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

Challenging Week

It’s been a challenging week. Events included having composed an entire 878 word blog post on Wednesday only to  delete the whole thing accidentally before publishing it. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh! There’s a reason Munch’s “Scream” painting goes for so much money.

On Monday, our van went into the shop for an investigation of the “service engine soon” message on the dash. It could have been worse. Any time I think the words “engine” and “auto shop” in the same sentence, I brace myself for $1,000 or more on the next credit card bill. But we got away with $330 this time.

Tuesday, I took leave from work to accompany my mom to an appointment with an ophthalmologist. Her primary care physician comes to the nursing home, but this appointment required transportation. As I’ve written before, I can’t take my mom on my own without help. Fortunately enough, the nursing home provides van transport for doctor’s appointments, and allows a family member to ride along. Highlights of Tuesday included a nurse forgetting my mom was about to leave and putting a laxative in her morning juice, the van driver taking us to the wrong clinic and leaving us there, requiring frantic phone calls and resulting in us showing up late at the correct place, filling out an intake form that was the equivalent of writing a 400-page biography, and (harking back to the laxative) three different visits to the clinic bathroom – an approximately ten-minute ordeal each time. I arrived at the nursing home at 8:20 a.m., and by the time I got back home after everything, it was right around 1:00. Here’s the lesson I took away from it. If you’re accompanying an elderly relative to a doctor’s appointment, clear your calendar for the entire day.

On Wednesday I was informed I did not receive the adjustment in my work hours I had requested. I had misinterpreted something my supervisor said to mean that it was likely to happen, so this was a disappointment. It’s not a huge tragedy, but the change would have made my life a little easier. Still, I’m glad to have a job.

On Thursday, I discovered my son is on the verge of flunking one of his classes, after the teacher finally posted weeks’ worth of scores, including many assignments that were never handed in. Six of his seven teachers are pretty organized and communicate in a timely manner. This one? Not so much. My kid has an auditory processing disorder, which means he spends his days trying to figure out how much of the conversation he missed. He can learn all of the material, no problem. But he often misses instructions, so doesn’t know what the assignment was. He also can’t listen and do something else at the same time – e.g. take notes. Plus, the inability to filter sounds is highly distracting, the practical effect being that he’s interrupted in his work about 10 times as often as I would be. He learns quickly, but works slowly.  He has a 504 plan in place to address these issues, but I suspect this particular teacher is one who forgets to follow it. I check his grades on-line frequently, and in most classes I can pretty well help him catch up because I’ll know if he missed an assignment. But when nothing is posted forever, then suddenly 20 assignments, there’s no sorting it out.

Yesterday featured many emails and phone calls with the school, after I started out asking for a time he could meet with the teacher to make a plan for catching up. I offered to bring him in early, have him stay late, have him come to her class during his Study Hall time, whatever time would work for her. I know it’s dangerous to try to judge someone’s tone in email communication, but there was no mistaking the absolute anger in her response, which boiled down to her telling me he’s had all the time he needed and she didn’t have extra to spend on him. This is the part that’s hardest for me as a mom – seeing adults who become furious with my kid, convinced he’s being difficult on purpose, when he’s just really struggling. It strikes to the center of my heart and sends my mind to dark places of worry about his future. How will his bosses see him? Will his heart be broken by some girl who can’t understand? Yet, I have to do my best to maintain my composure and try to defuse the teacher bomb. In the end, I involved the counselor who is my son’s 504 case manager. Thank goodness for her. My kid’s going to stay late two days next week, making up work.

Meanwhile, I had the epiphany that this same teacher is the one he would have for the architecture class he requested next year, and maybe it wouldn’t be a good thing. He loves architecture, but…Today is the last day to change course requests for next school year. So add in a search through other course options and a long discussion with my son – who is now set to take “Introduction to Business” – and associated request change paperwork.

Six of his seven teachers this year have been okay, and that’s a good ratio. A couple I would even rate as stellar. One in particular seems to have a very good relationship with my son. I tell myself to remember this, it keeps my mind wide of the dark places.

And we have ants. But I’m dealing.

Breathing. Breathing. Breathing. Tomorrow’s another day. I’ve met this week’s challenges. I can meet next week’s. Ohm.