Thursday, January 17, 2013

The best laid plans of mice and men...

As the new year -- 2013! -- rolled around I had a thought: how long had it been since I touched my blog?  Quite a long time, as it turns out!  As "they" say, life is what happens while you're making other plans -- and that's certainly what happened to me!  Where did all the time go?  I'll tell you: 2012 was the Year of Projects.  Don't believe me?  Just take a look at our holiday letter (edited for web publication, of course):


Happy New Year!  It’s hard to believe that another year has come and gone, and while the old adage about time flying by more quickly as we age may be true, in this household we tend to believe time flies by so quickly because we stay so busy.  Each month we hoped for a bit of downtime; instead, we found that 2012 earned its nickname as The Year of Projects.  For those of you who might not be keeping up with our various exploits through the miracle that is social networking, here is a brief recap:

As Oregonians know, January can be a rather dreary month. We did not have a massive snow storm this year but we started off with rain (this has been the fourth wettest year on record for Oregon since “they” first started keeping records about 80 years ago).  All the rain led to the second basement flood we’ve experienced in our current house and we’ve found we’re getting faster with the cleanup.  

Unfortunately, the rain was not the only damper to the Ballance household move in January – we started the month with a minor surgery on Lotus’s tail (which is now a couple inches shorter thanks to “happy tail”) and ended with a diagnosis that Nicky, one of our youngest cats (2.5 years) had kidney failure and was doing so poorly that he wasn’t expected to survive the month.

February brought better news. Marie discovered the miracles that acupuncture can work on a cat, prolonging Nicky’s life by a few weeks and allowing him to live pain free until his final day. In the meantime, Honey continued working hard at _______________ while Marie learned about marketing, branding, and working for a start-up.

Nicky passed away on March 1, and the whole household missed the cuddly little guy as Honey went back to being the only male in the house.  Yet this month, as the first month of spring, brought new beginnings.  We rented out our little rental house to a family who moved in right before the birth of their son.  We also brought home a new little one of our own – Aiko was ten months old and had lived at a shelter her entire life just waiting for us to find her. She settled right in and lived up to the meaning of her name: little loved one.

Marie went to California several times this year, the first time in April to help her sister prep for the birth of baby #3.  Meanwhile, Honey stayed at home hoping that the rains would clear so that gardening could begin in earnest.  That, however, had to wait until May and by June we were in full swing at the garden space and picking the earliest fruit at the house.

Perhaps those early gardening months did not give us enough to do because by July we decided to tackle the deck project we’d talked about for years.  And it was at that point that we lost all our weekends for the rest of the year – Marie counted a total of four weekends since July 4 that we have not worked on some major project together (and for two of those weekends Marie was in California and Honey continued working on his own!).  

The deck, like most projects at this house, took far longer than originally anticipated because the former owners tended to do a slap-dash job on everything.  This means that it’s not just a matter of replacing something; it’s usually a matter of tearing everything down to the dirt (or pretty close) and rebuilding things the right way.  At least this house is getting more solid every year!  And speaking of houses, in July we found our second little rental to purchase. In the spirit of arrivals, Marie went down to California again in July to meet her newest nephew, the Little Lion Man, who had made his appearance in June.

Back home in Oregon, we finished the deck (or at least close – we still have a bit of finish work to do in the spring!) and then immediately started work in August and September on Honey's 12’x16’ shed. That, too, is done enough for now with just a bit of work left to finish once the winter rains stop again.  

This shed was pretty important because we needed more space for all of Honey's wine-producing equipment. Perhaps one day he’ll go through the licensing process to distribute to the public, but for now if you want to try his wine, you’ll have to come on over for a visit.

The months of August and September were also very busy for Marie, who took a job as an Education Developer for a new school that is growing quickly and needed a bit of organizational help.  With all this busyness we were thankful that we didn’t take possession of our newest rental until October because this house needed some work and we needed some time. We spent October harvesting and canning, but by November we were in the little house renovating and painting and making it sparkle.

The year would not be complete without another project, would it?  And so, just as we thought we were winding down the last of the projects for a while, the shower in our master bath broke mid-December.  We had, at some point, planned to renovate the bathroom – just not this year!  Honey is using this time to become quite familiar with bathroom plumbing, a skill we’re sure will be very useful in the future.

As we have for the past few years, we escaped for a mini-break during the week of Christmas.  This year it was to a little house just south of Yachats, “the gem of the Oregon coast.”  Lotus loves going with us for this little trip, but she and Marie agree that it would be absolutely perfect if they could just figure out how to bring the cats along, too.

What else have we learned? Marie should not have fish as pets, Honey makes enough wine to need larger, professional-grade equipment, Marie loves knitting (a hobby newly discovered this year), Honey does not love plumbing projects, if you ever need a large amount of lumber it’s worth paying the extra money and going to Parr because they’ll load it onto the truck for you (which is half the work), hiring someone else to paint the outside of one’s home is totally worth it, the world did not end on December 21, and the pets are all very confused wondering why we don’t just hangout on the couch and sleep most of the day.

We are hoping that 2013 proves to have fewer projects and more time at home with our (furry) family doing the things we love.  We hope the same for you, too!
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