Making a list, checking it twice,
2014 was full of not nice;
Yet tons of tiny blessings abound!
In January, we made our favorite trek so far to The Wave. We had more time and better weather this time around, and a quick trip to nearby White Pocket yielded even more of the photogenic and remarkable red rock formations. Paradise couldn't get any better than this!
I've alluded to this experience before, but it bears repeating. This was the very same trip on which I cracked a tooth. I'd spent hours in total wilderness, 100 miles away from anything, munching on almonds and pistachios as we walked and photographed. Two days later, during our journey back home, we stopped to see relatives, and the tooth cracked while I chewed a slice of soggy grocery-store pizza. The torpedo that raged up the side of my head from my jaw, past my ear and all the way to the top of my scalp, momentarily sent such a wave of shock and pain throughout my body, I didn't know at first if I would survive. I felt as if I'd been fatally stabbed in the brain.
My next thought, once my brain began churning again, was an attempt at humor. My tooth and the exposed nerve within were giving up the ghost on the equivalent of baby food?!? No way!
A very heavy dose of ibuprofen got us home, and my dentist was able to fix everything the very next day.
Before that traumatic experience, however, we'd stopped for the night in tiny little Boulder, Utah. After three full days of hiking, we thought the hotel would provide welcome relief in the form of a good hot tub soak. Unfortunately, January is off-season in canyon country, and the hot tub was closed. If we had driven just a couple of hours more, Moab would have shared steam and a warmer low than the -11 we woke up to the next morning. When the 4Runner wouldn't start...
I drive a standard. Starter and battery problems often may be temporarily conquered with a push-start. So of course, it wasn't the starter or the battery. Had to be the alternator.
Both the car and the tooth could have picked the wilderness to malfunction. I told my husband Someone was watching out for us.
Six months later, while The Lizard was Day Twoing in the Double Triple Bypass, arguably the most challenging cycling event in all of Colorado, the 4Runner decided once again to demonstrate its high mile-AGE. I was able to park sloped on hillsides and roll-start onto low-traffic roads following each meet-up with my cycling hero to make sure he had enough food and water. When he finished, it was all downhill to the metro area and a brand new Die Hard, just a block from a chapel where I could attend church while the battery was swapped out. Perfect!
I told my husband Someone knew I'd make the effort to get to church if He took care of the details.
Two months later, we made our first big road trip outside of The Wave or visiting my parents in about eight years. 3,350 miles later, we'd partaken of the best the Pacific Northwest, the coast, the fields of lavender, the North Cascades, Missoula and Yellowstone had to offer. I'd snapped about 600 photos of a grizzly and her cub with the point-and-shoot because that's what I had in my hands when I first spotted her. My instinct would have been to grab the Big Gun, my good Nikon, but it was in the car, and I didn't want to miss a shot, so the powerful and professional-grade camera rested.
The day after we got home from this megamile/megasmile fantasy, the good camera powered through a waterskiing wedding before biting the dust at 139,000 shots since I bought it in 2008. My beloved '99 4Runner bit the dust yet again in the parking lot of a metro salad bar, just a few miles' tow to the only shop open on weekends that end of town, where the mechanic informed us, "You know, your fuel pump has nearly 350,000 miles on it. It's old. It just gave out." And two days later, my dentist made emergency room for me on his schedule yet again when my gums bit the dust, thanks to a popcorn hull I'd been unable to de-floss since Yellowstone.
The camera ended up taking two trips to Nikon over the next four months before deciding it wasn't quite ready for the scrap pile yet. The 4Runner was ready for action again about four days after emergency surgery and is purring like a very happy kitty right now. Fingers crossed... The popcorn hull didn't fare as well. But my mouth isn't ready for the scrap pile either, although it is fond of Thanksgiving leftovers.
Once again, any of these disasters could have happened while we were on vacation. Most notably, if I'd used the good camera on the grizzlies, would it have survived the wedding? I told my husband again Someone was watching out for us.
The following month, I pedaled up Deer Creek Canyon at the fastest turtle's pace I've ever managed. Ever. My adopted and now independent kids have called me more this year than in the past ten years combined. I've had sudden and unexpected peace envelope me during the deepest pits of depression at least five times this year. Most are too personal to share, but there's one worth repeating, and hopefully it will extend the Christmas spirit just a little longer.
One of my Christmas cards came back as undeliverable. I did a quick internet check to see if a different address might be on record somewhere. The most recent address matched what I had, so I ran another couple of quick searches looking for my friend's two daughters.
One had tweeted eight months earlier about her mom, whom I've known since fourth grade, being terminally ill.
Most of the depression I have felt this winter has come out of nowhere and without warning. This one was triggered, and it hit me hard. I didn't know how I would make it through the end of the day.
Then, bursts of sunshine penetrated the concrete jungle I call home during the workday and touched my heart with continual rays of joy powerful enough to smother the sadness threatening to devour me.
I received a cash bonus! Two of my bosses said very kind things to me I hope never to forget. My adopted daughter, who has learning disabilities, emailed me for the first time since I taught her to use a computer in 2002. Someone who bought snowflakes from me last year on an agreed payment schedule and who later paid only half the amount owed, explaining, "that's all they are worth," came to buy more snowflakes, this time in cash, full amount. That night on the train home, I expected the emotions I'd been holding back all day to overpower me, but the nurse I occasionally sit with when I work late sat across from me. Each December, she gives me a simple, small homemade ornament when she sees me, typically only once or twice during the busiest season, and I always feel guilty because I never have anything with me to offer in return. I fail miserably at being prepared for this kind of magic at Christmastime.
This year, I had a ball of my hollyhock thread, a tiny bit of stuffing and a crochet hook in my bag, and I immediately went to work on a heart amigurumi because hearts are super quick, and I don't need a pattern. I finished it just as we reached the final stop. She'd watched me work on it the entire trip. Her enthusiasm spilled out all over the train as she gushed, "You made that for me? You made that so quick! I can't believe you did that!"
I'd made it through the day and the train trip, and my soul, although still sad, was filled with unspeakable joy.
It was just a tiny little blessing. The littlest and simplest thing.
But it proved, once again, Someone is watching out for me.