2020. The last time I was so glad to see a year end was 1994, the year Dad died. On New Year’s Eve my (then) husband Dave, Mom and I went out to dinner theater, then visited at Mom’s house until midnight. We popped the cork, poured the champagne and said in unison Thank God this year is over! At present, dinner theater is a thing suspended, as is doing anything with anyone on New Year’s Eve. Left to my own devices, the year-end recaps on public radio have inspired me to do a personal recap of 2020, with a nod to the holiday song the Twelve Days of Christmas.


But Christmas is over already!


True, but there’s a subtlety you’re missing, 9. The Twelve Days are not the days leading up to Christmas, they’re the 12 days leading from Christmas to the Epiphany. Wikipedia defines this as December 25 through January 5:




Since there are also twelve months in the Gregorian calendar year, I’ve adopted that as the frame for my rendition. I won’t go through all the iterations that build the song from one to twelve, but will take the David Letterman approach and begin with number twelve, the last time through. Here goes:


Oh the twelve months of twen-tee-ee twen-ty gave to me:


Twelve months of walking

Eleven months of 60

Ten shows as Matilda

9, my inner 9-year-old

Eight pandemic ma-asks

Seven days of workout

Six days in Port Townsend

Five Brand New Blinds!!

Fo-our scrape and burns

Three books in print

Two-o critters gone

A-and Spa-ni-ish O-one Twen-ty One


The break down:


Twelve months of walking-I started walking regularly in January and was joined by my friend Cheryl (aka my one-person social bubble)  in March (at a six-foot distance, with masks at the ready in case we were forced into close proximity with each other or other walkers). One of our routes is the Planet Walk, a 2-mile round-trip 30-minute path near Fort Walla Walla Museum, which features the planets in our solar system in relative spatial relationship to each other. My heart beats a little faster when we near the end of this particular walk, not only from our brisk pace, but also the sight of the inner planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars) topping the last rise. The view invariably feels like coming home.

Twelve Months: The Planet Walk, right here in Walla Walla, WA. Mars is in the foreground, the Sun is most distant. Restoration of spirit through physical activity and contemplating something larger than the problems of humanity!

Eleven months of 60– –


Ahem! You’re cheating on this one.


Thanks for keeping me honest, Lily. Technically, I was sixty until 10:20 PM on November first.


Ten shows as Matilda-In August I got to go somewhere, a paid performing gig in Baker City, Oregon, at the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. 10 one-hour solo shows as historic figure Matilda Sager Delaney in 3 days, to be exact. I count myself beyond lucky, not only having a chance to perform in 2020, but also having a fantastic time doing it! Fingers crossed that museums, interpretive centers and other cultural and entertainment venues can reopen in 2021, and that performing artists can get back to work!

Twelve Months: Matilda, performing August 29, 2020. Photo by Ann Abraham (she and Mom came to see us!).

9, my inner 9-year-old


Hey, that’s me!


You showed up on May 5, the day our local state parks reopened (with restrictions). Lily and I had our plans in place (I packed snacks, water and the digital camera; she insisted we take our journal). Then, through the auspices of one of my famous survival inventions, the Bowl Game, I drew the task “Dress like a little kid.” All of a sudden, there you were, insisting we wear the straw boater and striped prairie blouse with the multi-colored vest from Central America.

Twelve Months, eight of them with 9!

And our pink bandana mask.


Speaking of which, Eight pandemic ma-asks-Two bandanas, one gold and one pink, to start with, plus three I ordered online when I realized the mask requirement was going to be in place for months, not weeks. Another three came from friends.

Twelve Months: An icon of normalized stress- -the mask.

Seven days of workouts-I’ve been diligent about fitness since my 39th birthday, three days a week on Nordic Track and another three doing a Pilates/Yoga routine. 2020 put this routine on figurative steroids. Additions: walking 5 to 7 days a week and online Core Power Yoga thrice weekly. Why so much exercise? Time on my hands and excess stress from extra isolation to dissipate.


Isolation with us.


With you.


And 3 cats!


Yes, them, too. Now, where was I? Six days in Port Townsend in early October. I admit the trip weighed on me coming and going, while I was there, and for two weeks afterward (a timeline anyone who’s paying attention can relate to, right?). An adjustment was happening in my family and the need to pitch and help overcame my worries about COVID-19 exposure on the 600-mile round-trip drive. Certainly I masked and deployed hand sanitizer every time I had to stop along the way (see turning 61, above). Anyway, I helped some, and also checked in with a few friends I was particularly worried about due to traumatic life events and/or health vulnerabilities- -at a distance, with masks.


Five Brand New Blinds! As someone with lifelong allergies I loathed the heavy, dusty drapes in the Walla Walla house when we moved in, May 2018. Bruce, however, favored them, both for making the bedroom pitch dark at night and as draft barriers in winter. In January 2020 I suddenly realized I could decide, all by my big self, to have the drapes replaced! The windows were measured and the blinds were ordered before the pandemic was an acknowledged issue in the USA . They arrived in early March and were installed the Wednesday after the shelter-in-place order was given. Kind of a nail-biter, given the unknowns of what we were facing back then. The installer and I virtually leapt back when we got anywhere close to within six feet of each other. So, whew!


Fo-our Scrape and Burns-What’s more festive than basal cell carcinoma? My “butcher’s bill” for whatever cumulative time I’ve spent unprotected in the sun came due with a vengeance in 2020. Technically, the fourth scrape and burn procedure is happening next week, but, you know, the song thing? The four are on biceps (one each on left and right, for balance) and the front and back of my right shoulder. Also, two have been removed from my face, via the keen procedure known as Mohs Surgery. One of my favorite word strings from 2020: not life threatening.


Two weeks ago I became an author with not one, not two, but Three books in print! It is an incredible boost to morale at Chez Matley to end the year on this positive note. I hope all of you contemporary fantasy/mythology readers out there have ordered your copies of book three, Beyond Big-G City. It’s a tricky time to market books (or anything else) right now. I sincerely appreciate the time and attention many of you have given to this (from my perspective) major event. Any time you want to email or Zoom, I’m happy to do an author Q & A! Fingers crossed for a book tour this spring. . .

Beyond Big-G City

Twelve Months included the launch of “Beyond Big-C City”!

Considering the circumstances, 2020 has been a surprisingly positive year for me. But there have been some serious losses, as in Two-o critters gone. Grizzy succumbed to thyroid and renal issues on February 29; I lost Doc to heart valve failure July 23rd. The one bright spot: both of them entered crisis after regular veterinarian office hours, so I had to take them 50 miles to the emergency vet in Pasco. This might sound like a bad thing, and it certainly added a layer of difficulty to a tough emotional time. But- -at the emergency vet I was able to be with them until the very last. At our regular vet, where the examining rooms are tight, I would only have been with them while they fell asleep under the sedative but, given pandemic protocols, wouldn’t have been there to hold them as they died.


That part makes me sad.


Me too, Lily. I miss them every day. But the three kitties who remain need our love, too. That’s what I try to focus on.


Finally: And Spa-ni-ish o-one twen-ty one!  The last line of our song is the first adventure we embarked upon in 2020. The first day of class was January 6, the day following the Twelve Days of Christmas. Día de Los Reyes (the Epiphany) is celebrated in Mexico on January 6 to honor the Three Wise Men. The Epiphany celebrates the day the Three Wise Men gave gifts to Jesus and closes the Christmas festivities. Our fabulous instructor (shout out to Jeff Adams at Walla Walla Community College!) treated us to Rosca de Reyes, the traditional ring-shaped “Three Kings Cake,” back when communal eating in a confined space with 20 people was something we could do without fear.


The circular Three Kings Cake. I’ll take it as a portent that we will come full circle on the pandemic- -our lives easier to share, in person; to sing together and hug each other again. Soon, I hope.


Be safe, be healthy and Happy New Year.

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