Something’s Lost, But Something’s Gained: Old Year / New Year

“Well something’s lost, but something’s gained in living every day.” — Both Sides Now, Joni Mitchell.

One reason my blogging on this site petered out quite a bit this year was because I felt I’d been posting about loss, loss, and more loss for a while. It continued for me relentlessly to the point that I didn’t want to write on that theme anymore, even though it’s what was going on in my life. But of course, the world goes on and there are gains as well, plenty of them.

Let’s just get the losses and difficulties listed and out of the way in one post here, and then move on to gains and goals for the new year. Sound like a plan?

I’ll start with the big ones. It’s been a bad year for brothers-in-law in my family. My parents raised six kids to adulthood. Five of us are currently married. Of those five, three of us lost a brother-in-law in 2021. In late March, the wife of my oldest brother lost her brother suddenly and unexpectedly to natural causes. One week to the day later, my husband’s brother died in a boating accident. That was a huge blow and consumed a lot of our energy this year. Last month, the husband of my oldest sister lost a younger brother to cancer. None of the three were especially old – all in their fifties or sixties. I’ve also had a couple of old friends who died of COVID before the vaccines were widely available. It’s been rough. I know big picture it’s a good thing to realize how fragile and fleeting life is. But maybe it could be a little less in our faces for a while.

The smaller losses seem continual, too. And I guess that’s normal. As Joni Mitchell reminded us, life is constant loss and constant gain. One that stung because it was the result of my own lazy negligence was when I lost a lot of my creative writing to a failed logic board in my previous laptop. That would be the laptop I kept meaning to getting around to backing up…for several months. This happened around the time I had two basal cell skin cancers removed from the face I had inadequately protected from the sun in my youth. Well, well, well…if it wasn’t the consequences of my own poor choices come to call. And speaking of health, multiple episodes with kidney stones, including one surgery, have meant that I’ve had to give up some of the foods I like best, as well as quite a bit of money to copays.

Talk of money segues into my older kid — who really seemed to have things finally going his way — getting his car totaled by a hit-and-run driver. He wasn’t injured, which is the most important thing. But since he works as a delivery driver, this took away his ability to earn money. He had some savings and has now gotten a check from his own insurance company. But my husband and I will need to supplement that for him to replace the car — or at a minimum, cosign a loan.

Among the things gained this year, perspective is probably the most important. I have really stopped fretting about some petty shit. I guess the less cuss-y way to say that is, I’m not sweating the small stuff, at least not as much as I used to. I’m talking about the annoying habits of other people (glad I don’t have any of those, though!), my own minor mistakes, the errors of a particular sports team I follow, the fact that my house will always have an endless supply of small maintenance issues, whether the lyrics of a song on the radio could have been improved with my editing.

Other gains include that my oldest kid has a new love and they both came to visit recently, before Omicron started cancelling flights. I really like this person a lot and the two of them seem happy together. (I hope I’m not jinxing it.) Another gain with child number one is that he’s handling the car loss pretty well, navigating the insurance, making a plan and budget for replacement, being an adult.

Another big win in our family, one I did announce here, was that son number two released a game — Happenlance — for sale this year after several months of collaboration with colleagI have lost some people, but I got one back. One of my sisters with whom I could previously go years without contact has started calling me. For a long time I didn’t even know where she was or how to get in touch with her. But she has a new phone and appears to have decided she doesn’t want to spend whatever days we all have remaining estranged from family members. She called to give me the new number, and we have spoken a couple of more times since then.

More smaller gains: My strength and stamina are much better than they were both before and after my surgery. I was able to take a 13-mile bike ride recently, something that would have been unimaginable earlier in the year. You know what? That’s not a small gain; I’m moving over to the big wins category. Also in the value-added column — while I’ve had to give up or limit some of dietary items I love, I’m developing new favorites. Used to drink cup after of cup of black tea, but now that I can’t I’ve discovered green matcha and red rooibos. Can’t have the spinach quiche that was a dinner-time staple around here. Let me tell you about the popularity of the broccoli quiche I started making in its place.

As I was typing this, my older son sent me a photo of the car he just bought, so that’s taken care of now. It’s pretty – a red 2003 Toyota Corolla with low miles for the age.

I was going to talk about goals for 2022, but this is too long already. Maybe I’ll make another post tomorrow. Happy New Year, everyone!

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

Holiday Joy With Grown Kids

Christmas tree

I guess I could have hidden that extension cord before taking the photo, but my Christmas theme this year is “enjoying the real.” Things don’t have to look perfect to bring joy.

Our holiday celebrations are over for the most part. My older son and his partner flew in from halfway across the country to spend last week with us, flying back away last Sunday. We made Friday the 17th our Christmas Day. All of those gifts in the picture have already been opened. Add in the fact that I’m working Sunday the 26th and it’s as if I’m living in the future from everyone else, having already had Christmas, and am now merely experiencing a regular old two-day weekend.

There are aspects of holidays with little kids I miss, but let me tell you what’s great about celebrating with all adults in the group. When I was off work for their visit, I was able to sleep in if I wanted. And this morning, I slept in again. I felt no need to count and recount the packages to make sure everyone had the exact same number. We spent roughly the same amount on everyone and it was all good. I didn’t have to buy or distribute presents to teachers or friends of my kids. Truly, the workload was so much less.

In fact, as five grown-ups, we discussed and came to consensus on the idea of ordering carry-out from a local restaurant/micro-brewery our special dinner. We could each get what we wanted and I didn’t have to spend hours in the kitchen. The only real hassle came with the food pick up, which turned out to be a tricky two-person job. The location is in the middle of downtown, which was an extremely busy place on a Friday night, with no available parking. Hubs jumped out of the car and made a dash for the restaurant while I was stopped at a red light. I then circled the block three times until he came out again with our bags of food. As evidenced by the horn honks, a couple of other drivers may have been a little peeved when I held up traffic so he could jump back in with me, but I saw no other solution and it honestly didn’t take that long. I hope they’re over the aggravation by now.

Absolutely the best part of the week was getting an extended visit with my firstborn for the first time since May of last year. Since bedtime was not an issue, we spent a couple of nights sitting up late together, chatting about this and that — sharing funny videos on our phones, talking about books we’ve read, him telling me about how certain elements from The Lord of the Rings related to J.R.R. Tolkein’s life experiences. Now that we’re past the point where I make and enforce rules for him, the tension is gone. I think we’ve reached the payoff point I’ve always heard about where you get to be friends with your adult children. Lucky for me, this person makes an excellent friend.

We’re supposed to go visit him in June, but with the new virus variant, who knows. It was hard saying goodbye with the future looking so uncertain. I might have cried a tiny bit when I was tidying up the remnants of their visit. This air mattress and I deflated at about the same rate:

Only for a few moments did I feel as deflated as this air mattress.

I didn’t allow myself to wallow for too long. I’d much rather think on the fact that the week they were here was one of the happiest I’ve had in quite a while, building up my bank deposits of fond memories.

I’ve heard from many friends and family members whose holiday plans have been disrupted by the new pandemic surge. If this is you, I hope that life gets easier for you soon.

Best wishes for peace, love, and joy to all.