2014 was a big year here at the Château as Andy turned 50 in July and celebrated by running a marathon in June. While this disqualifies him as a professional party-planner, it was his longest run ever and involved several months of training. And blisters.
Because there should also be fun associated with a birthday, we had friends over for a big birthday bash in July, and in August went to Victoria, British Columbia for a week. We had originally planned to take a train trip across Canada, but decided that once the novelty of the train wore off, it was really going to be a week of mostly sitting. Victoria, on the other hand, is a city built for walking and with some newly acquired mobility(Toni, not Andy), we did just that. This was our first trip together that involved staying in one place for the entire week, so we found a nice family-owned hotel with a kitchenette facing the beach, which I thought would give us a nice place to go walking every morning before setting off. It turned out that we were (once we figured out the shorter version) just a mile from downtown anyway, so going for a morning walk before setting out walking seemed a bit redundant and, frankly, tiring. Eventually we discovered that we could get downtown through Beacon Hill Park, which was simply amazing. We went everywhere—Butchart Gardens, the Empress Hotel, Chinatown, Market Square, the Parliament building, Craigdarroch Castle, Miniature World—even finding the lesser-known events like an evening ghost walk, street performers, and a water taxi tour—though in all honesty that turned out to be way more taxi than tour. The big highlight of the trip was sea kayaking (Victoria Waterfront Tours), though the cooler temperatures and a week without kitty wake-up service are not to be sneered at.
As a birthday present to himself, Andy acquired a 5-string fretless bass, and with finishing his electric mandolin, we are firmly in the lead again in the instrument arms race among our friends. Being fretless, the bass took a bit of getting used to, but he practices music most nights, so he's getting comfortable with it and really likes having the extra string. Or, as I should say since this IS a Christmas letter, is doing brilliantly and will be talent-scouted by a major record company any day now. 'Tis the season, after all..........
My back problems continued to dominate life much of the year, as the core-strengthening exercises the physical therapist gave me worked so well that it straightened my hip out more than it was to begin with. 40+ years of walking a certain way is a rather difficult habit for muscles to break, but I'm working on it. The good news is that this year was much less painful and we've been able to even do a few things that involve sitting, such as spending Thanksgiving with my parents at the ranch and going to shows again. To celebrate, my mother took us to see “Wicked” when it came through town, and Andy and I splurged on season tickets to Broadway in Boise. While the first show, “Flashdance,” made it all too obvious why the show has never made it TO Broadway, “Jersey Boys” was great fun and a terrific show. In January we see “Camelot,” then “Book of Mormon” next summer. I'll have to do the core exercises and other physical therapy the rest of my life, but as much of it is muscle-building and stability anyway, that's fine. It's just nice to be getting a normal life back. Or as “normal” as ours has ever been.
The garden (ahem...meaning “me”) got off to a slow start, then one bed got struck by fungus and most of the rest got crippled by the heat. It turned out that while realigning my back, I couldn't pull weeds anyway, so except for cucumbers and peppers, the garden and I pretty much ignored each other most of the summer and completely during what is normally known as “canning season.” I almost didn't know what to do with myself with the extra time—except for everything that has piled up in the last 4 years. There's always that. I also started experimenting with new recipes, sorting and cleaning up our back room (optimistically referred to as my “office” though “junk room” would be more appropriate), entertaining more, walking as many days in a row as my back can take, and figuring out where I put everything when I was in a hurry to unpack the house 8 years ago. It's like my own little scavenger hunt, but Andy is excited about the space I'm clearing up in the garage. I haven't yet told him that it means more room for holiday decoration boxes. I just let him dream..................
Things I have learned this year:
- My smart phone's auto-correct, while generally up on pop culture references, has never heard of the Bionic Man, but is aware of the lesser-known Bubonic Man, presumably a rather short-lived superhero of the Middle Ages.
- There are many, many options for massaging chair inserts, including “shiatsu,” which roughly translates to “beating one's kidneys into submission.”
- Once one has experienced an “English tea,” one can understand the jokes about English dentistry
- Being supportive of a spouse's hobby or enabling is a very fine line—probably depending on who gets to carry the bags the mile back to the hotel.
- Mulching does indeed help plants—the weeds in the garden loved it
- “Taking a break from the garden” and the garden getting attacked by fungus work well together
- An electric mandolin looks very much like a baby electric guitar—but in a very manly sort of way, of course
- Even a zipper I'm not happy with is going to function, and if someone is close enough to my backside to see the errors, I probably have bigger issues than whether my seams are straight
- If one works hard enough at it, one can even get butter into hot cereal recipes, though “why” remains a bit of a mystery
- I consider myself an optimist, but after 20+ years, it's time to admit that nothing is going to make me reread my copies of Dante's Inferno or anything by James Joyce.
- When one hasn't seen something since one moved in 8 years ago, it's a bit easier to admit that whatever it is really isn't necessary in life
- I am sure I have learned things without huge amounts of frustration and swearing, but they probably weren't craft-related
- Some people consider hobbies as things that are "fun" and "relaxing." For their own protection, I will avoid these foolish people when I have just inserted a zipper into anything or had to rip back mohair yarn
- Before ordering several woodworking kits of the same thing to all be finished in one year, the intelligent thing to do would be to order ONE and see how one's spouse survives the process before ordering more.....
- A “New Recipe Dinner Club” is much easier than a book club. One can always talk about books, but one doesn't have to pretend that the evening is about anything but socializing and eating.
- My ophthalmologist, who is about 12, has started using phrases like “at your age” and upgraded me to bifocals. He doesn't get a Christmas card.
- After being in the house 8 years, I finally have a desk again. I never knew how excited I could be about drawers.
- This year our neighborhood joined Nextdoor.com, which is a nice way to find our which neighbors grew too much zucchini, which are paranoid, which need to get out a bit more, and which ones are why we built a fence in the first place.
- It might be best for marital harmony if the spouse who likes to knit sweaters is NOT the spouse in charge of the thermostat.
- There is a temperature point where our cat Theo stops waking Andy up at 5:00 AM to go out and starts waking me up at 5:00 for a cuddle. There does not, however, appear to be any temperature that means we can both sleep in—not even with Theo's anti-stress drugs. Go figure.
- I visit the physical therapist regularly, who pushes on my sore spots until I whimper, then I hand over my money and go home. It's a lot like a playground bully but with insurance involved.
Toni and Andy