Updated: Dec 14, 2022
I'm sitting by the Christmas tree listening to some beautiful music and listening to Hawkeye snore, and Matthew has just went to his office upstairs. I'm looking back on this year and feel like I'm wrapped in a blanket of gratitude for so much.
I had skipped writing a year review for 2021 simply because there were a lot of difficult things that I didn't really want to try to write about. Not to say there wasn't an immense number of things to be extremely grateful for, but they felt a little too entangled in the "much-ness" of trying to explain that year. 2022 has been a very different picture from last year in many ways. Here are some highlights.
Through January and February of 2022 I worked on paintings of butterflies and moths that are native to Tennessee (and I still need to get them on the website!). That was a really fun experience and really tested my sketching chops where symmetry is concerned.
By February and March, I think my body was doing much better from having gone a full year of just having eaten the anti-inflammatory diet (which is just white meat, vegetables, fruits, and no dairy, no sugar, no red meat, no starches, no breads, etc.). I had gotten down to 95 lbs. during 2021, but by January through March of 2022 I was able to slowly expand my food selections and eventually start gaining weight again, which was a huge blessing. I'm so thankful for how
Matthew was so helpful with the food issue, and never complained that our dinners were boring or that they didn't taste as good or have as much variety. The anti-inflammatory diet did sort of force us to try new recipes we probably wouldn't have tried otherwise that turned out to be really good! One of them was Thai curry soup, which we ate ad-nauseam through the winter and spring because it was good for us and actually tasted like comfort food for once! Haha. Hawkeye learned about hanging around whenever any soup was being made so he could get tidbits of chicken fat bits in his bowl.
February was also when the struggle in Ukraine erupted. When we received the first wave of news of the terror and murder happening there, I spent one evening just crying and praying. The news of all that was going on there overshadowed everyone's prayer habits, I think. Hearing stories like those that are happening on the other side of the world makes one realize how fragile their freedom is that they enjoy and take for granted every day.
February brings Valentine's Day, and this year I decided to surprise Matthew with a surprise date location. Usually he is really good at finding good places to stay or eat, but this time I brought my A-game and had us go to Nashville to eat at the restaurant called Josephine, and we were not disappointed.
March seemed to be so much more snowy than usual as we prepared for spring's arrival. Spring seemed to creep in very slowly this year; especially since I was yearning to plant flowers and roses. Instead, lots of bread was baked, and I completed the painting of the hummingbird and wild roses. Anything to hold out for warmer temperatures. I wish I was better at handling winter, but it turns me into a whiney baby.
In early April, the valley slowly began to turn green again.
I began working on a larger painting, the Wood Thrush in a maple tree. It took a while, but it meant a lot to me because that bird is my favorite. I went with Mom to the Land Rover (formerly Rolex) 3 Day Event and it was amazing to see the horses and riders do what appears to be so impossible.
Spring finally arrived around my birthday and all the roses and flowers were just incredible. I had no idea that for most of the coming summer, we would have such heat and drought that almost all the future roses of 2022 would be scorched before they even finished blooming. But I did get some beautiful pictures, and I had my first foxglove, which has been a flower I've wanted since childhood.
During this time, I ordered some colored pencils with some of my birthday money, and I tried my hand at drawing a decaying rose that I had cut off of my lavender rose bush. It turned out to be so very fun and made me excited to try more.
In mid May, we finally got COVID for the first time. We had evaded it for over 2 years, and it had been a good run but it finally found us. Matthew got it first and felt pretty lousy all week, and then I got it. It didn't last long (the exhaustion did for both of us), but there was one day I spent in bed just being sicker than I'd been since early high school days when I had the flu once. It was pretty miserable, but we made it through and finally got our strength back.
June was preparation for something I had planned since the summer of 2021: Renaissance Camp! I had an idea in the summer of 2021 to have our niece, Clara (Matthew's brother's daughter) and our like-niece Maddy to come spend a week here at the farm to do workshops of knitting, embroidery, painting, horseback riding, flower arranging, and to top the week off with British Afternoon Tea. It was a blast. The girls stayed in the guest room and we started the day with devotions together each morning and then dove into all the fun activities planned for the day. It went better than I could have ever hoped, and I'm so grateful that the girls had a good enough time that they didn't want to leave when it came time, and I felt like I could cry too. I know I made memories that will last me a lifetime with these girls that I love more than words can describe. It was beautiful to see them just be themselves as they sat on the porch with Hawkeye or caught fireflies or picked blackberries. By the end of the week we had collected enough blackberries to make blackberry syrup to go on their pancakes the morning that they had to go.
Anyway, I'll never forget it. I love these two so much.
After Renaissance Camp, the drought continued and the plants had a rough time, poor things. Our tomato plant was demolished by some raccoons, and we decided that next year, we're not going to grow anything that was too attractive to critters, haha. I don't like tomatoes enough to eat many of them and Matthew likes them but doesn't need to eat as many as a plant produces by himself. We grew an abundance of bell peppers and jalepenos to feed an army, though!
In August, Matthew and I went for a walk one evening and on our way back, we saw a red fox run out of the brush and dash across a yard and into the woods. It was such a beautiful moment, and it was just after I had finished Autumnal Watchman. It was one of those extremely rare pieces of art that comes together so easily and every moment was fun. I wish every piece felt like that; the magic of just being swept away by something that you love so much. There is something about foxes that makes me feel bonded to them, and I'm still not sure as to all the reasons why yet-- sort of how I feel with St. Joan of Arc where there is this deep bond for reasons that I'm slowly trying to uncover. But there is something there that has me totally in awe and there's a feeling of kinship that I can't quite understand with foxes. Maybe its the fact that they're observant and adapt quickly to their surroundings, or maybe it's that they're often misunderstood, or maybe it's just that they seem magical to me.
In August, our old horse Hunter passed away. It was a Sunday morning (it's always Sunday morning with us) and he fell and couldn't get up. Some friends came and helped him pass painlessly and quickly. We had had Hunter since I was 10, and I had ridden him at horse camp as a kid. He was two or three years older than me.
I'm so thankful that the day before he passed, I was mucking his stall with him there and I got to pet him and love on him. I remember thinking, "he's pretty elderly now. I wonder when he'll have to go," and it was the very next day. But I'm thankful I got to say goodbye to him that morning and help him be as comfortable as possible. His family was there with him, and I'm so thankful.
In late August, Autumnal Watchman won 1st place at the art show in Erin, TN. I'm so grateful for that community of kind people who are so welcoming every year.
September was our 5th anniversary of being married, and we had planned a trip that had gotten interrupted by my getting called to jury duty. Matthew had found us a little cabin in Brown County, IN that had an artist studio space, and we had been so excited to go. But we canceled because of jury duty, and trusted that there would be another plan given to us by the Lord.
This may or may not be surprising to the reader, but in September I began taking steps to become officially Catholic. The reasons for this are many and I'm not sure I'd be able to sufficiently write it in a blog to satisfy some questions that people may have, but I'm not leaving Dyers Creek, and it is for positive reasons and not at all that I've been dissatisfied with my upbringing or anything. In fact, I wish everyone could have been raised the way I was spiritually. It really boils down to the fact that Catholicism has been a big part of my life since I was a child, and it has been instrumental in shaping my faith especially in the past ten years. I came to the point this year in praying about it that I felt that God was leading me to become Catholic. It has been surprising in a way how in reading the catechism that it's actually not that different than how I've been raised, at least so far. My attending Dyers Creek has enriched the Mass and vice versa. So I continue to pray and walk that trail.
As it turns out, we ended up going to Lexington, KY in October to see some horse racing at Keeneland. Matthew hadn't been before, and we went to the early morning workouts and ate breakfast at the track kitchen. It was so fun to see Matthew just eat it up, as he is keen on horse racing, and what an awesome year it has been for horses with the likes of Flightline, Cody's Wish, Rich Strike, and several other amazingly talented horses.
We stayed at Scottwood Bed and Breakfast, and had a beautiful morning our last day with Tim and Annette who own the B&B. We told our story and they told theirs, and it was obvious why the Lord had directed us there instead of our original plans for our anniversary trip. We can't wait to stay there again.
And what October would be complete without our "Annual Hogue Fall Festival"? Each year since we've been married, we have a "Fall Festival" where all the Hogues in Stewart County attend. Since it's only us two, we have 100% attendance every year. Haha!
We always carve pumpkins, drink apple cider, and have hot dogs and s'mores (my all time favorite - just try to convince me of anything that tastes better than a s'more!). We end the evening by watching It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!
Sadly, our pumpkins aged rather quickly and looked like an old couple smiling without teeth within a week's time. Hahaha. But it was lovely just the same!
Another thing that happened in October was that I started the habit of waking up at 5am every weekday morning and practicing my violin before the start of the workday. In listening to the Artists for Joy podcast a few months ago, I felt like I was finally given permission to just enjoy the art and music I make and not to demand perfection from myself anymore. I didn’t realize how badly I needed it.
For the first time since graduating from university over ten years ago, I’m practicing my violin daily and actually loving it, and accepting the mistakes as arrows that point me in the right direction instead of seeing them as things shouting at me with inner voices of threatening condemnation and humiliation. I’m taking my time doing art and painting and not pushing myself to produce perfection as quickly as possible. I want to get back to working on the illustrations for the children’s novel I wrote two years ago, and I am hoping it will be easier and more fun since I’m going to try to choose to let it be what it’s supposed to be instead of some idea of perfection that looks down its nose at me and judging me for it not being perfect.
November was pretty quiet, but at Thanksgiving I was overwhelmed with the gratitude of being able to eat the food this year, whereas last year I had had to be careful. And such an abundance of food! And how sweet it was to be with sweet family, too, and get to know a few newcomers even better.
December: we got to visit and tour the Biltmore in North Carolina with the Wrights, and what an amazing place! So many pictures, but the one that I will show here is from my favorite room in the house, for many obvious reasons. We also went to an immersive Leonardo DaVinci exhibit, and that got me hooked onto any and all immersive artistic exhibits. I hope we can go to the Van Gogh one next.
Christmas will soon be here, and I'm looking forward to being with Matthew's family this year, Lord willing. As I write, we are praying for many of his family that have had a really difficult and sad month with losses and health issues so close to Christmas.
For now, our tree is up here at home. It's nothing like anything at the Biltmore, but I think I like it best. Especially with a big old German Shepherd lying nearby and snoring.
Books read: (Not in any order)
1776 by David McCullough (Go read this right now if you haven't.)
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (Ashamed to say it was my first time reading all of them. I cried a lot more than expected and ended up with a sort of literary crush on C.S. Lewis. Don't judge me.)
The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis (A repeat read that needs to be read probably once a month, if not more. But anyway, we listened to the audiobook read by John Cleese this time around via Youtube and it was insanely good. You're welcome.)
The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne (How have I not read this before this year?! So good).
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell (she really shows her chops at understanding complex personalities in this unfinished book. No wonder Charles Dickens was a fan and friend of hers. Scoot over, Jane Austen.)
Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (I feel like this is where Jurassic Park came from for some reason...)
Walking on Water by Madeleine L'Engle (for the umpteenth time)
Joan by Donald Spotto (Another repeat read)
Atomic Habits by James Clear
Bleak House by Charles Dickens (I'm about halfway through, and getting through his books is like trudging through cold molasses but it's worth it. Thanks for making it hard on your readers, Chuck).
-The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy (a delicious book!)
And some favorite Spotify playlists I made this year here:
Music for Doing Artwork (Thoughtful & nostalgic stuff): https://open.spotify.com/playlist/0M2zSTWcUy4GLzk4CUeH7L?si=5bae5014ce0f4f0c
Blooms Around the Cottage (Classical music that reminds me of the outdoors): https://open.spotify.com/playlist/3kfwE0jkvC66if7kbOiU0s?si=83a634a64219485e
French Jazz Fiddle (oh to play fiddle like Stephane Grapelli!): https://open.spotify.com/playlist/6mCiaU965OMcOBW387xana?si=596efeb4472c4321
Outdoors (Lord Huron and friends that make you wanna take a hike): https://open.spotify.com/playlist/1Aht4j4nq7yITNLwss3zTK?si=493c7a8a4d3c4709
Atmospheric Nostalgia - Backroads (music that reminds me of wandering the backroads around home during adolescence and young adulthood): https://open.spotify.com/playlist/5HSjt53qMy72koRhjuvJm0?si=1137f1d01821431f