Sunday Stills: Your 2020 #Retrospective

Sunday Stills 2020 Banner
Sunday Stills 2020 Banner

I had originally thought to take a break until January 10, then realized I’m a bit bored, so why not jump back into blogging? Especially with this theme of looking back on our 2020 retrospective.

A retrospective shows our year in words, photos, stories, and other creative endeavors. Share your good and bad, your best and worst, and what your hope is as 2021 begins. I have chosen to share images, old and new, of the highlights of each month of 2020.

2020 was not all bad. Certainly, the pandemic was (and is) a game-changer and we lost friends and loved ones. Some of us tested positive. Our kids and grandkids are still struggling in a two-dimensional world of learning. Most of us cannot travel to the extent we prefer, and too many folks are struggling financially. However, if this was a sci-fi movie, the plot would demonstrate the resilience of humanity as we navigate through these unprecedented times. Many wonderful events happened to countless people in 2020. While we grieve the losses, let us stay positive and look forward to our blessings and futures.

Here is my retrospective written for each month in 2020. This is longer than my usual posts so please be warned!

January Joyrides

In late December 2019, we headed out on another winter road trip from Sacramento, California, to Arizona and Las Vegas, Nevada. We spent time with Ingrid and her husband, then FINALLY got to see the Grand Canyon!

Winter in South Rim of Grand Canyon
Cold Winter’s Day in South Rim of Grand Canyon

My brother and partner lived for a short time in Vegas, so we all enjoyed a trip to Nevada’s Valley of Fire State Park.

Entering the Narrows of Valley of Fire
Entering the Narrows of Valley of Fire

Later in the month, we made a trip up north to a nearby bird sanctuary to view the comings and goings of the Canadian snow geese that make their winter home in the Sacramento Valley.

looking up at snow geese

Canadian Snow Geese will cause you to look up abruptly as they fly in graceful formations, honking at each other to stay in line. Submitted for Lisa’s bird weekly challenge, birds with long wingspans. Snow Geese have wingspans up to 4.5 feet!

February Fantasy

The land hunt was over. In 2019, we started planning a life change and an eventual move to Washington State. We began the loan process of purchasing a half-acre of property in Nine Mile Falls, near Spokane, WA. We imagined ourselves making payments on the property for a year while fixing up the existing house in Sacramento at a leisurely pace.

Fixing a new deck

March Madness

On March 3rd, my 79-year old mother passed away from complications of age and pneumonia. Little did I know how blessed we were to spend the last days with her in the hospital and say our goodbyes.

Obituary Image

Covid-19 became too real as shut-downs in countries and local communities began just weeks later. Universities and schools began the arduous task of teaching online. We signed papers on our property the day before California counties shut down. Real estate prices fell and we got nervous about the future of the plans for our new home.

A toast to the future
It’s Ours!

April Angles and Angels

Church services were canceled or limited to online viewing. Our spirits were lifted anyway, especially when our pastor and his wife personally delivered the Easter lilies we purchased that were meant as memorials for loved ones.

Easter Lily Close-Up

During the shut-downs, the only fun we could have was going to the grocery store and various big box stores as people flocked to buy materials for home improvement, gardening, and backyard birding. Below, you can see the incredible siding job hubby completed.

Front of house completed

May We Begin Again?

Our delta campground where we windsurfed and paddled delayed its opening by almost 2 months. Honestly, we were lucky it opened at all. At that time, we didn’t know it would be our last summer.

Delta Sunset Painnted

In mid-May, we took a road trip to Spokane once Covid travel restrictions eased. I finally got to show hubby the land we bought! With some advice, we refinanced our property loan to include construction and the home itself and fast-tracked ourselves on the road to move.

Happy on our half acre

June Jubilee

Opening hydrangeas

This month, I reflected on what would have been my mother’s 80th birthday. She always had a garden full of flowers. Anticipating our move by the end of the year, I eventually rehomed my huge potted hydrangea to a friend in November before our move. My last crop of sunflowers began blooming.

sunflower

Joyful July

This month I celebrated Aeros’ 10th birthday.

Me and My Aero

Covid restrictions eased a bit and some travel was allowed. My gym opened for two weeks and I went every day. I had the absolute pleasure of visiting longtime friend and fellow blogger Marsha at her former home in Central Calfornia.

Two Bloggers

Then, to top it off, we got to see a black bear ambling along the highway near the south entrance of Sequoia National Park! Marsha recently moved to Prescott, Arizona and we have been checking in with each other about how our collective moves have been going!

Golden Black Bear

August Angst

Early August found me on my third road trip, this time to Mammoth Lakes on the Eastern Sierra Nevada. My family had originally made plans to stay in a large condo there and drive to Tuolumne Meadows on the Tioga Pass side of Yosemite National Park to scatter my mom’s ashes. Only myself, my daughter and her boyfriend, and my brother and his partner made the trip, so we saved the scattering for another date in 2021. I cried when I saw my family since we hadn’t been together since Christmas.

Near Mammoth is Mono Lake and we enjoyed a sunset stroll among the tufa towers.

Standing beside Mono Lake

Covid restrictions were well in place in Mammoth and people walked around in masks as if we had been wearing them our whole lives. Entrance into Yosemite was limited to pre-reserved permits. I stood at the Tioga Pass entrance to Yosemite wearing my mask—a sign of the times! Although we could not drive in, we could walk into the park through the nearby meadows. This marked my third visit to a National Park in 2020. Not bad for a pandemic!

Tioga Pass Entrance Masked

Sadly, we endured horrific California fires that engulfed the entire West Coast with smoke and hazardous air quality, along with oppressive heat. To add to an already eventful month, not only did we sell my mother’s home in August, but we also closed on our new construction loan…all in one 24 hour period! Whew!

August and September were unbelievably stressful months. If you haven’t had the chance, you can read more about it: Sunday Stills: Towering Turmoil.

Wake Me Up When September Ends

I started September teaching my university classes online. I gave up my third class to another professor because I did not have the energy or motivation to turn it into an online course. I was extremely sad knowing it was to be my last semester teaching after 10 years as a part-time lecturer and also disappointed to not be in the classroom with the students.

We spent the second weekend of September packing up and saying goodbye to the delta, where I had spent 11 summers learning new board sports and camping with new friends.

Sunset over wind turbines

Determined to continue packing and moving, we moved our travel trailer to Spokane a few days later, before winter set in…. Yep, a tire blew out on the trailer in central Oregon, but Hercules Hans (hubby) fixed it and we were safe!

I said goodbye to the last of my sweet sunflowers. Each spring, I grew them from seeds and their lovely blooms gave me three years of pleasure cultivating them, watching them grow, and taking endless photographs of them.

October Obstacles

I would categorize October as the second-worst month of 2020 (behind March) and the month where obstacles stood waiting for us. As we prepared for the last of the two-way road trips to Spokane, we experienced delays with the moving company. We finally had to drive the bumpy, noisy, 20-foot truck there loaded with 60% of our home and return the empty truck. By now we had packed and prepped to the point of exhaustion. As if that weren’t enough, we contracted mild cases of Covid from family members while staying overnight near Bend, Oregon.

super pink moon

Even the blue moon of Halloween was not enough to make the my month better.

Notable November

Once we got the nod from our real estate agent, all systems were “go” for listing the house. We made plans to take yet another road trip, this time to San Diego to visit our collective adult children and family and take some boxes of goodies to them. We timed the home listing and walk-throughs with this visit so we would be gone for a few days. Over 100 families visited the home in three days. My home of 32 years sold in four days, $16,000 above our asking price.

Japanese Maple Fall

Fall leaves finally made their appearance which gave me a sense of peace tinged with melancholy, knowing that this was my last Autumn at my home. We spent a quiet Thanksgiving as my two daughters came to visit and say goodbye to their childhood home for the last time.

We say goodbye to our family home

A December to Remember

December is traditionally a month of festivity and fun with Christmas and our annual road trips south. This month would be like no other December in memory. Mid-month, I said my goodbyes to fellow faculty on Zoom and farewell to my 10-year teaching career. Below is the last look at my walk toward the building and classrooms.

Sacramento State University

We spent two weeks packing the POD after Thanksgiving, filling it to the brim. Early the next morning, on December 13, I tearfully hugged my house goodbye and took one last look at the empty house as we drove away for the last time, me following behind my husband’s truck in my car.

Huggin my house goodbye

This would be our final, and one-way road trip through Oregon and onto Spokane for 2020. Although it rained all through Oregon, there was no snow, and we made record time on our second day with joy in our hearts as we reached our destination in Spokane. A few days later we visited our property and said hello to our new house!

New home selfie

Someone asked me what I learned from 2020. Like any year, I take away nuggets of wisdom from the choices I made. My husband and I walk in faith, understanding that both good and bad things will happen. The pandemic made 2020 a challenging year, but life went on in its usual fashion. This may sound weird, but the pandemic hastened our move out of California, and the timing for both buying and selling real estate was rather miraculous. Let’s just say, with two homes sold in 2020, Hans and I have enough money to live on for several years if we truly retire.

New Horizons for 2021

What is on the horizon? We are patiently waiting for our house to be ready. Within the next few weeks, it will be set onto the foundation, the two halves joined together, the utilities will get hooked up and the interior will be completed. I’m told this could take another 1-2 months. Meanwhile, we continue to live with my brother-in-law.

Once we get moved into the home, Hans will look for employment. His retirement pension from the City of Sacramento wasn’t as generous as mine, since he only put in 7 years. I am contemplating teaching as a lecturer at Eastern Washington University in their parks and recreation management program. But I prefer to wait until the campus opens back to classroom teaching. Heck, I may not work at all and be truly retired. Our only hiccup is we will have to pay our medical benefits out-of-pocket, at least until age 65 (4 more years). If he works, and he plans to, then our medical benefits will be covered.

I need to get my fitness level back to pre-2019. Between foot surgery in 2019 and gyms closing in most of 2020, I feel very out of shape. Once spring comes, I plan to visit nearby hiking trails and bike paths a few miles from the new home. For now, with winter in full swing, I bought a set of snowshoes and have already tried them. With the poles and 12 inches of snow, it is like an elliptical workout!

me and my snowshoes

As for writing projects, I plan to finish my fitness book, No Excuses Fitness, and get that self-published. I found it difficult to write about motivating others to be physically active when I was not. I am also reading more and have some review posts planned to highlight other bloggers’ books!

Did I mention I’m a bit bored? Living in someone else’s house limits a person. But as you read this post, we plan to drive to Couer D’ Aline, Idaho, just 30 miles away to watch the 100’s of bald eagles feed on the salmon in the lake. If I can capture an eagle with my camera lens, I can check off another bucket list item. Keep your fingers crossed!

I hope this post has inspired you to reflect on your own 2020 experience. The following photo challenges have inspired me as well:
Becky B’s Squares
Cee’s Flower of the Day
Lisa’s Bird weekly

Also linking to the Lens-Artists challenge this week Favorite Images of 2020.

I’m also linking this post to lovely Leslie’s at Once Upon A Time and Happily Ever After.

Won’t you join me for Sunday Stills in 2021? Thank you to all who have participated in Sunday Still these last three years!

Bitmoji

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I Lost My Oreo

How Emotions Can Inspire Your Writing

How Emotions Can Inspire Your Writing

I just spent a fabulous weekend at a blogger’s conference in Las Vegas. I am truly inspired by the incredible bloggers who are published authors or are living their dreams through their online businesses.  BAM Conference 2016I share this post from a year ago as a testament to writing personal essays using our deepest emotions to tell a story.

This was the second year of the Bloggers At Midlife Conference. If you want to take your blog and writing to the next step, consider attending this conference or other similar conferences.

This was part one of a writing challenge series. If you are new to my blog, I hope you enjoy reading this post.


 

 

Oreo was my beloved 14-year old Springer Spaniel-Australian Shepherd mix. He was 12-weeks old when he and his twin brother were brought to the SPCA. My daughters and I had just gotten a Chow puppy and were taking him home when we saw the cute, freckle-faced black and white pups.

The next day, I came home from work for lunch to check on our little Chow and he had died. Weeping, I wrapped him up in a towel and brought him back to the SPCA. The vet later told me he had died from an infection brought on by the neuter surgery. Who performs neuters on 6-week old pups?

But that is not the story.

Within two days, the SPCA said I could take one of the black and white puppies we had seen earlier. We brought him home and named him Oreo for all the Oreo-cookie crumbs that freckled his nose. Here is what Oreo looked like when we got him (yes, that is me back then).

Oreo-My-Dog
Oreo was 12-weeks old when we brought him home from the SPCA

Fast forward to 2011.

In early 2011, Oreo had already exceeded his estimated life span by two years. Dogs his size usually die by age 12 or 13 years old. I attributed his extra years to going with us to the delta when my husband entered my life in 2009. Oreo loved the delta. In 2010, we acquired Aero, our brown cocker mix, who also kept Oreo company in his last year on Earth.

When Oreo died, I wasn’t even in town.

For several months, Oreo had been losing weight, had lost his hearing, and had cataracts. He never lost his strong sense of smell, so he could maneuver pretty well around the yard.

In late June, at the delta, Oreo got severely tangled in his long lead to which he was tied next to our trailer. We tied him up so he wouldn’t wander over the levee and get hit by a car. Most of the time, he could be off his tether under our supervision. On this particular Saturday morning, having gotten tangled again, I drove the hour drive back home where he would not have to be tied up. When we got home on Sunday evening, my daughter said that he had fallen down the two steps from our backyard deck. He was unharmed but this was not a good sign.

I took him to the vet shortly after. He had gotten into very bad shape very quickly. In a few days, we were travelling for a 5-day vacation in Yosemite. I felt in my heart that Oreo should be put out of his misery and hoped the vet would agree. Instead, she prescribed him some pills (for older dogs). Although I was relieved and hoped that Oreo would get better, that did not happen.

My daughter’s friend agreed to look after Oreo while we were in Yosemite. There is very little phone service in the high country, but we happened to be visiting Yosemite Valley one of the days.

That is when I got the phone call. When Darla checked on Oreo, she found him sprawled across the deck stairs where he had fallen again. He was very near death. While trying to reach me, she and a neighbor put him in the car and took him to the closest vet.

As the vet described Oreo’s condition over the phone to me, wanting to run tests (why??), I told the vet to put him down. In writing this, it sounds so cold and factual, but since I wasn’t there, I cope with this by being so. Darla agreed to stay with Oreo while they injected him with the life-ending serum. She was the last person Oreo sensed.

To this day, I carry the guilt and immense sadness that I could not be by my dog’s side as he was euthanized. I can barely write this even now.

We requested the vet to freeze Oreo’s body. When we came home, my husband dug a deep hole in our backyard under Oreo’s favorite pine tree and buried him there. My husband made a cement grave stone and we managed to use Oreo’s own paw to make a print in the wet cement.

Once Oreo was laid to rest under the tree, what amazed me is how our puppy Aero reacted. He could smell Oreo and spent several days laying on Oreo’s grave, sniffing and “crying.” Sometimes he would run around the yard looking for him.

I am consoled by the knowledge that Oreo had some extra time on Earth and a puppy companion in his last days.


 

I have wanted to write this story for a long time and this prompt for Writing 101 was as good a time as any.

Grief is a powerful emotion that can be tapped to write compelling personal essays worth reading. Stories such as these can be serialized as I did with this writing prompt. Part two became the back-story, then part three continued the theme to celebrate Oreo’s wonderful life.

Thank you to panel experts Susan Maccarelli and Jill Robbins for presenting the topic “The Art of Crafting Personal Essays that Get Published.”

My Oreo Lives Forever: The Journey

Oreo-Forever

This post marks my final installment of the life of my dog, Oreo and wraps up the three-part Writing 101 assignment, Serially Lost. To catch up, please read the prequel about Oreo and the story of I Lost My Oreo.

Oreo-Forever
The sweetest face

Oreo’s life went on as it does for any dog.

Oreo spent long days in the backyard. He was an outside dog. He had a large backyard with plenty of space to run and neighbor dogs to keep each other company behind their respective fences. I worried about him being alone so much. I know most dogs sleep all day, but I made sure to take him for walks as often as possible. Oreo was the best watchdog I ever had. At about 65 pounds, he had a deep, throaty bark that no doubt scared potential intruders. And he only barked when he needed to.

During the winter holidays when the family was inside, gathered in the living room, Oreo would get our attention by touching his front paw against the slider door as if to say, “Hey, I’m here!” Of course we would all laugh and go pet him. Many times, my brother brought his dog, Ginger, and the two would tumble and chase all over the backyard. Ginger is with Oreo now at the Rainbow Bridge.

When I started grad school, Oreo was 10 years old. With one daughter on her own and the other busy with school and sports, Oreo and I would take long walks every evening. He was always so happy to go for these walks while I pondered school readings and looming assignments.

In 2009 when I met my husband, and we started spending summers at the delta, Oreo went with us every weekend. By now he was 12 years old and dogs his size usually only live to that age; and his age was beginning to show. He was becoming hard-of-hearing and his eyes had the unmistakable cloudiness of glaucoma.

Once my hubby came into our lives, Oreo spent much less time alone. My husband got home from work earlier than me and he would sit on our deck and enjoy a beer. He loved to give Oreo a tiny saucer of beer once in a while.

In his older age, Oreo developed a funny little habit of moaning and groaning with pleasure when we would bend down to hug him and pet him. The sweet, throaty noises he made gladdened my heart to know he was truly happy. My eyes tear up even now as I remember this.

In 2010, we had the opportunity to get another dog, this one a puppy. My daughter pointed out that all our pets’ names had the letters “E-O” in them: Leon (the cat); Gideon (my daughter’s dog); and, of course, Oreo. See the pattern here? Trying to name the tiny brown Spaniel-terrier mix was a challenge, what with putting E-O together. My hubby came up with Aero. So, yes, calling for Aero and Oreo was tongue-tying! Finally we gave up and just yelled, “Air-ee-yo” and they would both come running!

Oreo and Aero kept each other company for the next 10 months.Oreo-and-Aero In this photo, taken from behind the screen door, you can see Aero lying on top of Oreo all snuggled up. I was so lucky to capture that moment and will never forget how good Oreo was with having an annoying puppy around.

When both dogs were at the delta with us, part of the morning routine was to take them out for their morning relief. One particularly windy morning, as I walked along the levee road, I spotted Oreo and Aero running alongside the pink stucco wall that marked the barrier between the two campgrounds. Worried that Oreo would continue running up onto the road, I yelled for both dogs. I was nearly 200 yards away so my voice went nowhere. A moment later, with the strong wind at my back blowing toward the dogs, suddenly Oreo stopped, sniffed the air and turned to look straight at me. I was amazed at how strong his sense of smell was, and realized that his blindness and lack of hearing would not deter him from enjoying his last few months.

We believe the attention, a puppy companion, and fresh, breezy air added two years to Oreo’s 14-year life.

Rainbow-Bridge
The poem. Image by Suzanne Huddlestun Clark

As humans, we will always outlive our fur-babies.

Pets will enter and exit our lives and we will always cherish their sweet memories. I love the poem of the Rainbow Bridge and I get comfort believing that our beloved pets occupy a special place in Heaven with the rest of God’s creatures.

While I write this story, Aero (now 5 years old) has been leaning next to me as if he understands my emotional state. Dogs are amazing.

I hope you enjoyed reading and I thank you for indulging my memories of Oreo’s life journey. If you have a fur-baby at home, whom you know loves you unconditionally, please give it an extra-special squeeze today.


Writing 101 Day Sixteen: Third Time’s the Charm
Today’s Prompt: For inspiration, ponder the phrase “lost and found.” On day four, you wrote about losing something. On day thirteen, you then wrote about finding something. So, today’s twist: If you’d like to continue our serial challenge, also reflect on the theme of lost and found more generally in this post.

I am also including this post for BeWOW Wednesday, a weekly challenge from Ronovan Writes.

Just two more days of the Ultimate Blog Challenge

Ultimate Blog Challenge

I Lost My Oreo

Oreo-Loved-the Delta

Oreo-Loved-the Delta
Oreo at age 12 years

Oreo was my beloved 14-year old Springer Spaniel-Australian Shepherd mix. He was 12-weeks old when he and his twin brother were brought to the SPCA. My daughters and I had just gotten a Chow puppy and were taking him home when we saw the cute, freckle-faced black and white pups.

The next day, I came home from work for lunch to check on our little Chow and he had died. Weeping, I wrapped him up in a towel and brought him back to the SPCA. The vet later told me he had died from an infection brought on by the neuter surgery. Who performs neuters on 6-week old pups?

But that is not the story.

Within two days, the SPCA said I could take one of the black and white puppies we had seen earlier. We brought him home and named him Oreo for all the Oreo-cookie crumbs that freckled his nose. Here is what Oreo looked like when we got him (yes, that is me 18 years ago).

Oreo-My-Dog
Oreo was 12-weeks old when we brought him home from the SPCA

Fast forward to 2011.

In early 2011, Oreo had already exceeded his estimated life span by two years. Dogs his size usually die by age 12 or 13 years old. I attributed his extra years to going with us to the delta when my husband entered my life in 2009. Oreo loved the delta. In 2010, we acquired Aero, our brown cocker mix, who also kept Oreo company in his last year on Earth.

When Oreo died, I wasn’t even in town.

For several months, Oreo had been losing weight, had lost his hearing, and had cataracts. He never lost his strong sense of smell, so he could maneuver pretty well around the yard.

In late June, at the delta, Oreo got severely tangled in his long lead to which he was tied next to our trailer. We tied him up so he wouldn’t wander over the levee and get hit by a car. Most of the time, he could be off his tether under our supervision. On this particular Saturday morning, having gotten tangled again, I drove the hour drive back home where he would not have to be tied up. When we got home on Sunday evening, my daughter said that he had fallen down the two steps from our backyard deck. He was unharmed but this was not a good sign.

I took him to the vet shortly after. He had gotten into very bad shape very quickly. In a few days, we were travelling for a 5-day vacation in Yosemite. I felt in my heart that Oreo should be put out of his misery and hoped the vet would agree. Instead, she prescribed him some pills (for older dogs). Although I was relieved and hoped that Oreo would get better, that did not happen.

My daughter’s friend agreed to look after Oreo while we were in Yosemite. There is very little phone service in the high country, but we happened to be visiting Yosemite Valley one of the days.

That is when I got the phone call. When Darla checked on Oreo, she found him sprawled across the deck stairs. He was very near death. While trying to reach me, she and a neighbor put him in the car and took him to the closest vet.

As the vet described Oreo’s condition over the phone to me, wanting to run tests (why??), I told the vet to put him down. In writing this, it sounds so cold and factual, but since I wasn’t there, I cope with this by being so. Darla agreed to stay with Oreo while they injected him with the life-ending serum. She was the last person Oreo sensed.

To this day, I carry the guilt and immense sadness that I could not be by my dog’s side as he was euthanized. I can barely write this even now.

We requested the vet to freeze Oreo’s body. When we came home, my husband dug a deep hole in our backyard under Oreo’s favorite pine tree and buried him there. My husband made a cement grave stone and we managed to use Oreo’s own paw to make a print in the wet cement.

Once Oreo was laid to rest under the tree, what amazed me is how our puppy Aero reacted. He could smell Oreo and spent several days laying on Oreo’s grave, sniffing and “crying.” Sometimes he would run around the yard looking for him.

I am consoled by the knowledge that Oreo had some extra time on Earth and a puppy companion in his last days.

I have wanted to write this story for a long time and this prompt for Writing 101 is as good a time as any. The twist to this prompt, to make it a three-part serial, will give me the opportunity to continue the series with the back story to celebrate Oreo’s wonderful life…stay tuned.

Perspectives On…Retirement, Part 3: Empty Work Spaces

It is 1:00 pm on Tuesday, December 16th. I have 4 working days left.

I have packed up a few more things from my office. I have deleted REALLY OLD files and saved others on a shared drive. I have taken all my personal items down from the walls. It really feels like someone has passed away and I am cleaning out their belongings.

But it’s me that is moving on and that’s why I feel a little empty. I guess there is a grieving process to go through in retiring from one’s job after 30+ years. I smile as I write this; however, thinking how the freedom I will experience will be a major paradigm shift for me.

I also conducted my final class lectures last week. After inviting the December graduates to stand up and be recognized, I told them about my impending retirement.  My students reacted so wonderfully in both of my classes, with hugs and handshakes.

These are the photos of my almost empty office and my empty classroom. I shall embrace the changes and the empty spaces.