"Happy first anniversary, Barbara!" the email said. It was from my Hyundai dealer - my sweet little car turned a year old this month. Wow!
The past 12 months with it have been bliss - that "new car" smell is long gone, and I don't wash the dirt-road-dust off of it every week, but it's still a baby to me! I give thanks for it (and the air-conditioning) every day!
That email triggered a nostalgic button in me - I dove into my archives, straight back to August 2009. (What I like about having a blog is going back in time, taking a look at my life as it was, seeing what's changed, what's stayed the same.)
I discovered some things haven't changed... there were posts about my friends and their birthdays, about rain and drought, about Tom hurting his back and working on the house anyway, about our anniversary...
Some things were a little different: last year we moved TG (previously known as "the Girl") into her dorm and had to adjust to an Empty Nest as she started her first year of college; we also helped Daniel get settled into his very first apartment in preparation of his 3rd year.
This year we moved TG into another facility (no photos or details - that privacy thing, you know) but she and I managed it by ourselves. No help from the guys, just a couple of sorority sisters. I've had to adjust to not having her here with me again; we spent almost every day together this summer - working, going up to the college, our Wisconsin vacation - and I miss her, I admit it. But I also admit that I have a little more freedom with my schedule again, and yes, I like the taste of that! But it's only sweet because I know she's in a good place doing what she needs to be doing.
Daniel stayed put in the same apartment. He's starting his senior year of college. That statement just hasn't sunk into my brain yet...
But in my reading, I came across some big differences from last year. Bittersweet changes. This time last year I was outnumbered, gender-wise, on my morning walks. It was me, Max, Charly and Frankie. When I see those photos, my heart aches. Granted, I knew my time was short with Charly even then, and not knowing how old Frankie was, or how long guineas live, and knowing he had enemies lurking around every cedar tree, I knew I had no guaranteed time with him, either. I think I did a pretty good job of appreciating the time I had with them. But I still miss them.
Now I'm in the majority on our walks: there's me, Belle and Haley from next door usually joins us. Max, the eternal puppy, is now the minority. He's suddenly an old man, with gray whiskers and a visible limp all the time. Remember Walter Brennan's Grandpa Amos character on the Real McCoys, years ago? Kinda like that.
Not long after he adopted us about 6 years ago, he was diagnosed with ununited anconeal process, a type of elbow dysplasia. I remember reading when he was first diagnosed that it could cause lameness by the time a dog is 6 years old. That seemed such a long way off back then, and with the unimaginably expensive dog food and supplements we gave him, he bounced back just fine, pouncing and playing like a puppy, with no sign of elbow pain.
Until we got a puppy. Playing with Belle exacerbated the inflammation, but I can tell from the way he grins at her and continues to play that having that puppy around gives him so much joy, it's worth a little pain to him. And so I have no regrets about getting Belle.
Yes, what a difference a year makes.
Another change is in me - a lack of focus on my book. I was struggling even back then, but I had more determination (and admittedly, more time) to spend on writing it. It's my own fault I have less time, though. Yes, I'm working more hours in a 'real' job with a paycheck I can depend on, by necessity, because we need to pay off these college loans and bills. But I also allowed myself to become addicted to photography, joining FlickR and starting a photography blog on the side! What was I thinking?
No, I don't really regret it. Today my Morning Moon photo was chosen as a FlickR Explore photo and I got such a euphoric rush from that! (If you're not sure what Explore is, click here to go to my photography blog where I'll try to explain.) Along with the drums, it's a part of myself that I'd been holding back, undeveloped, for a long, long time.
But I still want to write this book. I'm still determined to write this book. And all of the others I have swirling around inside my head. Reading my posts about it from last year just gave me the push I needed to get back on it.
Charly helped, too, remembering these lessons he taught me about balancing it all that I think are worth repeating:
Keep doing what you enjoy as long as you are able.
Hang out with a younger crowd sometimes - they won't let you get too settled.
Be patient and tolerant with that younger crowd even when you're tired and grumpy.
Be curious and eager.
Lead by example.
Be compassionate and share your blessings.
Don't roam too far from home, or at least remember the way back.
Accept treats and show gratitude.
Have a sense of humor.
Accept other species - look beyond your differences and find common ground.
Be bold and brave.
Look for adventure every day.
Don't be afraid to get dirty, but be careful you don't wade in too deep.
Enjoy the sun in your face and the wind in your fur.
If you stumble, just catch yourself and keep moving forward.
Run if you can, but walking is good, too (if that's all you can manage.)
Thanks, Charly. I miss you.