2016 - It Was a Year

I know 2016 was pretty terrible for the world in general, but it was okay for me. No-one died (well, no-one I'm related to), I managed to leave the country without any hassles and come back, I worked, I played. It was a straightforward year.

Remote Real Estate

At the end of last year I was dealing with a flooded basement in my mother's house (which, you might recall, I was trying to sell after her death that summer). Dealing with a home maintenance crisis from two provinces away is not easy, but it was manageable with the help of a good friend, and because of the helpfulness and amiability of the trades — electricians, plumbers, carpenters — of my mum's small town. Nonetheless, it took months to dry out the basement, move the furnace and boiler upstairs, and paint.

Of course, the real estate agent couldn't show the house while it was all soggy and under repair. But even after all that, the house didn't sell until we reduced the price dramatically — we had listed it far too high. It finally sold in October, in a flurry of notarized contracts and emails. Did you know you can sell a house over email now?

In June we all went to England to visit my mum's family and ancestral homeland, and to swan about London for a week. (And we went to Cardiff.) I had been jonesing for a trip somewhere, anywhere (except Saskatchewan), so I was thrilled to go. Apart from the long trip from Toronto to Staffordshire (which just about killed the Wintons) the trip was great. My cousin took us to see every attraction and park of note in the North Staffordshire/South Derbyshire area in a five day whirlwind. (I tried to convince her to start a business specializing in reasonably priced tours for families.)

We stayed in Cardiff for two nights, and spent the day at the Doctor Who Experience and hanging around the Cardiff harbour. We had a sandwich at the Norwegian church, visited Ianto's shrine, ate Welsh cakes, watched an unexpected military band show (complete with goat mascot), went for a boat ride, and had Brazillian food for dinner.

In London we stayed at the very swank Hilton Metropole (on not-very-swank Edgware Road) along with all of Mozilla. The girls and I played tourist while Blake worked. We walked along the Thames, saw an Internet friend, crossed the Millennium Bridge, rode the cable cars at O2 (no-one does that!), went for another boat ride (on the same day as that stupid Brexit boat rally), visited a thrilling little stationery store and the London Transport Museum, and had high tea — twice!

Delphine and Cordelia had a fairly eventful year, in a kid kind of way.

Cordie started taekwondo at the end of 2015, and did a two week taekwondo camp in summer. Over the year she earned yellow, orange, green, and purple belts, and in December she signed up for the intensive Black Belt Club program.

Cordelia had a very good year in grade five — her teacher was exceptional. Grade six is going well so far. For the first few months of the year, she had a teacher who encouraged the class to study ahead in math: at one point Cordelia's class was working on the same math as Delphine's grade-eight class. Cordelia loves math, puzzles, and engineering problems, so she was very happy. That teacher was a long-term substitute, and Cordelia's permanent teacher returned around mid-December. He is not so math-oriented, but Cordelia's getting used to him.

Delphine finished grade seven at the alternative school, but over the summer Blake and I decided she should go back to regular school. It was the first time we'd ever pulled rank and imposed a big change on her, and she didn't take it well. She got used to the idea, though, and I think she understands my reservations about the alternative school and the advantages of conventional school.

The plan was that Delphine would go back into the gifted program, but the school board put enough red tape in our way that we decided to stick with regular old school until the end of grade eight. Our neighbourhood school is around the corner, so Delphine can sleep in until 8:00 a.m. That's probably the biggest plus. That and she's learning a ton: math, history, literature. And there's an hour of phys ed every day.

The big excitement this fall has been applying to high schools. Delphine applied at two specialty drama programs. The auditions are in January, so we have spent the Christmas holiday going over lines and practicing songs.

And they both got braces over the summer!

As for me, I worked steadily over the year (except when I was on vacation). I went to a few seminars, started a peer-mentoring group, and read the entire Chicago Manual of Style (yes I did).

I helped a friend through the loss of her mother, got a tattoo, quit social media, and joined my choir's find-some-younger-members-before-we-all-die committee.

Also I recommitted to three things I had started to pull away from.

First, parenting. Okay, I have heard time and again that teenagers need as much support as toddlers, but for some reason I thought mine would be different. At the start of the year I was beginning to think about working more hours, maybe volunteering — generally letting the children fend for themselves more.

A few things changed my mind. Both girls have minor but chronic health issues which are taking a lot of time and resources to resolve. Cordelia needs lots of logistical support to do homework, stay organized, and be on time for things. I have spent innumerable hours with Delphine at medical appointments and acting auditions both, and she is going through the addle-pated early teens so she also needs lots of help keeping herself together.

Plus I really enjoy hanging out with them.

Second, writing. I let myself off the hook about writing in late 2015, which was the right choice. But by a few months into 2016 I really missed it, for various reasons. As I said in my last post, I still don't know what I'm gonna write. Maybe just innumerable journal entries and blog posts. But now I'm making time for it.

And finally, the house. A few months ago I was looking forward to packing up and moving into a condo as soon as possible — maybe even before the kids move out. I hate living in a house: I hate the snow shovelling, the gardening, the lack of a view, the constant battle with trees and weather and vermin. I hate waking up early to take out the trash, and having to go outside to get to the gym. And most of all I hate being the one responsible for all that when I don't even like the house.

I still hate all those things, but I've realized that the longer I stay in this house, the more it will be worth. It's already worth twice what we paid for it. When I think of the house as a big old pile of money that we can live in, I like it a lot more. More importantly, when I think of the house as an investment I feel a lot better about spending money to maintain and improve it, instead of trying to do everything myself (and resenting it like hell).

Resolutions (or Goals)

In 2016 I resolved to become a better editor. I did well with that. I also resolved to be happier and less anxious; to read no books written by white men; to lose 20 lbs; and to travel to England. I ditched the weight loss one pretty quickly (I vacillate on the value of weight loss, and I must have been in a pro phase when I did those resolutions), and I read Difficult Conversations which was co-written by a white guy, but otherwise I nailed them.

For 2017 my focus is Calm. Specifically, that calm you feel when you're on day four of a holiday and you have all but forgotten what you do for a living, or what your problems are. I want to be able to tap into that kind of calm all year.

My goals for next year are: to study and practice meditating; to read and write a lot; to learn, specifically about AD/HD and about Canada's Truth and Reconciliation process; to earn the Editors Canada Copyediting certification; to declutter my house; to work more. I also want to strengthen my connections with some important people in my life.

I also want to use up some of the literal hundreds of pens I own, so I'm not allowed to buy any new pens. And I guess I will use my existing pens to write stuff.

Hopefully all this writing will result in a few more blog posts, but if not: see you next year!