Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 in review

I’m glad to be saying goodbye to 2013. It’s been a really tough year - but is there any other kind since moving back to the USA?

Even a tough year has highlights, and here they are:

We moved into our house - the first either of us have ever owned - in mid January. I still wonder if it was the right decision for us - it’s a beautiful house, but this year, it meant no vacations at all - we didn’t camp at all this year as well. The house completely dominated our lives. In addition to moving in, Stefan’s parents came for six weeks to spend most of their vacation painting the interior and putting in laminate floors! But I still consider it a highlight - I have enjoyed gardening in the front yard and being told by so many passersby that they are so glad we bought this house, and I do think it's a beautiful house inside (still not crazy at how it looks outside).

Getting to know Forest Grove. We went to SakeOne's Annual Pacific Rim Festival, the Sidewalk Chalk Art Festival and the July 4 fireworks show, we tried out several restaurants, and we walked around the historic neighborhood where we live a LOT. I so love the houses here, and watching the flora change with the seasons. We got asked for our house to be on the annual tour of historic homes, and that resulted in our getting to see into many of the houses I’ve admired from outside, as well as meeting a lot of really nice people who came to our house. The contrast to our experience in Canby is startling - and very welcomed. I so wish we'd moved here instead in 2009.

Visit with my sister back in Kentucky. It’s hard for me to write about this without getting emotional. For the first time in many, many years, I felt at home in Henderson. Hanging out with my sister and her family was therapy I’ve needed for a long, long time. I’ll be doing it again in 2014, for sure.

Stefan is a firefighter in the USA at last. This has been such a huge struggle. In the first city we lived in, Canby, the fire station wouldn’t even call him back after he submitted his application - which they lost at least once - and acted like he was a huge burden any time he contacted them. I was afraid he was going to give up altogether. The 3 months of training he did here in Forest Grove meant more sacrifices in doing anything fun, and he was really stressed out trying to balance work and studying, but the grin he had on his face after his first shift made it all worth it.

A motorcycle ride in Tillamook State Forest in Oregon. While we didn’t have a vacation at all this year, and never camped eve once, we did discover a really terrific gravel paradise near our home: Tillamook State Forest. There are OHV trails all around here, but on the day we were there, we stayed off of them - we don't have permits, because neither of us have the bikes for those kinds of conditions, and I certainly don’t have the skills for such. Instead, we stuck to the main gravel roads, and had a terrific time. We will definitely be seeing a lot more of these roads in 2014. We did a few more interesting day trips as well by motorcycle.

Insulation installation in the crawl space. Okay, this is a weird one to include in a list of highlights. But this was my first home improvement project, and given my extreme fear of spiders, it was a major deal that I did this. Our crawl space is only about 3 feet high, and I spent many hours down there - but I didn't spend even 1/3 as much time as Stefan did!

My EU contract. This was also a low-point in the year. Getting the contract was a huge ego boost, and doing the work was terrific. But the pushback against my findings was surprising and hurtful. It was surreal to be criticized for being “exhaustively comprehensive” and “too grassroots instead of staying at the institution level” regarding my research. I take those comments as compliments, even though they weren’t intended that way, and I’m very proud of the work I did.

Finishing my book. Is there a nonprofit organization you love and support? Then I hope you will consider buying a copy for such - it will be on sale by January 2014.

Trip to Belgium. Okay, this actually was a horrible trip. But I got out of the USA, something I wasn’t able to do in 2012.

My absolute best gift that I got for Christmas 2012: Albi. Back in the Spring, I didn't think she was going to finish 2013. That she's still here with us, and comfortable and happy, is a glorious thing. 17 years old, blind, will still try to bite any cat that gets too close to her face, and still melts at the touch of Stefan Dietz (but, then again, so do I). And we actually got to hear her bark one more time - loudly - late in the year, when a neighbor with two dogs came to the front door. She couldn't see them, but she could hear and smell them, and a few minutes after they left, she let loose with the howl bark. I so wish I had a recording! Who knows if we will ever get to hear this again.

Gray Max the cat. He was abandoned more than a year ago, and is fed by my somewhat crazy neighbor. He showed up in our back yard one night while we enjoyed a fire, and then kept coming any time we were outside, sitting on the porch and seeming to listen to us talk. Then one night, I dared to pick him up and put him on my lap - and it turned out that’s what he’d wanted all along. He’s a total lap cat, loves to purr and cuddle. I can’t believe someone abandoned this cat! I’ve never fed him - and I don’t need to, because crazy neighbor feeds him PLENTY - but he shows up a few times every day, crying to be held and petted.

Walking my neighbor's dogs. In addition to taking in Max, my crazy neighbor has a therapy dog and a dog she took in that she found a couple of years ago tied to a tree in a forest, shot with a BB gun. The rescued dog - a massive pit bull mix that looks like a hound from hell - is named Daisy. Yes, she named her Daisy. And while it doesn't fit her looks, it does fit her personality: she lives to please humans. She's dog aggressive, but one firm "OFF, DAISY" and she's right by my side, not growling at all. That never worked with Wiley! I'm walking these dogs because Daisy is horribly overweight and was so anxiety-ridden that she had created huge sores on her right front leg from incessant licking. After three months of walking, the sores are gone and she's lost at least 5 pounds, maybe more. She's got to lose 30, at least. My crazy neighbor is also quite lazy - she doesn't walk with us. She makes our mentally-challenged neighbor do it.

So... those are my highlights of 2013. Kinda... sad. Really sad, in fact. 10 years ago, my highlights included going to Egypt and meeting Kofi Annan and interviewing Sharon Capeling-Alakija and adopting Albi and going to Prague and seeing the Dixie Chicks. Five years ago my year's highlights were touring Eastern Europe by motorcycle and visiting Munich and taking a four-hour motorcycle course. Heck, even last year, my highlights were touring Nevada and Northern California by my own motorcycle and going white-water rafting for the first time.

Wow. Now I'm depressed.

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