Posted by: christinelaennec | January 5, 2014

Things I learned in 2013

A Very Happy New Year to you all!  Thank you so much for your lovely wishes.  Although Stacy will not approve (as today is only the 11th day of Christmas), we took down our Christmas decorations yesterday, except for the ones in the Dafter’s room.  It’s nice to have a bit more space and light, and to feel this is indeed the start of a fresh new year.

January takes its name from the Roman god Janus, who has two faces.  This is because January is a month for looking both backwards and forwards.  This year I have been doing even more looking backwards than I usually do.  2013 was a year of major outwards change for our family (though 2011, when the Dafter fell ill with ME/CFS, was the year of the most profound change in about a decade).

Every year when we put our Christmas decorations away, we each make a list of “Christmas wishes” for the year to come.  We tuck these on top of one of the boxes and there they stay until the following December 1st, when we rediscover them.  It’s always interesting to look back and see which wishes came true.  Some always do!  And of course you can wish for anything…  This year, we were amazed at how very many of them had come true!  (Give or take a few meeting-celebrities wishes and the like.)

This started me reflecting on the gifts I’ve been given this past year, and in particular on what I’ve learned.  Below (for anyone who’s read this far!) is my list of Things Learned in 2013, but first, let’s have a picture of Tilly:

The back of the doll's house - Tilly is allowed to take refuge in the attic when she needs a place to hide.

The back of the doll’s house – Tilly is allowed to take refuge in the attic when she needs a place to hide.  May 2009.

Things I learned in 2013:

  • I’ve learned that I can often be braver than I think.  I can drive to Ikea, for example!
  • I’ve learned that although Glasgow is a large industrial city, it has a surprising amount of green space.  The Dafter says she is enjoying trees and nature here in a way she never did in Aberdeen.  She is even willing to brave dogs in order to feel more peaceful in nature.  Hooray!
  • I’ve learned that it can be a very good thing to have a strip-out of possessions, as long as you have the time to do a proper sift.
  • I’ve learned that it is possible, for the Dafter at least, to be very unwell and also happy at the same time.  She tells me she is happier now than she was before she fell ill.  She is really an amazing person and teaches me so much!
  • I’ve learned, or been reminded, that healing does happen.  We have had some affectionate, open, wonderful visits with Our Son this year.  Anyone who knew us when he was a boy (adopted after hugely traumatic early years) will know what a miracle this is.  Although the Dafter was so much looking forward to being able to go to school part-time, and that hasn’t been possible (yet), we have also seen healing taking place.
  • I’ve learned that taking one day at a time, and counting your blessings, is the best way to survive a difficult time.
  • I’ve learned that, in Glasgow at least, if you think there’s a donkey braying in your back garden, it’s more likely to be an urban fox.
  • I’ve learned that there are a lot more invisible, house-bound people than you might imagine.  In Aberdeen, the Dafter was shut away up in her room without any visitors for weeks on end (usually 4 or 5, but once 7 weeks) – and I thought it was so terrible a person could just disappear like that with hardly a trace.  And then I learned of the death of a man across the street from us who had been housebound for 17 years and I never knew of his existence!  Here in Glasgow, we discovered there is a wheelchair-bound man across the road, whom we didn’t realise was there.
  • I’ve learned that, while places are very important, people are by far the most important thing.
  • I’ve learned that the Church of Scotland is indeed A Broad Kirk.
  • I’ve learned that the ways of the heart are unpredictable.  As Pascal said, “Le coeur a ses raisons, que la raison ne connaît point”:  “The heart has its reasons, that Reason doesn’t know at all.”  Although moving to Glasgow has been absolutely the right thing to do for our family and thus for me, when we left Aberdeen I was hit by the most dreadful grief – nearly the worst I have ever experienced.  I have lived in many different places and have moved many times, but I guess I’d never really put down roots until coming to Aberdeen.  Aberdeen is where I had my family, lived for 21 years, found the perfect church for me and made some lifelong friends.  Leaving was like an amputation. I no longer cry every day, though!
  • I’ve learned that cats are far more adaptable than you’d think.  Jill was right, as long as they have the people who are important to them, they will be okay.
  • I’ve learned, or been reminded yet again, that God’s timescale is not our timescale.
  • I’ve learned that God’s grace can be wildly abundant.  So very many blessings have flowed to us.  We’ve truly had divine assistance in getting through a year of Michael commuting, selling our flat in Aberdeen, buying our house in Glasgow, finding excellent help with work on the house and garden, a good school for the Dafter, and good doctors for her here.  Not to mention the good fortune of having J and her family (our downstairs neighbours in Aberdeen) move here as well!
  • I’ve recently learned that if you are trying to fix a clogged-up vacuum cleaner, if you forget to turn it off first, you risk spraying the entire room with whatever was clogging it up!  Good for a laugh, though.
  • I’ve been reminded many times that angels are near.  One particularly difficult day, there were three manifestations / mentions of angels that crossed my path.  And recently a startlingly beautiful feather brooch “just happened” to come my way.
  • I’ve learned that you can have a really fun party inviting lots of strangers!  More on our New Year’s Open House in my next blog post.

And finally, there are two things that I already knew very well, which 2013 amply demonstrated to be eternal truths:  knitting keeps me sane, and blogland can be a wonderful source of friendship and support.  Thank you all so much for your encouraging and helpful comments.  I wish you and your loved ones many, many blessings in 2014!



  1. Thank you for sharing, that’s a truly thought provoking list. I wish I had more of your daughter’s cheerfulness, I admire her. She will grow up to be a thoroughly special lady with a lot to teach others and a lot to draw on to help others.
    Have any of the churches you have been trying got a youth pastor or worker who could perhaps visit your daughter? And perhaps arrange for some people of her own age to come around to say hello and pray together or something? I think your daughter would be a great blessing to them as well as them blessing her.
    Tilly is very sweet! xxx

    • Stephanie, the Dafter’s isolation has been far less in Glasgow, thankfully. Partly because girls from her class at school have come and visit, and partly because the youth leader, and one youth, have also come to visit. I’m not too sure where the connection with this church will go, as the Dafter is finding some serious differences between their approach and hers. But we all very much appreciate that they have reached out. Christianity in action.

  2. p.s. it is terrible that there are so many invisible people, something the church could do more to alleviate perhaps?

  3. Happy New Year Christine for you, Michael and the Dafter.What a wonderful list you’ve written,thanks for sharing. And tell Dafter that I learned a lot from her the past year, while my own ‘dotter’ was ill too. You and Dafter learned me to count my blessings. Thanks for being a blogfriend..
    Erna x

  4. Fantastic. You always manage to make me think deeper. Tilly -classic! I missyou but so pleased at all the positives. Thank you.

  5. I’m always so challenged and inspired by you and your daughter’s positive outlook on life. It reminds me how important it is to pause and count my blessings.

    Thank you for letting us share in your journey. I hope and pray that 2014 holds even better things for all of you!x

  6. What a lot of learnings, Christine! I hope that a good number of your wishes come true in 2014. And I hope that despite the great divide of 40 miles we might manage to meet up.

  7. Happy new year! Good list 🙂

    • Nice to hear from you Dorit! I hope all is well in the Faroes.

  8. Happy New Year!!

  9. I so enjoyed reading your list, and thanks for sharing that photo of Tilly. Your list is powerful in the things you include. I like how you looked back on the positives amid so much change and things that could have been negatives. Too often we forget to be thankful for the trials that come our way. Many Blessings to you and your family this year. And, I plan to take that thought of looking for the invisible in our community to heart as my new church and I start our year of service together. Thanks again for sharing.

  10. What a great post! So wonderfully personal. Thank you for sharing. Love, S

  11. That’s an amazing list and I completely agree with you about blogland. Perhaps I should take up knitting. I’m so pleased that the move to Glasgow has been such a positive one, despite the heartache of leaving your roots in Aberdeen. Here’s to many more good things in 2014, and to the Dafter’s school time increasing. More pictures of the delightful Tilly wouldn’t go amiss either. 🙂

  12. Oh, I so agree with you, Christine – on all accounts, but especially that knitting and blogland keep one sane (or at least as sane as this woman will ever be).

    I love your un-decorating tradition of putting wishes in the boxes – makes the chore so much less depressing. I think we’ll do this next year. ❤

  13. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but if you ever want me to put feelers out into the Christian homeschool world in Glasgow I can – there may be a lovely teenage girl who could be a friend to your gorgeous daughter … I really hate to think of her having no visitors in 7 weeks 😦

    • Helen, thank you for that kind offer, I hadn’t forgotten. In fact, the Dafter has been far less isolated here in Glasgow than she was in Aberdeen. Two girls from her school class have come to see her, as well as the youth worker from a nearby church, and a couple of other friends. So she has been quite social, for a mostly-housebound person. However, if things start to go very quiet, I’ll ask her about taking up your kind offer.
      I hope to see you at a knitting meetup sometime!

      • That’s good news about the new friendships and I’m impressed that you remembered my offer. As I live in Kent it’s unlikely that we will meet up by accident. We will be in Glasgow for the Commonwealth games next summer, but in this weather, summer seems like another planet at the moment!

      • Dear Helen,
        I realise that I had confused you with another Helen who lives in Glasgow – sorry! Thank you again for the offer – I might have caused some confusion if I’d contacted the other Helen to take you up on it 🙂 Say hi if you see me here next summer!

  14. May all your wishes come true. Happy New Year. x

  15. And we, in turn, have learned much from you. What a remarkable collection.

    The standout items for me were the two together:
    “The Dafter is happier now than she was before she fell ill. She is really an amazing person and teaches me so much!” Me too!
    “I’ve learned, or been reminded, that healing does happen. We have had some affectionate, open, wonderful visits with Our Son this year. “

  16. Thanks for letting me see Tilly in the attic, Christine 🙂 I took some photos of Mt. Hood this week, and hope to post them soon. After weeks of fog we had sunshine today! Happy New Year! xx

    • To Gracie:
      You must live near us if you can take pics of Mt. Hood. We now regularly look at the back side of the W hills, but love it when we do see it!

      If you ever want to get in touch, I’m C’s little sister – and not much like her, really, although I do attempt to knit – and we live in Aloha:)

      Please feel free to get in touch! Wouldn’t it be great to actually have met somebody through my sister’s blog who’s right here!

      Your blog add would be great, too!

      Warmly, Sarah

  17. Tilly knows how to make himself comfortable. Your list was uplifting, especially the part about being sick and happy and the comment about your son. There’s quick and dramatic healing, and there’s long, slow healing. Transformation might be a better word.

    Happy New Year!

  18. I bet Tilly is a girl!

    • Yes she is indeed a girl, or perhaps we should call her a lady now, as she is 9 years old. 🙂

  19. A very thought-provoking and inspiring list of blessings and lessons learned last year, Christine! I am so glad that your move to Glasgow has brought you all happiness in large and small ways. It must be so heartwarming for you to hear that your daughter is happy, also, as I know this was concerning to you for so many reasons. I hope that all your Christmas wishes come true and this year surpasses the last in happiness. xo

  20. Such a good list. Thank you for sharing that! It was encouraging to me and I think when you read someone else’s list you think about your own blessings too. So glad that through all this the Dafter is happier — such growth of soul in these ill years. About time to go drink some tea. I’ve been helping the children with thank you notes all day and other activities.

  21. What a list! What a year–heights and depths and Tilly for comic relief.

  22. Dear everyone,
    Thank you very much for your kind comments and good wishes. I hesitated to blog about such personal things, for the reason that my own particular problems and life may not be of any interest to other people! So I’m glad if others can take something from my experiences. I should have made it clearer that the Dafter isn’t nearly so isolated since we came to Glasgow as she was in Aberdeen.

    I think “Transformation” (Kelly) and “growth of soul” (Heather) are two very good ways of expressing what is happening in our house, and not just with the Dafter!

  23. Dearest C,

    I wanted to say and didn’t before because I thought it’s just my stuff and who in blog land would care?

    But here it is. Even with my ongoing challenges and extreme life changes over the last year I, for the most part, am happy. My doc asks me for a # when I arrive. 1-10, ten being the best. 99.5% of the time I have been a five or better, and probably 80% of the time, a seven or better. It’s weird feeling so awful in one way and really okay in another…

    Hugs!!! S

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