Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Blog Year Retrospective #12

If you had told me last year what my life would be like over the next twelve months, I would have fainted. Just keeled over, out cold. But there was no voice from the future, no glimmer in the crystal ball to prepare me for the heartache I would experience. 

This blog lost its most faithful reader. Just a few days before Christmas last year, my grandmother passed away. She regularly read my ramblings and encouraged me to write more often. Ever the cheerleader (or stalker?), she always wanted to know what was happening in my life. This blog likely would not have continued without her support and encouragement.

To say that Grandma was the matriarch of our family would not be fair. She was our champion, our confidant, our source of comfort (and of homemade bread). She was absolutely the glue holding everyone together for holidays and celebrations. Her funeral was large and well-attended, a testament to the lives she brightened and love she shared with so many. The void left in her absence will never be filled, and we have all struggled to move on without her guidance and love (and bread).

At the end of February, The Man and I were forced to give up our cat, Eddie. He had severe aggression problems, both toward his sister and to humans. We felt the safest, most humane option for him would be readopting him to a home without children or other animals, to people that have experience dealing with aggressive cats. He was readopted within a few days, and we are left with guilt-filled holes in our hearts for not being able to care for him. Surrendering Eddie was the hardest thing either of us has ever done.

In August, my aunt passed away. At only 74, she succumbed too young to Alzheimer’s Disease. Despite her memory loss and physical limitations, she had the brightest countenance of anyone I’ve ever known. At her funeral, every single person that remembered her to me mentioned her smile and laugh, two things I, too, will never forget.

These losses took their toll on me. I think I’ve cried more in the last year than in the previous five combined. Little things still set me off like seeing the same dish pattern that Grandma had when I’m shopping for new tableware, or when Annie wakes me up by sitting on my chest and breathing on my face like her brother, Eddie, used to, or when I make a really neat quilled paper piece that my aunt would have loved. Loss is hard. It’s just… hard.

My year was not without moments of lightness, however. Between tears and funerals, I was able to take a few trips and challenge myself in new ways.

In May, I went to North Dakota with my mom for a sort of family reunion. She and her four siblings, their spouses, and I all went to Bismarck to visit both Grandma’s and Grandpa’s extended family. We spent four days there, visiting way too many relatives and researching our family history. I enjoyed seeing people again that I hadn’t seen in twenty years, if ever. The state was beautiful, the weather was perfect, and the kuchen was delicious. I learned a ton about my Germans-from-Russia ancestors, and I would love to go visit the state and its impossibly nice residents again.

At the end of September, The Man and I took a vacation to the San Juan Islands for a few days. We hiked, dined, and went sightseeing all over San Juan Island and Orcas Island. Despite walking ten miles one day and over five miles on each of the other days, it was one of the most relaxing vacations we’ve taken. We're both keen to return, though the drive there is a bit of an undertaking with ferry schedules and the traffic nightmares known as Portland and Seattle, so it might be a few years.

As if my life wasn’t complicated and busy enough, I finally made the leap this year with a new personal challenge. I decided to pick up a new instrument and give learning the violin a shot. I spent months researching and pricing violins before I bought one, and I couldn’t be more pleased with mine. It’s stunning. It sounds beautiful. Well, when I can keep the bow on the right place on the right string with the right pressure, it sounds pretty... okay. I’m very much still at the extreme beginner phase with the violin, most of me frustrated by my own inability to progress fast enough. I admit I was na├»ve to expect the violin to be easy, but a sixth instrument is apparently as difficult as the first to learn. I have to be patient with myself and remember that I didn’t learn the piano overnight either.

I didn't take time to write this year, or do much of anything outside of my daily chores. I wish I would have been more motivated and accomplished something amazing, but I didn't. I mourned and grieved and took time to heal. I crafted little things (like quilted pillows made from Grandma's old shirts, one for each of her kids), but I didn't feel up to starting something new quite yet. Soon enough, I tell myself, but not yet.

Twelve years. A full dozen. I can't believe I've been keeping score of my life for this long. Happy blogiversary, and may the next year be somewhat considerably less difficult than the last. 

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