Happy New Year! As there is only so much self improvement one can handle, I am not big on resolutions. And one’s resolutions, like one’s fascinating dreams, are of little interest to others. Unless you are featured are in them.
What I do like, however, is to reflect on the past year. It is easy to forget what transpired, what was good, what was bad, what one accomplished, what one learned over a 12 month span. So I reviewed my date book and pondered the year. Here is the list: the top ten things that affected me in 2018.
1. Cora was born. Although a very recent event, the arrival of our second granddaughter tops the list. She is small, but mighty. In 3 short weeks, she has mastered the life essentials trifecta: sleeping, eating and pooping. She has changed the family dynamic and will certainly change our babysitting days in the future when us old folks have to manage both a toddler and an infant. Other good news about Cora: it may be too early to tell, but I think she has dimples.
2. Nursing home – this item and the next perhaps could be combined, but moving both my mother and her husband to a nursing home and the aftermath that followed so dominated April-October, and continues to dominate my thoughts, that I am giving it 2 spots. Yes, transitioning folks to a long term care setting is overtly sad. Many of us boomers have to navigate these waters. But I have to say, the sadness was eclipsed by the paperwork and logistics, by resentment and relief. They belong where they are. And jumping ahead to #8 “Gratitude,” thank you to Brian for all you’ve done, most notably enduring my daily laments.
3. Emptying their house – if you are of sound mind and body, please, please, do your relatives a favor and take care of some things. Have some sort of plan. Get rid of some stuff. Don’t expect your daughter to deal with guns. Or another daughter, a dead fox and mice. Document where the well head is. Maintain your property. I will not soon forget this experience. Looking back in my calendar, I relived the anxiety of all we had to do. It is done, and I am keeping my fingers crossed for finalizing the sale. A shout out here to my siblings for literal heavy lifting, for rescuing things that matter and letting go of those that don’t. And to Wayne and Brian for countless dump runs and to again Brian for have a source to purchase and remove lots of strange, large stuff.
4. Meditating – in April, following an intense few days re: see above, my wise sister suggested I might benefit from meditation. I downloaded a popular app and began a journey. Meditation is very personal, so I will spare you the details, except to say, it helps. Quite a bit.
5. Cuba – we went there as part of summer anniversary cruise. It wasn’t our favorite trip, but I was deeply intrigued by the culture, history and people. Amidst great poverty and a restrictive government, the people seemed to live lives filled with happiness and art. I am fascinated by the absence of commercialism which provides a certain freedom that we don’t enjoy here in the land of the free.
6. Vegan Thanksgiving – hearing about anyone’s eating habits is as uninteresting as hearing about their dream interpretations. Nonetheless, here it is. I am extremely proud of our wonderful Thanksgiving celebration (due in no small part to our wonderful guests) that was 100% plant-based. And 100% delicious.
7. Influence of Lo – the inspiration for the blog continues to inspire. A year ago, she was just learning to talk. Now, we all quote her. “Dookies” for cookies, which can be “ga-licious.” “What you do-nin?” to find out what someone is up to. It is hard to compare Lo to Cora who, at 3 weeks old, is an unknown, if not blank, slate. Lo is known and her bold, funny, enthusiastic approach may prove to be a challenge when she enters preschool this month, but she is a joyous little creature and her independent spirit “My do it!” and loving nature “my love you too much, Nana” is a winning combination in my book.
8. Gratitude big and small – there were some difficult times this year (see items 2&3). But I found it easier (perhaps as a result of item 4) to recognize the small graces and large blessings that fill my days. The big ones are obvious – my long, happy marriage, my kids, my siblings, friends, my health – but it is the small ones that amaze me. I have had several little epiphanies at the wonder of people doing their jobs: the helpful case worker at the department of health and human services, the staff at my mother’s bank, the real estate agent working on the house sale – not to mention the various fitness instructors, cashiers and librarians I cross paths with. And the small pleasures of a morning cup of coffee and an evening glass of wine. The calming rhythm of vegetable-chopping. The luxury of a good book to read. The beauty of it all.
9. Family vacation – it is a stale sentiment to state that family is the most important thing in life. That doesn’t make it less true. And, in an irony I didn’t predict, the freedom of the well-earned empty nest (2 great kids, college-educated in good careers and matched with good partners) has created a longing to spend more time with them. Rather than downsizing our home, we are re-appointing bedrooms to make it more accommodating to family sleepovers. Our family vacations in 2018 and 2017 leave me wanting more.
10. Simple – in the last year, I have developed a growing interest in keeping it simple. Getting rid of unneeded or unloved items is certainly related to the months spent emptying my mother’s house and pondering all the waste. I am a Yankee and hence naturally frugal but I am more committed to not buying things, not chasing material desires and appreciating what I have. It is not even about saving money, as I am happy to spend on things that matter such as good chocolate. But, as it turns out, many of things that matter seem to be small and free.