The Balance Sheet 2014

I hope everyone who celebrated Christmas had a merry one and those of you who didn’t had a relaxing day.  The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas seems like a mad dash, full of chaos that has to be dealt with at an ever-accelerating pace.  Then, suddenly, it’s December 25.  Everything here hits a full stop.  And the quiet gives rise to reflection.

XmasTree_2014When I was in grad school, I saw a cross-stitch pillow kit in a craft store window.  The pillow had holly on it along with this rhyme:

Never a Christmas morning/Never an old year ends/But somebody thinks of somebody/Old days, old times, old friends.

I loved that saying.  But I was in grad school (and so had no money), with course work to complete and duties as a teaching assistant (and so had no time).  Plus I never got into cross-stitch.  But I stood at the store window until I had the quotation memorized.

A Google search of that saying turned up a 1915 version on Google Books.  There was no author attribution, alas, but the sentiment expressed so holds true for me.

Each Christmas evokes memories of those past, of people who were part of them.  In the end, the people matter way more than the things involved in the occasion.  I couldn’t tell you what I got for Christmas the year I was in 10th grade, but I remember that was the last Christmas my grandfather was with us.

Those of you who’re regulars here know I lost a couple of friends this fall.  The sad total is now up to three, as a longtime colleague and friend of the dh’s died suddenly last Friday.  So this is a Christmas particularly laced with memories, some happy and some bittersweet, for us.

I know some of our frequent visitors have also had losses this year, and I hope you have memories that brought you joy this holiday season.

The rush is over now, and nothing takes its place.  New Year’s Eve prep, unless you’re hosting a party, is just a trip to the grocery store.  No biggie after the hectic days receding in the rear view mirror.  So there’s time to think and to remember as we look to the dawn of the new year.

Tiny treatsThere were some great upsides to the year for me.  I published a novel and an extended-length novella and wrote a micro-story for the Tiny Treats anthology (still available and still free).  Writing something so short was a revelation, as I hadn’t done so since my fanfic days.  I’ll be doing some shorter pieces in the year ahead while still working on the novels.

Magic_and_Mistletoe_finalIn response to reader requests, I’m writing a (longer) sequel to the story in the anthology.  This short story is holiday-themed, so I’m doing my best to have it up before New Year’s.  Of course, many things have vied with writing for time this past week.  If you celebrate Christmas, certain things just have to be done by December 25!  Still, I’m hoping to have it out soon, and we’ll see whether a bookworm and a badass can find love.

We celebrated Thanksgiving in Barcelona with the boy, who studied there this semester.  We ate our holiday meal at a restaurant one of his professors recommended. I had a delicious whitefish risotto followed by the abso-freaking-lutely best lemon sorbet I have ever had.

Barcelona_SorbetAs you may know, sorbet here is like sherbet, served in defined scoops.  There were a couple of such scoops in this dish, but they were buried in lemon creamy stuff topped with shaved lemon ice. Wow!

Just by the way, I had several amazing desserts and photographed every one of them.  And a couple of the boy’s and the dh’s.  I’ll be posting the pictures on my website and on Facebook.

Barcelona_Hotel2The city was decorated for Christmas, so I got several pictures of holiday decorations.  I’m a sucker for Christmas lights.  Always have been, likely always will be, so I loved seeing all the ones in Barcelona.  That’s the front of our hotel at left.  We saw people walking down the street stop and pose next to the big light balls by the door.

Another highlight for me was standing next to the Mediterranean (highway of the Greeks and Romans) at last, even if it was just the harbor.  And we flew into Spain over it with the setting sun gleaming on the waves.  I wish my high school Latin teacher were still alive so I could tell her.

Spain was also special to me because it was the homeland of the grandmother I never knew.  My father’s mother was born in the Basque region, near France.  We didn’t go there, but just being in the country where she was born was a treat for me.

Hthrow1000YrsBkThen it was on to England, homeland of my father’s father, who died when my dad was very young.  We didn’t actually go into the country, much though we would’ve loved to, as we were only changing planes.  I swung by the W.H. Smith’s in the terminal in search of a book I’d seen (but didn’t buy since I didn’t want to lug it around the whole trip) on the way over.

It seemed perfectly geared to a British audience and, of course, to Anglophiles like me.  Unfortunately, in the few days we’d been in Spain, the store had sold the book.  Aagh!  It’s out of print here, so I’ll have to order a copy from the Book Depository (with apologies to any Francophiles out there).

Despite all the wonderful Spanish wines and desserts, I gained only about half a pound, maybe because we walked so much.  That was good because I joined the Y this year and have lost 18 pounds so far.  I’ll be hitting the treadmill again next week.

When I look back over the year, the sad things are balanced by the good ones, the happy ones.  My plan for 2015 is to exercise, watch what I eat, and write as much as possible.

Now if I can just get Magic & Mistletoe finished….

What were the highlights of the past year for you?  Is there someone who’s particularly on your mind this holiday season? What do you look forward to in 2015?

 

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Comments

24 Comments

  • Helen says:

    Is he coming to visit me ?

    Have Fun
    Helen

    • Looks like he’s headed your way, Helen! Congrats–but lock up the Tim Tams! The GR was into the egg nog last night, and I think his was spiked, so maybe he’s too hung over to make trouble.

  • Helen says:

    nancy

    A lovely post as always My Mum and Dad are always in my heart at Christmas although it has been a while since I lost them they are never far from my thoughts especialy at this time of the year. For me the highlights of 2014 is retirement and our cruise to New Zealand I also had my 7th grandchild and that brings a lot of joy 🙂

    Although since I have retired I have not had much time to sit and read LOL I really haven’t stopped so I am hoping that things will slow doen very soon. Love the thought of more stories from you Nancy as you know I do love your books 🙂

    Have Fun
    Helen

    Maybe the GR can help me eat all the leftovers that are in the fridge

    • Thanks, Helen! I appreciate the kind words for the post and for my books.

      Many of my Christmas memories also involve my parents. Parents shape our holidays when we’re small, so it seems natural to remember them when those holidays roll around again.

      I haven’t been on FB much this fall, but I saw some of your cruise pictures–how fun! That’s a great way to celebrate retiring.

      Congrats on that seventh grandchild! I know you enjoy them all. And they seem to be a great aid in keeping the rooster under control.

  • Sally Schmidt says:

    What a nice post. Good memories for 2014. I retired. Have been very busy but wonder why I waited so long, loving it. We added another great-grandbaby to our family this year – such a joy. Lost a favorite aunt but I was able to be there so memories are bittersweet.

    Your tales of Spain made me nostalgic. We spent 4 years there in the late ’70’s when my husband was in the AF. For a surprise Christmas dinner tonight I finally made the paella from scratch that I have been promising him since then (it was delicious!). Churros are on the menu for New Year’s Eve.

    • Sally, thank you. Congrats on your grandchild and your retirement! I’m glad you’re enjoying your freedom.

      I’m sorry about your aunt. Fresh losses always loom large over the holidays, at least for us.

      I had paella while we were in Spain–very tasty but earthier than what I’ve had in restaurants here. I’ve never had churros, I don’t think.

  • Shannon says:

    It’s been a tough year overall but I have had real moments of joy.

    The moment I’m recalling is my Mom’s pleasure at getting to talk to an old friend because I had bullied her into going over to our old hometown for a quilt show. She didn’t really want to do it but she was glad she did. I really wish that she would get to the point that she avoids doing things because she would be putting people out because she’s slow.

    Right now, I’m feeling grateful for a motivational speaker I heard this fall. She gave me some push towards improving my life and helping me realize goals. Like you, I’m planning on getting on the “treadmill” of life. There are wonderful things happening when I do the small stuff.

    • Shannon, small moments can mean a lot, can’t they? I’m glad your tough year as had is bright spots.

      I know what you mean about your mom. Mine had similar tendencies. Maybe the quilt show experience will encourage her to rethink.

      Good luck with your “treadmill” projects in 2015!

  • catslady says:

    It’s been a while since I lost someone so for that I am grateful. Unfortunately, I did lose one of my dear cats early in the year. But for that it’s been a very calm year and I look forward to lots of good reading.

    • Catslady, I’m so sorry about your cat. Our furry friends become members of our families, and it’s always hard when they go.

      I hope you have a great year of reading ahead!

  • pjpuppymom says:

    I’m in a very reflective mood today. While 2014 brought me a lot of happiness it also brought much sadness. The year began with the death of my sweet dog on New Year’s Eve, 2013 and is ending with my dear uncle’s death yesterday morning. In between, I lost five immediate family members and dear friends. I’m ready for 2015.

    While it’s terrible to lose someone you love on Christmas morning, there are a few things for which I’m grateful. I had a lovely conversation with my uncle last week. We laughed, talked football, reminisced a bit and he told me how much my frequent phone calls meant to him. We both said “I love you” before hanging up. My uncle loved my homemade chocolates and the Christmas package I shipped them arrived last Friday, in time for him to enjoy his favorite pieces. His children were all home for Christmas and holding him and my aunt close when he passed from this life into the next. It warms my heart to know he knew so much love.

    • PJ, I’m so sorry about your uncle’s death and about the very rough year you’ve had. 2015 has got to be better!

      It’s great that you got to talk to your uncle one last time before he died, and that his family was around him when he passed.

  • Amy Conley says:

    I’ve been thinking about my mother my mother in law and my aunty. Thankful that my grandson got out of the hospital in time for Christmas because he was our Christmas this year. And I’m thankful for the fact that Saturday I get to see grants a number one and spend some time with him.

    • Amy, I’m sorry about your tough year. It’s great that your grandson is out of the hospital and able to be with you for the holiday. It’s nice to have family around.

  • Hi Nancy! So sorry to hear about your recent loss. You’ve really had a mixed bag of a year, haven’t you? Highs and lows. As you say, it’s the people we remember at this time of year. I particularly remember my parents – my mum absolutely adored Christmas so it was such a special time of year for her.

    I’ve had an odd year. I was convinced the house would sell quickly and I’d be somewhere unknown for Christmas. Then it didn’t – and I’m not sorry – but I feel like I’ve been running like mad to stay in the same spot. Although having said that, doing all the clearing was a great job out of the way.

    Hope all the Bandits and Bandita Buddies had a lovely Christmas Day.

    • Anna, thank you. The dh’s mother also was very much into Christmas. We have some small decorations that have been passed down through her family, as our fruitcake recipe has been.

      I’m sorry the house didn’t sell as quickly as expected. I’m sure the clearing out was cathartic–at least it always is for me, and leaves me feeling comparatively virtuous, at least for a few days–but you did all that work without attaining the end result.

      I hope the house finds a buyer early in 2015!

  • Nancy, losses are always hard but especially so when they come close to the holidays. I unfortunately lost an aunt last week, one of my mom’s sisters, and attended her funeral last Saturday. I feel for my cousin because she’s having to deal with the fresh loss of her mother, the declining health of her father, all on top of the holidays.

    Overall, I’ve had a good year. My husband and I continue to be in good health (knock on wood), and I was able to take some nice trips this year — to Montana to see my sister, some conferences in San Antonio and Atlanta, and to L.A. for a movie premiere and my first trip to Disneyland. Looking forward to seeing what 2015 has in store.

  • Deb says:

    Nancy, thank you for your post today. I think it has made us all ponder and reflect upon events in our life this last year; some good, some sad, and memories to cherish.
    I did not really have one sad event; just an on-going one with my dad’s Alzheimer’s. Perhaps, also, my husband being unable to work. However, he has taken over all household chores, so that is nice. As for joys, well, watching my daughter in all of her school events and sports were definite highlights. Also, our little 21-month-old grandson Jace and his antics….and his “No” stage, ha!
    The best to you and yours in 2015!

    • Deb, I’m glad you liked the post. I’m sorry about your dad’s Alzheimer’s. No one in my family has suffered from that, though my grandmother had a form of dementia that seemed similar.

      How nice that your husband has taken over the household chores. It sounds as though y’all have found a silver lining in his situation.

      Watching your daughter and granddaughter must be great fun. I remember the “no” stage very well. 🙂

  • EC Spurlock says:

    My sympathies are with all of you who have lost loved ones this year. It was just last year at Christmas that we lost a dear aunt. My sister is still beating herself up for taking a couple of hours to sleep after spending two sleepless days in the hospital with her; when she woke up our aunt was gone and my sister still feels she could have saved her if she had been alert. I don’t think she’ll ever get over it.

    Compared to the last two years, this year has been relatively optimistic. I’ve had a big increase in freelance work which has helped a lot to stabilize our finances despite continuing medical bills, including several kit designs and a full book for which I will get royalties quarterly ongoing. (It’s like a literary contract with training wheels.) Also, I started the year by finally having some designs accepted in the top magazine in my industry and I’m ending the year with the front cover of their January issue, which makes me very excited. DH continues to improve after his stroke and is more like himself every day. And while we have not yet solved my health problems, the biopsy (which went smoothly) and other tests have eliminated the most dangerous possibilities, for which I am grateful. Small miracles are sometimes better than big showy ones!

    And I buried the hatchet with a couple of relations this Christmas; one my godmother’s sister who has always been very verbally abusive toward me, but i reached out to her in memory of my godmother and in consideration of her kids whom I have always considered friends. The other an uncle who also has never thought much of me but is failing in health and wanted to make amends so I met him halfway. The past isn’t always such a big deal when compared to the eternity you’re facing.

    • EC, I’m sorry for the loss of your aunt, and I hope your cousin will make her peace with the circumstances soon.

      I salute you for reaching out to people who are less than kind. I’m glad it worked out for you.

      Congrats on your success and your dh’s progress (and your clean biopsy!). I hope 2015 brings more of the same for you.