Christmas Letter 2017

The holiday season is a time of year when we reconnect with friends and family and reflect on the year’s passing and the new year to come.  For Josh and I, this year has been especially poignant, given all the life changes that have happened, losses we’ve had to endure, and new opportunities we have been able to pursue.  It has been a whirlwind, and so far we haven’t quite learned how to ride it.

We took a trip to Ireland in March, celebrating the marriage of my good friend Corina.

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She is married to a wonderful Irish man, Alan, who is worthy of her.  And that’s the highest compliment I know.  While there, we saw a bunch of friends from Boston I hadn’t seen in ages that Josh had never met.  We toured the Guinness Brewery, saw a few of the sights in Dublin, and explored the Barberstown Castle, where the wedding was held.

Another friend, Pam, took the opportunity to IMG_2545.JPGExplore Ireland with us, and she’s already making plans to go back.  We saw the Book of Kells, and went on pilgrimage to Newgrange.  We drank lots of beers, danced and sang along with lots of traditional music, ate traditional foods, and generally soaked in the rainy, stony, windswept ambiance that mirrors the Pacific Northwest, with subtle differences.  I discovered that I have a favorite Irish whiskey and it’s called Writer’s Tears. IMG_2541.JPG

 

Finally, we had time to visit our knitting friend, Rusty, and even made it out to the Aran islands with him – an appropriate excursion for knitters.  It was a cold, windy, and desolate sort of day – but hey, it wasn’t raining.  We even had a dolphin following our ferry on the way back to the mainland. And beers, of course.

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As soon as we were back in the U.S., we bought a house.  I literally signed the paperwork and we closed the day after we were back in town.  So we are now the proud owners of a three bedroom, two bath, ranch home in Tigard.  Its name is Fern Hill.  There are three raised beds, a fenced backyard, a bunch of well-established flowering trees and bushes, and a patio complete with grill and fire pit. The inside is pretty nice, too, but I’m most excited about having a yard, even with the upkeep.

 

This year we limited our plants to tomatoes, kale, sugar snap and snow peas, lemon cucumber and the regular green variety, broccoli, crookneck squash, lettuce, and basil.  Next year, I’d like to add a few other vegetables but we’ll see if Josh stops me in time.  After that, we add chickens, and if I can convince Josh, some little goats.  And a dog and a cat.  And a baby.  We’ve been working on that this year without luck, but we’re still hopeful.

Our first wedding anniversary was in June, and Josh and I celebrated with a retreat into nature at a little rental place just outside Rhododendron.

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The house was made out of a prefabricated shed that had been converted into a minimalist dwelling – very cozy.  Outside there was a hammock set up to relax in the woods, and a fire pit to warm a cool evening.  It was good to get some hiking in as well, since we hadn’t done as much camping as is typical for us.

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The T-Rex was my first creation

Plus I got this great book from Josh for our paper anniversary:

We always enjoy the areas around Mount Hood, but this year we did a little less camping than normal, due to the heat early on and then the fires later.  The Eagle Creek fire in particular was an emotional one for us – it’s the trail where Josh first went backpacking, and we’ve enjoyed its waterfalls on day trips as well.  Considering this fire was started on Sept. 2 and not fully contained until Nov. 30, that particular trail is never going to be the same.  Or at least not in our lifetime.  I’m glad we got to experience it at the time, all the same.

This was also the year that I lost my mother.  She’d had Parkinson’s for several years, and things really took a turn for the worse in November of 2016.  She lasted until March, which I am so extremely grateful for – I got to say my goodbyes.  But I know it was not what she wanted, to be alive but barely herself during all that time.

 

I’m still dealing with it.  Somehow even though I knew this was coming, had been coming for a long time, it is still unreal to me.  I float through my days, unconcerned, and then something will remind me.  She’s gone, really gone.  My children will never know her.  The people I meet now will never know the wonderful, strong, stubborn, and silly woman who made me who I am.  Sometimes that is an unbearable reality.

 

But most of the time I can live with it.  Most of the time, I look forward to the new year, its new opportunities and discoveries.  We hope you do the same.

With best wishes for the joys of the season and the returning warmth of the new year to come,

Stacey + Josh

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