Was 2018 a crazy roller coaster ride for you? Smooth sailing? Milestone events?
My writerly pals and I are remembering the happy moments as well as lessons we learned from challenges this past year in our blog hop: “My Ups, Downs, and In-Betweens and Beyond in 2018.”
Check out our personal reveals, then visit the other #Gr8blogs linked at the end of the post for more shared recollections and lessons learned along the way. We hope you’ll be inspired to dive into your own special memories of 2018!
So, what important life lesson did I learn this past year? What exciting announcement do I have for next year? You’ll have to wait and see at the end of this blog. In the meantime, I’m fortunate that I had a lot of reasons to celebrate this past year. Here are four of them:
Celebrating a New Arrival
If you’re a grandparent, you know the instant connection you feel deep down in your soul when you hold a new grandchild for the first time.
Emily Paige, our fourth and newest member of the family, was born on January 26, 2018.
For the first time, I am a long-distance grandma. My newest grandchild lives about five hours away. Oh, I know it could be much worse. But the distance seems ginormous to me. After all, it robs me of the joy of seeing my new granddaughter on a daily or weekly basis. I’ve been spoiled since my other three grandchildren, now ages 11, 9, and 7, have always lived close by.
Our goal was to see Emily Paige once a month during her first year of life. We met that objective, but still, I’ve missed hearing her first word or watching her take that first tentative step in person (although the kids are great about sending me videos). And yes, at nine months, she is already walking!
But I won’t complain too much. Near or far, grandchildren are a true blessing. On those special occasions, when we’re all together and my grandchildren are sleeping nearby, curled up in little balls, a warm glow of satisfaction permeates my body. I quietly sip my coffee the next morning, eagerly anticipating the soft, sleepy-eyed snuggles soon to come my way.
To be needed and wanted by these delightful creatures is a wonderful treat! The rewards of family life only grow richer and more fulfilling when each new grandchild is born.
Celebrating Family Fun
Speaking of special occasions when our whole family is happily united, all nine of us were fortunate to take a family vacation to New York and Washington DC together this summer.
It was my oldest son and my grandchildren’s first trip to New York and none of us had been to DC before.
To hear the children’s squeals of delight when they saw the bright and gaudy lights of Times Square, viewed the spectacular city from the top of the Empire State Building, or saw the iconic Statue of Liberty from the ferry for the first time was magical.
Between visiting hectic NYC and DC, we rented a tranquil lake house in upstate New York. We paddled in kayaks, fished, and saw fire flies for the first time in our lives.
What beats traveling with the people you love?
Celebrating 40 Years of Marriage
Want to put some magic back into your marriage? Write down one reason you love your spouse for every year you’ve been married. Remember why you were first attracted to each other. Then share your list with your loved one.
The list was easy for me. Some of my reasons in my letter to my husband were serious: “Because you put God first in your life, because you gave me two wonderful sons, a great daughter-in-law, and four beautiful grandchildren, because you know what I need before I do, because you have a calm voice that soothes me, because you never leave the house without kissing me good-bye, because you kept proposing until I finally said yes, because you are thoughtful and a romantic at heart.”
Some were humorous: “Because you gave me the best last name ever (Gorges pronounced as ‘gorgeous’), because you still think I’m sexy and my butt looks great, because you make me pumpkin pancakes, because you rock Hawaiian shirts.”
Some were fun: “Because you’re always ready for our next adventure, because you love the ocean and sailing, because you make the best apple martinis, because you love to travel and dance.”
We celebrated our 40th year of marital bliss with a tropical anniversary party. We even performed a flash mob dance with our family to Pharrell Williams’ song “Happy.” Good times!
Celebrating Finishing My Book
On a more serious note, as some of you know, three years ago I lost my Mom. She suffered from Lewy Body dementia (LBD), a a cruel combination of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s symptoms that rendered her helpless both physically and mentally toward the end of her life. During the final years of her life, I was her full-time caregiver.
Sacrificing part of my life to care for a parent with dementia who I loved dearly was one of the best things I’ve ever accomplished. Caregiving was also the most challenging, demanding, and heartbreaking task I’ve ever undertaken – even with the support of my family. Dementia not only changed my mother forever, it changed me in profound ways too.
As I write in my soon-to-be published book, I’m Your Daughter, Julie: Caring for a Parent with Dementia: “Sometimes you lose a parent in death suddenly. What you don’t realize until you have a parent with dementia is that sometimes you lose a parent excruciatingly – a little bit at a time. Grief takes many forms and it isn’t just for mourning someone who has died.”
After my Mom lost her ruthless battle with LBD, many people encouraged me to write a book to share my experiences and offer advice to other caregivers. Although I had shared some of my story in this blog, I couldn’t immediately dive into an entire book on the subject. The agonizing experience of watching my Mom rapidly deteriorate both physically and mentally before my eyes, the difficulty of taking care of her at the end when she began to lose all bodily functions, as well as her death were all too distressful to relive.
Even now, painful memories can take my breath away. Last week, I went to DMV to renew my driver’s license. The last time I was there was with my Mom. The disease was already taking its toll and she could no longer drive. I strongly suggested that she get a non-driver identification card. But Mom insisted on taking the written exam, saying it was a matter of pride. When asked for identification, she wanted to present an actual driver’s license not an “ID card for old people.” She wouldn’t change her mind.
So, Mom took the test and, of course, she didn’t pass. Not even close. But what was most pitiable was the confusion on her face when informed of the failure. Mom truly thought she had aced the exam. “I don’t understand,” she kept saying again and again. Her bewilderment and disappointment broke my heart.
You can see why detailing our journey during my Mom’s final years wasn’t easy. While writing the book, some of the memories were so painful, I’d have to set the manuscript aside for a time. Now that the book is finished, however, I know that writing about the heartbreak was a cathartic experience that, in the end, helped me heal and continue to move forward with my life. It is my utmost hope that my experiences, my successes, and my mistakes can help other caregivers. The exciting announcement I promised: This book that was written from my heart will be released early next year. Stay tuned for announcements regarding a publication date and pre-ordering options.
The most important lesson I learned in 2018? After healing from the loss of my mother and celebrating the arrival of a new member of the family, an awesome family vacation, and 40 years of marriage, I wholeheartedly agree with Michael J. Fox, who said simply and eloquently: “Family is not an important thing. It’s everything.” I couldn’t have said it better.
How was your year? What was your biggest accomplishment/event? Do you have an important lesson you learned in 2018? Please share in the comment section below!
For more Up, Down, and In-Between 2018 moments, visit the #Gr8blogs below:
Cat’s personal and honest blog shares how 2018 closes on a high note after turmoil from rightsizing and writer’s block.
Rosie looks back at 2018 fondly with the publication of her first hardback edition of one of her children’s books, a new website, a love for family and baseball, and a crafts fair that includes a special moment.
Author and teacher Rebecca’s busy year included the publication of a new book, an updated website, and read-aloud preview videos.
Carmela shares her journey after she chose to walk away from the publishing house she had always known, publishing a new children’s book from start to finish on her own, winning two literary awards, and reaching her goal of becoming a full-time author.
Sandra’s year included the birth of a new grandchild (I can relate to the joy of that!), her first contract with a traditional publishing house, launching and promoting her new book, along with a writing workshop and festival. Sandra shares four awesome life lessons we can all put to practice.
Auden shares her struggles in 2018 along with her many accomplishments: 1000 blogs, the release of a new book, a promo video, and 1 million monthly views on Pinterest. She also looks back fondly on the simple pleasures in life like a relaxing vacation with her dog and a trip to Comic Con.
In a year spent feeling lost and confused, Corrina’s life lessons include never stop believing, trust your inner voice, and being selfish to become selfless.
Thanks for stopping by! If you’re a blogger and want to join us on this hop, just add the family-friendly link to your blog in the comment section, and we’ll be happy to show you some blog love.