It’s December 31st, and today I’m looking back on a surprising, interesting, and at times difficult year. I did not expect to have to look back on living during a pandemic, moving house, or losing Freya. But it happened.
In my reflection of 2019, there was a large section devoted to looking back at crafting projects. But this year, I didn’t knit and spin as much as last year. I did knit two garments, though. A Roseroot top (from handspun yarn!) and an Elphaba sweater. No shawls. That might be a first in a long time. I also spun the fibre from the advent calendar, as well as some pretty Hedgehog Fibres. I did sew as well this year, and made a pouch for my audio player, a pretty handbag, some face masks, and an iPad sleeve for the iPad Pro that I purchased.
Speaking of that iPad, I have used it a lot already! I’ve been drawing and painting on it with the iPad pencil, using the Procreate app. Usually, I select a brush set (for example, oil brushes, or pastels), and restrict myself to using what’s in the set only. I work with layers, but only as a lifeline. I try to paint as if it’s real paint, not digital.
Painting is really something I love doing. I use my intuition, and while I used references in the beginning, I’m currently just painting what I see in my head, and let it develop on the screen. I discovered that, if I follow my intuition, it will usually become a moody landscape or seascape. I love exploring colours for those. You can click an image to see a larger version.
It’s great to be able to experiment and learn this way, without wasting paper and pigment. Although I will definitely start painting on paper and canvas again in the near future.
Two months ago, we moved house to a place that is twice as big as our old place, has a garden, has nature close by, and is quiet. We are still working on finishing everything. We spent quite some time already adding wallpaper, painting walls and ceilings, and laying down laminate flooring. We are taking our time, and we’re getting there. We’re currently working on the attic, which will become my very own studio! It’s about 5×3.5 metres. I’m so looking forward to having my own space for singing, playing the piano, composing, painting, sewing, and whatever I’m interested in at the time. Today, we’ve painted the walls (true white) and next Saturday, we will lay down the laminate flooring.
Moving house is a lot of work, and can be expensive. It was definitely exhausting. We prepared for the move from the end of September onward, and moved in on October 24th. It was quite the rollercoaster ride. Since then, we’ve been working on finishing everything in the weekends, and there are still so many boxes to unpack… but as soon as we have finished all the rooms, we can move everything into its proper place. So, a lot of my energy in the last quarter of the year went into the new house. Which is great, it’s so motivating to improve your living space!
I didn’t spend much time making music this year. Sure, I sang from time to time (but not often), and I even worked on that song that I started last year. I converted it to an ensemble piece and added a new part. But I didn’t finish it yet. Maybe next year? It will probably help to have that dedicated studio!
There was one thing that made this year quite extraordinary not just for me, but for most of us: the Covid-19 pandemic. Since we went into a lockdown in March, I have not been to the office, and I have been working from home. My husband and I have been quite careful not to meet people, especially between March and October. We just didn’t want to take the risk of infecting someone (or getting infected) with a disease of which we still know very little. We have no idea what the long-term consequences would be, and it’s already becoming clear that people who get it may have health problems for a long time. So we would prefer not to get it at all. We have been fortunate that no one we know has gotten seriously ill yet.
On the other hand, the pandemic has enabled us to move house. As we’re working from home anyway, it doesn’t really matter where we live at the moment. So we took the opportunity to move to a different city. Our commutes have increased, but we’ll deal with that when the time comes. I don’t want to go back to traveling to the office all the time anyway. Not just because I don’t like traveling there, but mostly for the environment, especially since it really isn’t necessary. We’ve shown clearly that working from home does not decrease our productivity.
Climate change has hardly slowed down at all this year, despite the pandemic, and we really need to think about what we can do about it as a society. Not making unnecessary trips seems to be a good thing in that regard. I already know that we won’t be expected back in the office in the first quarter of 2021, and once we are, I’m planning on coming in once every week or two. My manager already verbally approved that.
And then there was Freya. Last year, we found out that she had hyperthyroidism and chronic kidney failure, and high blood pressure. She really was getting old, although she didn’t behave that way most of the year. We had her ailments under control with a special diet and medicine. But I knew that she was getting more frail.
In June, we brought her along when we went on a short holiday. We all loved it. She was intrigued by the large garden, and the fact that there was an upstairs that she could visit, and from which she could look down on us when we were cooking in the kitchen.
In the summer, her health deteriorated because of the heatwave (I suspect). She was sitting in the back room all day for a few days, not feeling well. She hardly ate half of what she should. So she spent a whole day at the vet getting IV fluids, and that helped, fortunately. But it made me realise that her health was quite fragile, and that I would have to deal with the big decision in the foreseeable future: when would her quality of life be too bad to continue? A heartbreaking choice that needs to be made at some point. But not back then. She recovered and was back to her happy self, and I got her eating again.
Then we moved, and she really loved the new house. When she discovered the gardens, she wanted to go outside. I took her outside on a leash often, because I didn’t really trust her to be street smart enough to go on her own. It was still fun.
Then she got hold of a lily from one of the bouquets that we got as a congratulations for moving house. I’m still kicking myself for that one. She barely made it through the week. We were fortunate enough that she did recover quite well from that ordeal.
And then, almost three weeks ago, she was eating very little again and distancing herself, just like in August. We tried giving her extra fluids again, but to no avail. In the end, she didn’t even want to sit in my lap anymore because she couldn’t find a good position. So we decided to say goodbye to her on December 18. That was such a hard decision to make emotionally, even when rationally it made sense. Freya was the most cuddly cat I have ever known, always happy and curious and up for snuggles, and the fact that she couldn’t enjoy snuggles anymore was just not like her. There was nothing else we could do medicine-wise. So we gave her a peaceful and dignified end.
I miss Freya immensely. The grief hits me regularly. But I also look back fondly on all the beautiful memories that I have of her. Going into the new year without her is very strange. So here are some pictures from this year to celebrate her life. I’ll also continue to do Freya Friday for a while.
Last year, I reflected on my health. This year, I think I have improved a little bit. But not much. In April, I started jogging. Not jogging very fast, just walking speed, but moving as if I’m running, trying to keep my heart rate under 140bpm. It took patience to pace myself and be in the moment. That went well for some time, and I managed to jog 7 kilometres at one point. I ran all the way to the beach at Duindorp and back. I also ran to the woods that were closer by.
But then my left foot/calf started to hurt when I went jogging. I went to see a physical therapist, and he sent me to a podiatrist to get arch support for my feet.
I had to stop jogging for a while to give my foot time to heal, and then I got a bilateral salpingectomy (yay!) from which I had to recover too. After that, I had a hard time getting started again. I had gained some weight from sitting still so much and my knee was hurting regularly as well. I’m still trying to get back into jogging, because I actually enjoyed it. But the last time that I tried, a few weeks ago, I had to turn back after just two streets because my knee was hurting so bad. So for now, just taking a walk or cycling it is. And eating a bit less to make sure that my knee’s life becomes a bit easier.
As for mental health, that’s going okay. The positive trend from last year is still going. I’m more kind to myself. I feel more space, and working from home helps me not to get exhausted. I think that moving house would not have been possible if I wasn’t working from home. Having fewer interruptions and controlling my own working environment really help me save energy. And the new house and its surroundings definitely help as well.
So, going into 2021, I’m looking forward to the pandemic being over. I’d like to spend more time with friends and family this year (and not just via video calls, but in real life). I’d love to go have a coffee somewhere without worrying about becoming ill. I’d like to get to know my current city (better). I’m looking forward to creating new things in my studio. Working from home is here to stay. And I’d like to start moving more again because I like it. I’ve already got a few jogging routes planned. And who knows, maybe a kitten or two will join the family, if the stars align. Not to replace Freya, of course, but to bring some new life to my life. Looking at Freya and Fiona’s baby pictures has lit that fire again.
So, I wish you all a happy and healthy 2021. May it be better than 2020. Thanks for reading my blog this year, and for your support.
Enjoy your New Year’s Eve, hold your loved ones close, and be safe.