2013 was a year of changes – radical changes – for our family. Some were happy changes, and some were sad changes, and a few were a mix of both.
This is the reality of life.
The changes have caused me to withdraw a little and to contemplate life, my life, and life in general. In the past, I have vowed to do things (or not to do things as the case may be) to make my life better. Happier. But most of the time I have not lived up to these vows.
2014, however, will be different.
Life is too short, and the number of years I have left on this planet are dwindling.
That. And you never know how many you really have left.
So, here, in somewhat chronological order are the changes that occurred in our lives over the last year and what they mean to me and my family.
#1 – On New Year’s Day, DSH and our middle daughter loaded a truck and moved to her new life as a full-fledged adult to Flagstaff, Arizona.
She left behind an empty room.
And we had great fun helping her get her new home set up.
Three down, two to go.
#2 – We sent our baby off to Argentina for nearly five months. She referred to this trip as a “life changing” experience. She had many adventures.
And when she came home, our relationship was different in all the best ways. She returned a grown woman, and we sobbed when we saw each other.
It was life changing for me, too.
#3 – We sold our big home in the nice subdivision. We no longer needed all of the rooms, and I was sick of cleaning rooms we didn’t need or use. I wanted to decrease our carbon footprint and our expenses. This wasn’t our forever home and, in fact, only three of our five children lived there with us. I never really connected with this home. Downsizing. It was time.
#4 – We bought a little cottage on the lake from a family friend. We have been bringing the kids here for 23 years and felt really lucky to now be the owners.
This was going to be our place to relax and unwind. I’m still trying to figure out how to get DSH to do that. And to keep him off roofs and other high places.
An added benefit is that we have made new friends with the other residents of this beautiful little cove, and DSH got to realize his dream of having a place at The Lake.
#5 – We bought a smaller home in the historic district of a small city. We “lost” 1,000 square feet in this move, and we are still trying to get rid of stuff. We are also making changes to make this place our own.
So, we sold one home and bought two. But, we still ended up with less total square footage and lower expenses so it was still a win.
Since we have lived in our new neighborhood, we have participated in several neighborhood parties. The route of the local university homecoming parade went by our new home. We can walk to local restaurants, shops, and post office, and we have met more neighbors in a few short months here than we met in our last two neighborhoods combined.
We barely got moved in and unpacked when I returned to Minnesota for an extended stay. I had been spending a significant amount of time there over 18 months helping my sister while my brother-in-law battled colorectal cancer.
#6 – I was able to be with my brother-in-law to celebrate his last birthday. I made his favorite dessert, German Chocolate Cake, which he enjoyed. I was also able to make other favorite meals for him over the 18 months he was sick. Things like buttermilk pancakes and pumpkin pie and smoked ribs and brisket.
I was blessed to be able to travel on this journey with my sister and my brother-in-law from the diagnosis, through the treatments, through hospice, and through his final moments.
#7 – 2013 was the year where we visited a lot of funeral homes. We lost a dear friend from our old neighborhood whom we visited each year at Christmas. The girls used to shovel his driveway when it snowed.
Many of our friends lost mothers and fathers. We lost a friend who used to work with DSH at the golf course when he was a kid. Seeing friends at funeral homes is becoming a frequent social event for us.
We are at that age and time in our lives.
#8 – Cancer continues to rear its ugly head in our lives. Not only did my brother-in-law die from cancer, but three friends were diagnosed with this disease in 2013. None of them were that old either – two in their 40s and one in her 50s. I keep hearing about heart disease being the number one killer of men and women, but it’s cancer that keeps appearing with the loved ones in our lives.
#9 – My Irish twin sister and I are very close. We were born in the same year so when she celebrates a birthday, we get to be the same age for a few weeks. While we have always been close in spirit, we haven’t been close geographically for many years.
In 2013, after her husband died, she sold her home in Minnesota and move to a home three blocks from me. We are now within easy walking distance of each other. We now not only talk every day, but we get to SEE each other every day, too.
Oh, and the dogs came, too. Roxie, the dark one, is now living with us. She was originally our oldest daughter’s college dog. What goes around, comes around.
#10 – 2013 will always be known to me as the year of snow.
The 2012 to 2013 snow season started out mild, but it ended with a lot of snow late in the season. It snowed a lot where we lived. It also snowed a lot in Minnesota. More snow than average with most of it arriving late in the season. It snowed into Spring. Thunder snow. Both at home and in Minnesota.
I hate snow.
Then, it starting snowing EARLY in the 2013 to 2014 season. We had snow early and often in December.
Then we experienced the Polar Vortex. Deep snow. Extreme cold. Frozen pipes. Leaking roofs.
I really hate snow. I’m dreaming of the beach.
#11 – Our twins, our babies, turned 21 in 2013. They are smart and beautiful young women, but when bad things happen to them, I think of them as babies.
Our second youngest baby was in a bad car accident two days before Thanksgiving. She was at school 5 1/2 hours away. She spun and rolled her van. It ended up in a corn field.
She walked away from the accident unhurt.
By the time I found out about the accident, she was already safe. DSH got the calls and went through all of the anxiety. He was the one who got to be freaked out. He was the one who was emotional and crying and who suffered the anguish. By the time he got home and told me about it, our baby was safe, and I was the one who could be the voice of calm and reason. For a change.
There was a lesson in this, but I’m not sure if DSH is aware of it. I decided not to tell him to calm down, and that everything was all right. This is how he has handled my pain and anguish in the past, and it often angered me. It was like he was diminishing my emotions.
I let him own the pain, and I comforted him. I hope something like this never happens again, but the odds are that it will, and when it does, I’ll remember how to handle it. I hope he does, too.
#12 – With all the changes in our lives, traditions continue to evolve and change, too. For many years, we took Santa hat pictures at Christmas. I figured it was time to let that tradition go, too. After a lifetime of our family having Christmas at our home, we had the holidays at my sister’s new home.
Later in the day, the box of Santa hats was retrieved from our home and pictures were taken of each family. My niece and kids decided that they weren’t ready to let the Santa hat picture tradition go away. All those years of them complaining about me MAKING them wear the Santa hats and here they were enforcing the tradition.
That made me smile and warm with joy.
#13 – In 2013, I passed the double-nickle and am now quickly approaching the next big milestone in terms of birthdays. It’s a little scary.
Our goofy and ancient cat decided to die on my birthday in 2013. It was retribution.
So our theme for Christmas 2013 was “cats”.
And my sister “won” the best cat themed gift of all. A solar-powered, googly-eyed creepy cat. Truly awesome.
2013 was a year of many dramatic changes in our family. As a result of these changes and other things that happened, I have intentionally made my circle smaller. After nearly 20 years, I am no longer on the Board of a local non-profit. I have reduced my family relationships to include only those that are positive and supportive and reciprocal. I am limiting my participation in family events to those in my circle.
It’s probably defensive on my part, and it may expand again in the future, but for now my circle is only filled with those who truly know me and care about me.
2013 taught me that life is just too short to take up time with unhealthy relationships, toxic family drama, or situations that are not authentic.
I’m hopeful that 2014 will be filled with positive relationships and new adventures where I can heal my heart and soul.