The word I said would be my guiding theme for 2011 was “play.” The real theme of 2011 turned out to be “get it done.” But I did get in some wonderful travel and art experiences anyway.

Much of the first part of it was miserable. I was in pain physically, mentally, and emotionally. It wasn’t due to turning 50 or officially hitting menopause. I welcomed those things. I have to be able to work with my hands, whether it is through art, cooking, or gardening. That creativity is what saves me from major depression, and I was not able to do any of that without paying for it in pain.

In February I celebrated 50 in Los Gatos, California, at An Artful Journey, painting papers for three days under the guidance of Albie Smith and pondering the direction my life would take. That was a wonderful experience! It is so exhilarating to be able to travel by myself across the country to take advantage of these teachers – ten years ago I would never have predicted this possibility.

Susanne Martin and I also traveled to the Focus on Book Arts conference in Forest Grove, Oregon, where we met up with my book artist friend Judy Strom. We both fell in love with the area and enjoyed our one night in Portland, although we got to see very little of it. It definitely gave us both a yearning to go back, and Susanne was able to get her Lakota book into a gallery in Portland. Maybe she will get to teach at the next one in 2013, in which case there is no doubt that I will tag along.

In July our family rented an oceanfront cottage at Sunset Beach and played with my aunt and cousin and cousin-in-law from Denver. That was a fantastic week.

Over Labor Day weekend, Sandy and I went to Asheville where I took a one-day shibori workshop at Cloth Fiber Workshop and Sandy indulged his newly discovered fascination with painting by wandering around the galleries. Asheville. God, I love Asheville.

I took out a home equity loan and we replaced our entire HVAC system – both the furnace and the AC were on their last legs (or dead) and our ductwork was total crap. This also meant that I had to get asbestos removal specialists to remove all the ductwork. My plan for the rest of the money was to remove the deck so that we could get to our basement, a situation I won’t go into, but it was nearly impossible to do and was flooding frequently. I wanted to rebuild a simple small, screened porch to replace it and bolster a joist beneath the house that somebody before us inexplicably sawed in two, but then was told that our three 1922 vintage chimneys were letting water into the house, so the rest of the money went to deck removal and chimney repair, and a small platform off the back door for safety’s sake, and we just have a tarp thrown over the basement entrance. So it was “get it done” year for the house, and the next thing will probably have to be rebuilding the bathroom floor over that joist. All of this will have to wait, because I am not putting off travel in order to do it.

I skipped Journalfest because of the house repairs and the other trips, telling myself that I needed to show some restraint and frugality and that I could always go in 2012. Except that after Journalfest was over, Teesha announced that she was not doing Journalfest any more, which broke my heart. Man, I loved that event, that place, those people. It still makes tears well up in my eyes to think about it. But as I will soon tell you, 2012 will have delights in store for me anyway!

I did all the proper 50 year old medical tests and procedures – I officially hit menopause, had my yearly mammogram, had a good dermatologist check me out thoroughly and pronounce my skin cancer-free, and my second colonoscopy. also polyp-free (family history made me begin at 40). I spent a lot of time in physical therapy for my de Quervain’s tendinitis at the beginning of the year, which didn’t help, then tried injections a couple of times, which did help but the doctor would not do more than 2-3 max per year, and they didn’t last but 3 months. So I had surgery for de Quervain’s and this Dupuytren’s nodule in my left hand just before Christmas. Which is why I’m posting this wrap-up a week after I began it – it takes a while to type one-handed, although I’m very good at it. Dr. Weingold thinks that the surgery was successful – he said that my tendons were pretty tightly bundled up in there. The surgery expanded the hole that they pass through. The nodule removal was more preventative – it could have eventually drawn my fingers down and surgery now is much less recovery time than later, so I decided to do both. “GET IT DONE.”

My mother really suffered this year with sciatica and that was a huge concern. Thank God she is much better now after several epidural injections. She also had her cataracts removed. All this means that she ended the year still able to live on her own and drive around and do all her Mama thangs – not bad for 88 years old.

The big bucket list item was joining an artists’ co-op – Elements Gallery – this year. My sales were pretty decent for Christmas so I guess I will renew my contract in April, although for a smaller amount of space.

Since May I have been taking online classes from Jude Hill (Spirit Cloth), and although I have not been able to stitch nearly as much as I wanted to, it has been a mind and heart opening process.

We lost Miss Jazz in April. That was heart-breaking. Our little girl was with us for 17 years, and her spirit was amazing and strong until the end when her twisted little body just couldn’t carry on any more. Miss Lucy scared us this summer with asthma so bad it confused everyone and put her in the ICU for a few days. We thought we might lose her too. Then Guido got cancer and kidney stones and spent time in ICU in December, but it seems to be benign, thank God. Two days after Guido got sick, Theo apparently ate some chicken bones from the garbage and HE had to spend time in the ICU. So we really ended up with major bills this fall, and almost lost our other fur-babies.

So what will be my theme for 2012? I don’t know yet. I think that it will be a much better year. Maybe my theme for the first half of the year will be “patience” and then I’ll adopt another for the second half.