I would like to say that 2014 was one of the best, most rewarding years of my life.
I would be wrong.
This past year was a real challenge for the Brick family, both personally and collectively.
Let's start with the good stuff:
*I continued to write. Not just for this blog, but I wrote for several others, including my mainstay Midlife Finance. I love being able to scribble on a wide variety of subjects (including Bigfoot and buried treasure!), but am making my name in 'PF' (personal finance). Frugal stuff, if you will.
I have been a writer ever since I could read. And that was age two or so. I will stop writing when I stop breathing. I love words...their power, beauty and what they can accomplish.
*I met my professional commitments. Teaching, appraising, judging -- I did them all. Sometimes I was later than planned (just on appraising)...but I got them done. (Goal for 2015: get them done quicker!) The teaching and judging went fine.
I finished with a stint on the board of the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum -- and picked up a second term as president of PAAQT, an appraisers organization.
*Our side businesses continued. Sales of the chickies' eggs paid for their feed...and part of their coop extension. ('Free' eggs and a few simmered chickens for us.) I taught piano to some students. (In 2015, I'll have even more.) The Brick and I both played and sang for some events...and he did some computer work. These all added to the coffers.
Our business expenses were largely covered by my professional work. Sales from Brickworks did the rest -- and more.
*We didn't have any huge medical costs. A colonoscopy for the Brick was the biggest expense. (Poor guy.) So were two crowns for yours truly. (No root canals, though.) We're paying these off, a hundred or so a month.
*We kept current on costs -- actually got ahead on some. We owe less money at this time, and have a stronger emergency fund, than I can ever remember. Which is nice.
Nothing terrible happened, weather-wise, to our house or vehicles, either.
Our expenses, with the exception of a mini-crisis every now and then, remained under control, as well. Unless the world ends, or one of us has a medical emergency, this should hold steady.
One of our best buys: our silver Subaru. It's used a lot less gas than the aging Cherokee -- and that savings has shown up big-time in credit card charges.
*We got to travel -- a lot. I spent the summer in Michigan, and teaching in North Carolina (including a surprisingly-fun gig for the John Campbell School of Folk Art), Williamsburg (plus an appraisers conference) and Maine. More on this in a bit.
We also spent most of December relaxing on back-to-back cruises, with the Mama and Cousin Joy in tow. A lifesaver. In spite of picking up a monster case of flu on the plane back, and trudging through the holidays because of it.. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.
Both of us love to travel -- particularly if we can just wander. Enjoying the local views and food, talking to people...we'd do this a lot more, if we could.
*I have a big batch of teaching and appraising commitments for 2015. Judging, not so much. (This does seem to come in large swaths when I'm doing it. Weird...) Plenty of work to look forward to, including an increasing amount of personal property appraising. I hope to commit to even more.
It did seem strange, though, to realize that this is the thirty-first year of teachings and lecturing for me. The appraising is a less -- only eighteen years. Time goes by fast.
*The Brick's business commitments are going well, too. Retirement possibilities are starting to be discussed... but on our terms. He may keep working even during retirement -- but thanks to the years of frugality, he can choose to do so, rather than be forced to.
And now the bad stuff...
*The Mama's health. It wasn't good. She had open-heart surgery in June. Although she initially continued to improve in the summer, she hasn't done so well this fall or early winter. I'm not sure we could have gone on the cruises in December, if she hadn't gone with us.
*I had to travel -- a lot. A leisure trip is one thing. This was another. I spent 2 1/2 months away from home, which covered the Mama's surgery and recovery time, as well as the teaching/judging/appraising commitments. The latter covered my expenses, but only because I drove everywhere. This meant hours and hours and HOURS on the road. (More than 7,000 miles.) Without the Brick. I missed him desperately.
The Mama came back with me at summer's end, to spend more weeks with us.
There were some wonderful days...and hours...and moments. I got to spend more time with much-loved cousins and family than I have for a long time, and see our new nephew, Dietrich, grow up a little. But most of this summer and fall slipped by in a haze.
I'm sure the pressure contributed to more than my usual share of flu this past year. At least I didn't lose my voice -- you can still teach with a fever.
*Our family spent more time texting than together. I hated not being able to love up the Brick, the girlies and even the dogs in person. (We did have some very funny pun-wars, though.)
*We had some scary moments. The Mama's health...some near-misses in car accidents...some family arguments, caused in part by the stress from this summer...a few work issues...my laptop crashing...frozen pipes. (This was a special panic since broken pipes flooded the Brickworks workspace a few years ago -- and caused thousands of dollars in damages. In this case, though, they thawed just fine. Thank God.)
*We lost some chickens. One got stuck in the roost and died upside-down. Another was just found dead. (Beats us what the problem was.) One disappeared, with parts found in our next-block neighbor's yard. (The culprit? Probably an eagle who was hanging out in another neighbor's tree, looking interested.) And a chick died. Not too bad, considering we still have 19. (Three also got butchered.)
* I had writing plans I just could not meet. The Hanky Panky sequel isn't done. I didn't get as far as I'd hoped on the Scrap Quilts history I've been working on for some years. My uncle's WWII memoir isn't completely edited, nor is a family cookbook I've also been working on. All of these (with the exception of Scrap Quilts) need to be finished by the end of 2015.
More travel -- to Road to California, a major quilt conference, next week. (All but one class is full, but I'll be at the Friday night sampler, if you want to stop by and say hi.)
A huge birthday party in February, to celebrate the Brick's 60th.
A quick trip to Michigan in spring, to check on the Mama, girlies hopefully in tow. Then on to Paducah, KY for the AQS show there...Conroe, TX...Cheyenne, WY...back to California...and some other stuff in between, including some gigs in Colorado.
A garden. I managed a few pots, but couldn't do much for being gone nearly all summer. The chickies decimated what was left. The chickies are cozy in their fenced-off area...and not eating up the rest of the yard. I hope to have a BIG, flourishing garden this year...helped along by said chickies' manure.
So life goes on. The girlies have their own plans...this should be Daughter #1's final year in college, which she is hugely looking forward to. Daughter #2 is thinking about expanding her Etsy business. It will be interesting to see what happens.
With them...and us.
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