Monday, December 31, 2012

A Quiet New Year's Eve

I just got an email from my dear friend Tim's daughter Mary Kate, wishing Bob and me a very happy New Year and telling me that her New Year's Eve will be quite different this year.

It has been, indeed, quite a year for this talented young actress. She has watched and celebrated as her brother and two sisters have married. And she is now celebrating finding a new and wondrous love herself. She wants to ring in this New Year on a note of quiet gratitude. "Matt and I want a nice quiet New Year's Eve," she wrote. "We want to reflect on the blessing of finding each other."

                   Mary Kate Schellhardt and Matt Palka: A Happy New Year   

That sentiment resonates so deeply with me as 2012 becomes 2013. At a time when it's so easy to focus on what's wrong with the world and on one's own daily aches, pains, limitations, disappointments and fears for the future, it really is important to take a time out and to celebrate all that's going right, all the good in one's life. So today, I'm feeling quiet gratitude for life's many blessings.

I feel blessed by family... and by friends who have become family.

                                         My sister Tai, a nurse in Seattle  

                            My brother Mike, a physician now working in Thailand 
         My sister-in-law Amp, so busy with Maggie, 3 and Henry, 6 months     
                                   Maggie and Henry, jetlagged in Bangkok                       

                         Mary, one of my dearest friends for more than 40 years
                                Tim, so dear to me for nearly 50 years 

          Ryan, our "Honorary Son" for twenty years and counting!

                    Ryan's life partner Sean, now also a beloved honorary son                    

There are joys and challenges with all our ties to family and friends, but such a blessing to see these relationships grow and become richer and even more treasured with time.

My sister Tai is 10 years younger than I am. We were separated by nearly a generation when we were young. But now that age barrier has become irrelevant and she is very much with me in experience and spirit as we age, bringing such warm understanding and irreverent humor to our discussions on the trials of aging, the turns life can take and the general state of the world and ourselves. My brother Mike, a wonderful kindred spirit all our lives together, has never ceased to amaze me with his accomplishments and choices -- like his late-in-life transformation into a family man. His wife Jinjuta, nicknamed Amp, brings such joy and lovely insights into family discussions and has given birth to the two youngest members of the family -- Maggie and Henry -- who never cease to make me smile. I never would have dreamed that a FaceTime call from my three-year-old niece in Bangkok (simply to tell me that her Daddy had just made her smiley faced pancakes) would bring me such joy.

And I'm so grateful for friends who have, through the years of shared joys and sorrows, become family. I met Mary when we were both working at 'TEEN Magazine more than 40 years ago. We've seen each other through so much love and loss and so many life changes and challenges.  Now more than ever, we really treasure time spent together. The same is true of my friend Tim, whom I met in college and who has been a source of inspiration, comfort, and great conversations in all the years since. Time and age have only added to the joy of this very special friendship. Both Mary and Tim -- as well as some others dear to me but not pictured -- have added immeasurably to my life.

Although Bob and I have never had children, there is a special young man who has felt like a son since he captured our hearts as a nine-year-old when he and Bob were matched in the Big Brothers program. Ryan is now a 29-year-old MSW, a social worker in Los Angeles, helping those most troubled and desperate every day on Skid Row. He is a wonderful young man who has found an equally endearing life partner Sean, a landscape architect, who has become an honorary son of ours as well. They made our Thanksgiving extra special this year by coming here to spend it with us.

Our animals are also family -- family to us and to each other. I'm grateful for our beautiful, sweet cats Gus, 14, Maggie, 5, Sweet Pea, 2 and Hammie, 8 months. They endlessly amuse us, cuddle up to us in bed and keep us on our toes, most recently chasing the ever-disappearing Christmas tree skirt. And they are wonderful with each other, offering support and grooming and love to one another.

                             Our male cats Gus and Hammie truly love each other

                          And Maggie and SweetPea groom -- and love -- Hammie     

I'm so grateful for the wonderful neighbors who brighten our days, bring us new and valuable perspectives, shared experiences and familial friendships that make us feel so warm and secure, even when we have families living far away.

I'm so grateful for health and well-being, for opportunities to be active, to lose that stubborn weight and become truly fit in the New Year.

I'm grateful for where I've been -- the challenges and the sorrows of life, the hard times as well as the fun times and moments of triumph. All of these experiences have shaped my world view and the person I've grown to be. And I'm grateful for now -- which is all I really have -- and for what will be -- new adventures, new challenges -- in the year to come.

And, certainly, not least, I'm grateful to have a true partner in life, my husband Bob. This is our 38th New Year's Eve together and, this coming May, we will celebrate our 36th wedding anniversary. Having someone with whom to grow older, someone who remembers my youth (as I remember his) and who appreciates me equally in older age is a blessing indeed. I feel so fortunate to have someone to share not only concern but also laughter over some of the indignities of older age.

                         Bob and me with our dual C-PAP machines - so romantic!                               

I'm grateful for all that we share, for laughter and music, for quiet moments and reflection.

I can remember some other New Year's Eves that were more lively: with parties, evenings with friends, dinners out. But this year, like Mary Kate, I'm dreaming, not of revelry, but of warm contentment and reflection.

This is a time to be mindful of blessings, realizing that another year has passed, that time is increasingly finite, that nothing or no one is forever ... or ever more treasured.

So this will be an evening to be still, to reflect, and to dream, ever mindful of the passage of time and the blessings of each moment.


  1. I have been neglecting blogging lately but just caught up with your blogs. As usual, I was able to relate to much in them(but not the theft of the tree skirt, not that was unique!) And just laughed and laughed at your romantic photo of you and Bob.

  2. Very nice reflection. We will be spending the evening with our granddaughters, reading, and will blow horns at midnight, waking our neighbors.

  3. What a beautiful post...Kathleen....Counting one's blessings at the end of another year is a wise endeavor indeed. In we put more years behind us than we have before us....i believe it is the wise person who can truly reflect on what they have truly been given in this lifetime.



  4. A beautiful post~!
    As we age, each encounter may be the last, and we do the best we can to treasure each moment.
    Happy New Year, to you and your loved ones.

  5. Wonderful post highlighting the positives. What a great way to insure daily smiles. We all need to do more of that. Hope 2013 brings you a steady diet of positives.

  6. It sure feels good counting ones blessings
    Happy New Year!!!

  7. I also have reflected this holiday season on how much I have to be grateful for. I spent New YEar's Eve quietly at home with the spouse. He went to bed early, but I stayed up to welcome the new year. I sat in the hot tub and watched the fireworks set off in town. Yes, I'm grateful and looking forward to a great new year. Best wishes to you and your family in the coming year.

  8. What a nice post on New Year Seattle 2013. I also celebrate New Year's Eve 2013 with my family and friends. Your pictures are nice.

  9. Most of us are lucky beyond compare when we consider what so many other people in the world are going through. A good reminder, Kathy, thank you.

  10. What a grand group of blessings you have in these people you love and who love you! I love seeing your smiling face in these photos -- and seeing those to whom you refer in your posts all wrapped up in one giant hugs of a tribute! Yes, we have the family we are born with and the family we choose for ourselves. You have both. I am confident it is the energy you radiate that brings these wonderful people into your life. They are lucky ones, too! Happy New Year!

  11. So beautiful, and so true, Kathy. Gratitude is one of the bedrock emotions to me - a foundation on which to build one's life and a touchstone for our relationships with each other.

    A very happy New Year to you and yours.