Saturday, December 31, 2022

Gratitude List

As I look back on 2022, I am grateful for the following:


- My family - Paige, Sophia, and Olivia. My life is so rich because of what each one has contributed to it. 


I am so thankful that both Sophia and Olivia attend the same college and live close to home (about 35 minutes away). 



When I think back on the past year, I am grateful for all the experiences Olivia has had - finishing up homeschooling - not only graduating from high school, but earning 30 college credits through the PSEO program. Right before she started college, she tested and was promoted to the next level in Tang Soo Do. In late-August, Olivia started college, learned a tremendous amount through her on-campus job of doing tech/video work in the performing hall, and did very well with her classes. 



- My sister, brother, and their families. I am grateful that we have been able to get together again for holidays - Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. I also am grateful that my sister lives close to me and that we are able to do things together.



- My parents - even though both have died (2012 and 2015), the values and traditions they instilled in me live on. I am so grateful for both of my parents and the unconditional love and support they provided to me. 

- My in-laws. This was a difficult year with seeing my step-father-in-law decline in health. By September, he was on hospice. On my first day of a new job (after being a stay-at-home mom/homeschool mom for over 20 years), I had planned to take my daughters to visit him after work. He died that morning. I got a text that he died while I was in a classroom. I am very thankful for his love of Sophia and Olivia, and his thoughtfulness and generosity towards Paige and me. 

- The Lions Club I'm involved with. Many of the Lions are in their 70s and 80s, and are so active and committed to service. It is inspiring to see and I enjoy spending time with them and others at service events I coordinate. 


- My dogs. I know that dogs are not people. However, our dogs feel like our "children" to us. I am so grateful to have many dogs who (for the most part) get along with one another. I love having them gather around me when I'm resting, and seeing them play together, especially outdoors. 



Although one of our dogs (Scooby) had to be put to sleep in November due to serious health complications he wasn't able to overcome (he was 15 years old), I am grateful we had over five years with him (we adopted him when he was 10 years old).


- Sophia's roommates at college who are all so supportive of her and who we genuinely enjoy spending time with - even when Sophia was in Thailand. I am grateful she has met a great group of women, and that we have been able to see them gain and develop skills and talents at college. 





- My friends. I don't have a huge number of friends - I never have. What I lack in quantity, I make up for quality. Karen is a friend who I met in pottery. She is incredibly creative not only with pottery, but with quilting. We were able to get together this past year a few times. My favorite time was going on a quilt shop hop and traveling hundreds of miles to see quilt shops, look at fabric, and - most of all - spend time talking and catching up. We visited some Amish farms on our trip which was a lot of fun. There were so many good deals, especially on canned goods.



- My home and land. We have lived here since 1995 and we have made a lot of improvements to the land (and home) over the years. This year, I am grateful that I am continuing to see wildlife throughout the year. It was especially rewarding to see multiple nests of baby birds fledge - so much new life on our land.


- For Olivia's graduation trip, we went to England and Scotland. When Paige and Olivia booked the tickets, they didn't realize that we would be there during the Queen's Platinum Jubilee. It was an amazing experience! 










- One of my favorite places that I visited while in England was Kew Gardens. What an amazingly beautiful place. The flowers were in bloom which was delightful. I wish I would have had more than one day to explore Kew Gardens. There were so many unique plants from all over the world. 



- In Scotland, we spent only a weekend there, but crammed a lot into that time. The architecture, history, and beauty of the North Sea far exceeded what I expected from Scotland. I wish we had more time there, yet was so grateful for the opportunity to be there. 




- Gammelgarden Musem. In November, I was hired as a consultant to do marketing/PR work for a museum. It focuses on the Swedish-immigrant experience. I have loved photographing items in the gift shop as well as artifacts from the museum's collection. I truly am grateful to the director for hiring me and giving me this opportunity!




- Listening to Olivia practice for music auditions for college was a joy. Although she didn't get a music scholarship, we all feel it worked out the way it should. 

-In May, November, and December, I heard Sophia play the harp and handbells in concerts and the Lions Club's anniversary celebration. She plays the piano, too, and did that when she came home after her first semester of her senior year. I continue to be grateful that we invested in music lessons for her and Olivia. 

- In June, I was able to hear live bagpipe music in Scotland. What a treat that was!

- Paige and I attended the Festival of Christmas - the college's annual Christmas performance that has over 300 student musicians. Sophia played the handbells again this year for a pre-concert show as well as during the Festival of Christmas itself.



- Winter (January and February) - I am grateful to be able to continue traditions that have become an integral part of our family - like Chinese New Year. This year we ate had take-out food instead of eating in a restaurant.

Although I don't enjoy the cold temperatures, I am grateful for the beauty of the snow - and sometimes ice. It's pretty to photograph. 

- Spring (March, April, and May) - I am grateful that Olivia had good experiences with milestones in her life - like prom and graduation. She received a tremendous amount of scholarships which paid for her freshman year at college. 




- Summer (June, July, and August) - I love this time of the year because the flowers are in full bloom. There's so much color, fragrance, and beauty wherever I look. 



I began going out each week and collecting flowers that were blooming. It was fun creating arrangements with the different flowers, and was so grateful that I have a variety of flowers from which to choose. The green vase and the turtle flower holder are both items I inherited when my parents died.


- Fall (September, October, and November) - only for its natural beauty. There is just too much loss and grief to deal with each month.

- Winter...again (December) - this month has been particularly challenging in terms of snowfall. We have never had this much snow so early in the season. Even though I'm not a huge fan of the snow, I do like how it looks...and that it makes for some interesting pictures. Below, by the way, is the snow on the picnic table. The second row of photos is our front yard (with the big pine trees) and then the trees lining our west pasture.



- A lot of my quiet time is spent watching and enjoying the birds at our farm (songbirds, gamebirds, waterfowl, and raptors). 







- I enjoyed going on hikes and walks throughout the year. I am grateful for our ten acres of land and being able to care for it and preserve it. 

Paige, Olivia, and I also went to a waterfall that we hadn't been to before that's located in Osceola. I am doubly grateful as I look at this photo: (1) the waterfall was beautiful and no one was there besides us which made it very quiet and peaceful, and (2) as I descended the hill, my camera lens fell out of my pocket. Thankfully, as it rolled down the hill and toward the water, it was stopped by a rock. What a relief!

- Sometimes during my quiet time I make window stars. This pattern was on Pinterest and I wanted to try it. After folding the papers over 500 times and gluing the points together, I had this star. I am thankful I can figure out incomplete directions and create these window stars. 


- Sometimes we need to make sacrifices for the greater good. Sophia left for a study-abroad program in early-January. She needed to test multiple times for COVID prior to departing as well as when she arrived in Thailand. To ensure she could travel (she had to be COVID-free), we chose to quarantine from about December 23rd, 2021, until January 5, 2022. 

We missed multiple holidays with our extended family and/or spending it in public, but it was worth it when Sophia was able to travel. Below, I was grateful I had shopped for Chinese food prior to January 1st when we have a family tradition of having a Chinese meal together. 

- Think creatively when there are limits. When 2022 began, COVID was still a challenge and we were not able to meet as a Lions Club, for example. We adapted by offering "Dinners to Go" and meeting by Zoom - which gave us all a sense of community and connectedness, despite not being able to meet in person.


- Be open to trying new things when there are major changes in your life. Early in the year (from January through early-May), Sophia was in Thailand. Paige, Olivia, and I searched for new things to do - just as Sophia was doing new things in Thailand. One thing we did was go to a snow sculpture event in Stillwater. 


One new thing I did this year was attending the Lucia Dagen service at Gammelgarden Museum. I've never done that before because I've always done the St. Lucia service at CLC. The Lucia Dagen service is held in the oldest standing Lutheran church in Minnesota, and is spoken and sung all in sweden. It was definitely a new experience. 


- Continue to think beyond yourself and search for ways to make a difference. I enjoyed, in particular, doing shoe kits for Sole Hope. I am grateful for shoes, clothes, and healthcare - things that are difficult for some people to have in developing countries. I also was happy with the major community event I helped coordinate. People said it was best event yet and many aspects I coordinated were highlights for them. That made me feel good.



- Persistence pays off. Olivia has shown persistence throughout her life to overcome many obstacles. Despite this, she has challenged herself to be a leader and do projects that have improved the community. In April 2022, she spoke in front of over 600 people at the Ann Bancroft Foundation's 25th anniversary. She received a standing ovation after her speech. As a side note, when she was younger, she didn't speak (up until about 3 years old she used ASL to communicate). After that - and for the majority of her life - she worked with a speech therapist. 


- Continue to plant native plants. Although we have a lot of non-native plants, I'm noticing that there are a lot more bees, hummingbird moths, and birds here now that we have been planting native wildflowers, grasses, and shrubs. It makes me so happy to see these native plants and the wildlife that benefits from them. 

What was particularly exciting this year was seeing dozens of monarchs migrating through our yard and gardens. I've never seen this before. There would be anywhere between 4-10 monarchs on different native plants, and groups of monarchs resting and sleeping in the trees.

A few of the native and non-native plants are shown below (we have over 400 different types of plants now which I am grateful we have been able to plant).





- Look for simple things to bring you joy. This was a challenging and stressful year in many ways. However, little things - like a rainbow - made me smile. I was so happy about these simple pleasures.

- Encourage family members to continue with traditions that are meaningful to your family. One of the things that I encouraged the girls to do was to be actively involved in 4-H and then enter their projects in the county fair and state fair. Sophia was too old to do this, but Olivia still can enter her projects. She did very well this year and I am grateful for all the judges who take the time to talk with the youth, and offer feedback and encouragement.


One thing that we do after the county fair is go to Dairy Queen. When the girls were little, we would stop for an ice cream treat. When they got older and had more projects (and stayed over the dinner hour competing), we would stop for a meal after the judging process.

Another tradition we have is going out to eat at a restaurant (of each daughter's choice) on her adoption day. Olivia chose a Chinese restaurant and Sophia chose a Thai restaurant (though it ended up being closed so we went to a nearby Mexican restaurant). Celebrating their adoption days makes me happy and I hope shows them how grateful Paige and I are for having them as our family. We truly are blessed! 


A third tradition we have is that we decorate for Christmas. The St. Nicholas Christmas Village started with two buildings and some figurines that belonged to my parents. When our hobby shed burned to the ground in 2018, we lost the items that my parents had purchased. I've been trying to rebuild it since then. 

When my step-father-in-law died, we inherited a few Christmas decorations - like the ones below on the wood stove. 

The stockings that I made are all hung up. It looks a bit bare with one less dog, no cats, and no horses.

- Enter projects in the country fair if you want to see the fair continue. I've been noticing that the number of projects that people are entering in the local fairs is decreasing each year. I love seeing the projects that people do and feel like part of my responsibility as a good citizen (and someone who loves fairs) is to enter projects so that there's a variety of projects that the public can see. This year, I entered over 60 projects. 


- It is worthwhile to do genealogy work. My sister and I have been doing a lot of work on and enjoying it. In addition to doing online research, we visited a cemetery and cleaned up the graves of our maternal grandparents and great-grandparents. 

We also visited homes where our parents and grandparents lived, and saw the church where our parents were married. 

At Thanksgiving and on New Year's Eve, we looked at slides that we inherited from our parents. There were many (hundreds) that we hadn't seen. I am so grateful that my parents took photos of their parents, themselves, and of us kids so we can see what life was like back in the 1960s-1980s. 

We hope to continue to do more research and grave cleanings in 2023. As I learn more about my ancestors' lives and struggles, I am even more thankful for the life I am living now.


- Start a hobby when you become an empty nester. Although I've always had plants, this Fall - after Olivia went to college - I began adding more plants to my collection. It's been a lot of fun looking for  houseplants, especially for ones that are different than the ones I had. I am particularly grateful for the sales that some places have on housplants...that certainly saves me a lot of money!