Now that the new year has begun, and I've started getting back into the typical daily routine for my house, I've found time to take a look at the past year. This year has held many struggles as well as successes, and I believe it will do well for me to take time to reflect on the accomplishments (and mistakes) that have occurred in the past twelve months.
The first thing of importance that happened, and the one which brought me to this blog is simple: I recognized my desire to become more creative. In February of last year, I once again realized my passion for writing. It had always been on the back burner of my mind, but until this point, I hadn’t really done anything to pursue the desire. That day in February, I wrote a little article as I sat by my window, watching the rain pour down. I didn’t realize at the time that it had been the first of many quiet moments of writing throughout the year, and it also became the first post on my blog page. I will be the first to point out that my posts have been somewhat lacking in both quantity and quality, but that is neither here nor there at this point. I believe that it is a huge victory for me that I have even created or posted on a blog in the first place.
Over the course of the next few weeks after beginning my blog, I was reading posts on another blog that I follow. I began making changes to simplify my life and my home. I had been reading up on the topic of simple living, and it stuck with me. I started going through all the items in our apartment, and began the processing of purging the things that I didn’t think were necessary for our life. It is amazing how so many things can find their way into our little home. I have maintained the process of purging throughout the year, slowly but steadily removing items from drawers, cabinets, closets, shelves, boxes, etc. and donating them to our local thrift shop. It has been a very freeing experience. I can now look around our home and breathe a bit more freely, because there isn’t so much stuff everywhere. The things that I have chosen to keep are the ones that I truly love, or items that I know are useful to us. I have become much more intentional about the material items I keep, and I fully intend to stick to it. (Coffee and a Typewriter is the name of the blog. I am shamelessly advertising for it, since it was the kindling that stoked my desire to write again, and was also the inspiration for creating my own blog. Not to mention the woman who writes it is a personal friend of mine.)
This idea of purging has recently spread from being just physical possessions to also encompassing other less tangible things as well. I have become more intentional about my lifestyle, as well. I am learning to choose more carefully how I spend my time, who I spend that time with, the things that I allow to occupy space in my mind and thoughts. Instead of allowing just anything to stress or worry me, I’ve been working hard on filtering the things that I once would have stressed out about without a second thought. This has led to a happier version of myself, and has allowed for happier times with my hubby, as well. A less stressed wife often equals a more peaceful home for both of us. In the coming year, I hope to continue this process of purging unnecessary things from my life.
As I purged items from my closet, I began weeding through and organizing my craft supplies as well. Once I had made more space for the important things I had left, I was able to start devoting more time to another of my hobbies: jewelry making. I have always enjoyed making necklaces and bracelets, and now that I had more time and space for it, my interest in the activity was renewed.
I opened up a store on Etsy, thinking that it would be fun to make some money by doing something I enjoyed. I admit, I haven’t figured out a successful way of running the store, and haven’t sold many items, but some of my time during this coming year will be devoted to building up my store and encouraging more sales. I also have developed an interest in making my own lotions, body scrub, lip balm, and possibly even deodorant in the future. Once I have my jewelry making running smoothly, I’ll begin experimenting with some of the body products that interest me.
In May, my Aunt Stefanie passed away. She developed sever complications and organ failure from decades of alcoholism. Despite the issues this caused with her husband and extended family members, she remained a devoted and enthusiastic mother to my two cousins. In their entire lives, she never missed a single game that her sons participated in, and she never allowed her dependence on alcohol to interfere with her role as their mother. I drove up to Washington with my father and sister to attend her funeral, and spend some time with the family there. It was a sad reunion, but it was still a good week of family time.
In July, Jorel was hospitalized for two days, due to diabetes complications. He’s had diabetes since 2001, and as much as it frustrates me, he has never taken the condition seriously. This time, we went to the hospital for a foot ulcer that was worsening, despite his previous round of antibiotics. We went to the ER, and once the doctors got the full picture of the situation, they immediately decided to admit him. When they admitted him, the situation couldn’t have been much worse than it already was. His blood sugar was sky high, allowing the infection to run rampant despite the antibiotics. Over the next two days, the staff was able to bring his blood sugar back down to a healthy and manageable level, and we discovered that while the sores were bad, they weren’t to the point of amputation…yet.
Jorel was released to come home on July 4th, and the following day was the start of a very different health regimen. It was made clear to the both of us that if Jorel didn’t change his habits, he wouldn’t be able to avoid the hospital for very long. And for myself, I knew that I needed to make changes as well. I don’t have diabetes, or any other chronic condition, thankfully. But I’ve known for some time now that I have extra pounds that aren’t doing me any good, and they need to be gone. We began making the changes that we both needed, which thankfully were very similar to each other’s needs. More veggies, less carbs, more whole grains, less processed foods. A more responsible approach to his blood sugars was also crucial, and was implemented through the use of a new (and extremely successful) insulin routine. There have been some bad days still, and we are still making mistakes and learning from them. The addition of exercise into our schedules has been the biggest obstacle, but with some extra motivation and dedication, it will become easier throughout the coming year.
A month later we had our next big development for the year: My father moved out. Through a series of complex and depressing events in 2012, my father came to be living with Jorel and I in our one bedroom apartment. What had started out as a transition period of 2 weeks while he found another place to move into turned into 2 ½ years of him living on our couch. While we tried constantly to help him get into his own place, nothing we did worked. It was the most stressful and difficult time of my life so far, and I’m still not sure how I managed to come out of it with my relationships (both with my husband and my father) in tact.
After weeks of seeking wisdom and prayerful consideration, Jorel and I had decided to set a firm date for my father to move out, regardless of him having another place to go. I know it sounds harsh. I vacillated with myself for a long time before finally agreeing to the decision. In reality, my father had become too comfortable with living on my couch, and had given up trying to get his own place. Jorel and I had gotten married in the time that my father was living with us, and we desperately needed our own space. The date was decided, and even though my father was unhappy about it, he did leave, and in time, he has come to understand the necessity of the decision. Now, Jorel and I can finally experience what it’s like to be married, without having to work around another person living with us.
In September, my family’s dog was laid to rest. Tessie had been with my family for 14 years, and she was easily the best dog I’ve ever met. She was a black and white Boston Terrier, and she was the smartest, most loyal dog. Around April I discovered an unusual lump on her forehead, above her eye. We later figured out that it was a tumor, and it was growing and spreading steadily for several months. My family gathered to decide what to do for her, and we knew that this was only the first of potentially many health complications that she would soon encounter, due to her age. Since the tumor wasn’t hurting her, we finally decided to allow her the best life we could give, for however long she lasted.
She did well for another three months, until she took a turn for the worse. The tumor began pressing against her nasal passage, making it difficult for her to breathe; the tumor turned from a smooth lump under the skin to open sores that wouldn’t heal; she became lethargic, and stopped playing with our other dog; she began losing weight, despite still eating normally, and then she stopped eating, as well; she couldn’t sleep comfortably anymore, because of the pressures on her bones. I was the one caring for her, and it was becoming increasingly difficult for me to watch her wither away. I gathered the family once more, and told them that it was time for us to say goodbye. We all went with her when the day came. She passed quickly and easily, her last moments were the most restful sleep she’d had in months. While I do miss her terribly some days, I feel like a weight has been lifted, knowing that she is no longer suffering any longer. And in the future, I know I will one day own another Boston Terrier.
On a happier note: Over the course of the year I joined two ministries within my church. In another post earlier in the year, I talked about my reservations to help in the toddler class, and then later being told that I was needed in the nursery instead. Well I worked in the nursery for several months before being asked again to work in the toddler class. They were short staffed due to some women being on maternity leave, and they needed me to switch with a friend of mine so that she could be in the nursery with her baby during her days of volunteering. This time, I was much less hesitant about helping, since I had already become familiar with the people and the kids in our church, and I was more willing to give my concerns to God. I’ve been working in the toddler class for a few months now, and it’s not nearly as bad as I had thought it would be. I actually enjoy it a lot, and I’m glad I stepped out of my comfort zone. I have also agreed to help with the cleaning team, to help clean and prepare the building before each Sunday service. I haven’t been scheduled yet, but I know that the duties will be similar to what I already due at home. Along with volunteering to help at the church, I’ve also begun to develop a network of friends and mentors within our church family. There are some amazing people in my church, and through God’s provision I have been able to develop friendships with several women who have been helping me to grow. Jorel also, has been making friends and started a mentorship with one of the husbands of one of my friends. I am so thankful for the church family that we have, and I’m hoping that the coming year will only expand the friendships that we’ve already built.
This past November was a busy one for Jorel and I. It was our 1-year anniversary. The year flew by so quickly that I didn’t even realize it was our anniversary until a few days beforehand. We had an unusual first year of marriage. My father was living with us for the first 10 months, which really put a damper on the whole newlywed-feeling. Luckily, Jorel and I had a couple months to ourselves after my dad moved out, so we were able to enjoy that short time as newlyweds before our anniversary came. We celebrated our anniversary by taking a weeklong vacation in Washington during the week of Thanksgiving, to take advantage of the school holiday at Jorel’s work.
While Jorel and I were in Washington, we visited Seattle, to explore the city a bit, and to visit the University of Washington, my potential future home. We’ve talked of moving to Washington for a few years now, always in the abstract sense without having solid dates or plans for how to accomplish the move. I decided long ago that I wanted to pursue a degree in Oceanography and Marine Biology, and I wanted to achieve those degrees at the UofW. It made sense, since I wanted to move there anyways, and they also happen to have one of the best Oceanography programs available. This trip was the deciding factor for me, allowing me to finally see the city and the school that I had dreamed of for so long. We are still trying to pin down the details for moving, and trying to figure out Jorel’s next career goals. But we now know for sure that-God willing-we will be moving to Washington.
Throughout the entire month of November, I participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). National Novel Writing Month has a dedicated website (NaNoWriMo.org) that works to encourage young people to begin writing, and works to educate people on the importance of expressing creativity through writing. The website issues a challenge during the month of November to anyone who wishes to participate: Join the millions of people in the US who partake in the challenge each year, and work throughout the month to write a novel that spans over 50,000 words in length. The novel is supposed to be of your own creation, and you cannot have begun writing the novel before November 1st. I have participated in NaNoWriMo for several years now, but this was the first year in which I would be working on a brand new novel, and writing without any previous work being done on the project. I managed to write about 35,000 words before the deadline, which was an impressive victory for me. I continued working on my project and I managed to complete the 50,000-word goal within the week following the end of the contest. While I didn’t ‘win’ the contest, I did realize that I have a surprising amount of creativity, more than I had previously assumed. I am still working on the novel, and while I don’t think I will ever publish it, I do intend to finish it, and keep it as a personal reminder that I can accomplish such a monumental project.
And to finish off the year, on the morning of January 1st, I received a call from my father, informing me of the passing of another family member. Richard, my second cousin-my father's first cousin-passed away on New Year's Eve. The cause of death was unknown at the time, and I have yet to hear anything else about it so far. I had just seen Richard in November. He was a smoker and a drinker, and quite overweight, but he seemed to still be in good health. He was two years younger than my father, so his passing was definitely a surprise. It seems that my family couldn't go into the new year without a new loss weighing on our shoulders.
This past year has been full of sadness and difficulties, but it has been just as full of happiness and personal achievements. I will miss those I've lost, that is certain. But I will still celebrate the small victories of my everyday life, and I will continue striving towards growth and living each day to the fullest, to make sure that my life will have meant something.
"I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me. I will sing to the Lord because He is good to me." Psalm 13:5-6
Up next: Resolutions for 2015