectly worded and structured with almost no effort. Before you know it, you’ve written 800 words. That was not me today.

I hope I can do better tomorrow. But for today, I’m left with this. It still counts as writing, so at least there’s that.