Thursday, December 31, 2015

Saying Farewell to 2015

Well, as 2015 draws to an end, I'd like to wish each of you a wonderful New Year.  New Year's Eve in our home will be a quiet and relaxing one - we chose to stay home this year and let our boys stay up to midnight.  Although being with friends would also be fun, it's turned out to be a good thing to stay home, because both Lizzie and I are struggling with sore throats and coughs (and her a cold as well).  So we'll watch a movie or two, nibble on some munchie things, and watch the ball drop at midnight.

I always view the transition between old and new as an opportunity to reflect a little on days past, and thought I would do the same today.

As the years go by in my life, I tend to view the entrance of each new year with a little more awe, a little more respect, than I used to.  Maybe it's something of a 'I survived another year' mentality, maybe it's a sense of gratitude that a particular year has evolved into the next...I'm not sure.

What I am sure of is that I'm far more fortunate than most of the world's population:  I am healthy; I have clothes to wear and food in the pantry; I have a safe, warm place to live and even a car to drive; I can attend my church and adhere to a faith of my choosing; I am legally allowed to vote and to speak as freely as I wish; I have enough money in the bank to afford much of what I want and all of what I need; I don't have to risk my life or the lives of my family by fleeing my homeland on a boat; and the list could go on and on.  I am a very fortunate woman in very fortunate circumstances.  I have done nothing to deserve these things and yet they are true.  I am thankful.

Every couple of years (I try for every year, but it hasn't always worked out that way!), I try to complete a little questionnaire that I came across years's a way of tracking events of the year just completed.  Here are the questions with my answers for 2015.

1.  What did you do in 2015 that you'd never done before?
- the thing that comes first to mind here is the kids' involvement in performing Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet in April of this year.  The 28 kids and 10 moms of our Learning Centre put on four performances in a real theatre, and we all spent months in preparation.  I learned more than I've ever learned before about theatre (which isn't really saying much because I knew virtually nothing beforehand!).  During the final weeks before the play, when we were in rehearsals every day (our tech weeks), I had another new experience - with another mom, making lunches and snacks for over 30 people for each of the eleven days leading up to the performances and for a party the night of the last performance!  I plan to be involved in the same way in the coming months as we lead up to this year's Shakespeare production of Henry IV.

2.  Did you keep your new years' resolutions and will you make more for next year?
- I didn't make any last year.  I'm still wondering if I'm going to make any this year.  If there was one resolution that I've been thinking of, I'd have to say that it would revolve around a determination to get more sleep...consistently.  This past week between Christmas and New Year's has been the laziest and quietest and most restful week I've had in a very long time...I was shocked to realize how much I needed this kind of week, and I think I need more rest going forward as well.  Otherwise, I'd say my resolutions will always revolve around the need-to-lost-weight-and-exercise-more stuff that most resolutions are made of.

3.  Did anyone close to you die?
- thankfully, no.

4.  Did you travel?  Did you visit other countries?  Where did you go?
- we started out the year with a bang in Vancouver, with my family of origin, in a big house that my parents rented.  It was terrific!  Despite having lots of opportunity, this year, to rest and be lazy at year's end, I really miss being able to connect with my siblings and their families as we've done over the past six Christmases.

- I travelled again to Vancouver for a quick few days, to celebrate my nephew's high school graduation. 

- I travelled to New York City in June, to visit my oldest friend, who was studying there for about 16 months...she's just arrived back home in the past week or so - which is good because I don't have to travel so far to visit her, and bad because it means I have no more reason to visit New York!

5.  What would you like to have in the coming year that you lacked in the year past?
- it always comes down to one thing for me:  I need more discipline!  Discipline to exercise more, eat better, clean the house more, read my bible more regularly, get enough sleep, educate the kids, and so on.  The list here is endless. 

6.  What date from 2015 will remain etched upon your memory and why?
- April 18, 2015.  This is the day we brought our Charlie into the family.  She was about nine weeks old when we brought her home and she's definitely one of the best parts of my 2015.  I totally love this dog...she brings such un-reserved joy!  As is often the case, she is wrapped around my feet as I write here.

7.  What was your biggest achievement of the year and why? or What things are you proud of?
- something I'm proud of is launching a new book club this fall.  I had been part of a different one for nine years and I really loved it; but it slowly lost momentum over the past year or two, and finally it died this summer.  There weren't any problems - I think people were just ready to move on to a new chapter of life (pun intended).  I wasn't ready to give up on the idea of a book club, though, because it's an enduring interest of mine, so I contacted a few people I was pretty sure would be interested in attending a monthly book club and launched it in September.  It's now our book club, not mine, but I'm proud of being its founder.  It's a lovely and diverse group of women, and we're reading some fabulous books.

- it's a little thing in the scheme of things, I suppose, but I'm really rather proud of myself for how we brought Charlie into the family.  I kept our puppy plans a secret from the kids for about seven months, and Geoff and I executed her home-coming in such a delightful and surprising way that I won't soon forget the looks on the kids' faces or the tears of delight on their cheeks!

- without going into detail, I had an opportunity earlier in the year to have a positive impact on the lives of a few other women...and I feel rather proud of knowing that I was 'in my element' and doing what I was supposed to be doing.

8.  What was your biggest failure of the year and why?
- I think this would be the same thing as in every other year:  home organization/management.  I realized just now at Christmas time, while enjoying a lazy week 'off' from regularly activities, that I can actually get quite a lot done around the house when I let everything else go!  When not having commitments, when not having to read out loud, when not having to truck people to lessons/activities, when kids are allowed a week of lots and lots of tv/movies, when a husband is around to help with laundry, when cooking is relaxed and lazy and sometimes out of a box as it was for part of this, I can get a lot done around the house...a drawer here, a cupboard there, a whole room's unbelievable!!  It's actually been a freeing thing to experience this week - understanding how much the stuff of life and having kids with me 24/7 impact my ability to manage the household.  It's allowed me to understand, more deeply, that I really just can't do everything.  My parents have offered several times to pay for a house cleaner for me every two weeks, just to help out with what they know can be very overwhelming for me with the kids always here (they've seen the mess we sometimes live in!).  I've refused their generosity for almost a year now, because I've been teaching my kids how to clean (and they can).  But I'm just this week starting to revisit my decision about cleaners.  I'm realizing that the tidier/cleaner my house is, the more relaxed I am.  I don't think I've really understood until recently how chaos around me leaves me feeling like chaos on the inside.  So I'm thinking and re-thinking this decision about cleaners.

9.  Did you suffer illness or injury?
- Well, I ended up in Emerg in March...does that count?  I had been experiencing two weeks of nosebleeds, which I'd attributed to having bonked my nose coming out of the shower one morning; but when the nosebleeds kept coming back, with copious amounts of blood leaving my body, I decided early one Sunday morning that I needed to take myself in.  A friend came with me and spent a bunch of hours there with me while the hospital staff ran a bunch of tests.  Turns out the nose bonk was just coincidental to sudden and unexplained high blood pressure...high enough to get me past the hordes of people in the waiting room at Emerg and into a cubicle to see a doctor immediately.  Whether anxiety produced or otherwise, the cause of that incident is not known.  My blood pressure isn't nearly so high any more, but I have had to go on BP meds for the foreseeable future.

- otherwise, not much more illness than a cold...though as we transition from old year to new, I fear I have a cold and cough coming on...transmitted, no doubt, from a rather ill and germy daughter who insists on spreading those germs throughout the house!

10.  What was the best/biggest/most novel thing you bought?
- well, it's not the best thing, by any stretch, but I certainly know what the most expensive thing is that we bought...and it was just about eight days ago.  On Christmas Eve, after a few days of being rather cold in the house, we spent a whopping $6,500 on a new furnace.  That just burned.  I mean, really, it's not even something that one sees, and it's not like we get to choose a hot pink colour for a furnace or anything.  It's just something sitting in a back storage area of the basement that we must have in this climate in order to keep heat coursing through our registers...and our bodies.  We didn't even choose the high end model...'just' middle of the road.  $6,500.  Burn.

- just before having to invest heavily into that darn furnace, I'd ordered a new (desktop, iMac) computer, which is what I'm using at the moment to write this.  It's lovely, and I'm so glad to finally have a family computer...but it's money that we may not have spent quite yet had we known about that darn furnace.

11.  Whose behaviour merited celebration?
- our new Prime Minister's behaviour merits celebration this year, in my opinion.  I was uncertain about Justin Trudeau before the election, given his youth and relative lack of experience.  And I know he's still in the honeymoon phase of his first term, having been in office for all of about two months.  But still, I have to say that he's made some brilliant (or at least, very welcome) moves in these early days, IMO.  First, I am happy to say that I love, love, love his attitude towards renewing/transforming relationship with the indigenous people of this country; even better, he's making moves beyond lip service and acting on his good attitude - my hope is that his will be the government that begins to restore and make restitution for some of the idiocy that has been inflicted on the Aboriginal peoples of this land.  Love it.  It's totally refreshing and changes things almost end over end from any previous leader of this country in my lifetime.  It's a big two-thumbs-up from me.  Second, I take my hat off to Mr. Trudeau for his compassionate and willingness-to-get-things-done attitude towards Syrian (and other) refugees.  His commitment to bringing 25,000 Syrian refugees here asap (as a starting point) is a direct contrast to the approaches taken by the leaders of many other countries and it is a laudable one, Mr. Prime Minister.  That is a leader...taking compassionate action in the midst of/despite fear.  I respect a person who is willing to stand up and say that we will help; and it feels a little like the Canada I knew growing up is being restored just a little by his plans for refugees.  I can feel my chest puffing out just a little.

I can't believe I just lauded the behaviour of a prime minister and that it made the number one spot of my year in this category...particularly given that this is a prime minister that I didn't vote for.  Keep it up Prime Minister Trudeau...this year it's your behaviour that merits my celebration, and so far you're earning my vote for next time 'round!

12.  Whose behaviour made you appalled and/or depressed?
- on the opposite end of the spectrum, I am appalled by the behaviour of the ER doctor who was assigned to care for one of my loved ones just a few weeks ago when she was in a bad way in the hospital emerg.  I was genuinely appalled and stunned when this doctor walked into the room to talk to us about test results and focused instead on the cell phone that we were using to record the conversation (to be used for the exclusive purpose of being able to re-listen to that conversation when our bed-ridden loved one was able to think a little more clearly).  The doctor slammed his file onto the table and asked if this is how we were going to handle things, by recording our conversation, because if so he was "out of here."  He went on a tirade about the inappropriateness of it and started to walk out of the room.  When we assured him that, ok, ok, we would not record the conversation and we'd only intended it for good purpose, he testily agreed to continue the conversation (about his patient's she not his patient at that point and does he not have a duty to report to her??).  He told us about the test results and asked if we had questions.  We did.  When we asked the first question, he said sarcastically "well, I'm not the can google that one as well as I can."  Then he asked if we had other questions.  To each and every question we asked, he answered by saying (with sarcasm) that "again, I'm not the specialist" and a few more times he referenced our ability to google these things ourselves.  About 20 seconds after he'd left the room, and while we were just beginning to process what he'd said, the curtained door was suddenly flung aside and a large, heavily muscled man in a white uniform was suddenly standing there; in a loud voice he said "I understand we have a technology recording issue going on here that we have to deal with?!"  He was loud and had a threatening tone, and we had to show him our phones so that he'd see that the doctor hadn't been recorded...and this just seconds after we'd received hard medical news.  I am shocked and appalled that a doctor/hospital could act like this and I have concluded that there is a reason that this doctor was fearful of being recorded.  I'm still thinking about launching a was utterly appalling.  Not ok, Dr. van Dyk.  Not ok at all.  You get my vote for most appalling behaviour of the year.

13.  Where did most of your money go?
- Out the door, is the snappy response.  We're fortunate that Geoff has a good income and yet it still disappears all too quickly.  The first things that come to mind, beyond the furnace and new computer, when thinking about where our money has been spent are:  Groceries (I seem constantly to be in the kitchen, cooking and cleaning up after those three kids who never, ever seem to stop eating; and we are part of a food co-op where we buy only organic produce and dry goods, which ends up costing a bit more than were we to shop at a grocery store despite the volume discount we enjoy as a co-op); charitable contributions; homeschool expenses (because nothing is covered by the government, despite the fact that we save taxpayers money by not having children in school...but that's a rant for another time...); and lessons.  I'll likely have a better answer to this question a year from now, because I will shortly be resuming the monthly budgeting/record-keeping that I used to do but have slacked off of over the past couple of years.

14.  What did you get really, really excited about?
- I was very, very excited about my trips to Vancouver and New York City this year, without a doubt. As much as I love my children, these short breaks were very much needed.

- I'm pretty darn excited that Seth is in the early stages of learning how to read.  I wondered if the day would ever come, and I feel some confidence now that it is coming.  Given the extensive efforts I have put into this in the past 4.5 years, and the amount of time I have spent waiting/praying/hoping/wishing, you can believe I've been pretty pumped by his new desire (and ability) to launch into this big thing.

- I was pretty pumped to bring a dog into our family in April.  I'd researched Havanese as a breed for quite a while and made many trips out to our breeder's farm before making a decision...and once made, it proved to be an excellent beginning to a new adventure, even despite her major and unexpected hip surgery in October.

15.  What song(s) did you enjoy this year?
- oh there is so much good music.  Music moves my soul in a way that nothing else does.  I can get totally lost in it when I have a bit of time.  I'm a bit out of date now, but for the first half of 2015, I spent about two hours every week (always late at night while I was supposed to be sleeping!) listening to current music and loving it.  Select songs by pop artists such as Parachute, Daughtry, Sam Smith, Jesse J (whose videos I generally find totally and unnecessarily inappropriate, but whose Thunder I think is outstanding), some Sheeran, Mumford & Sons, Sam Hunt, The Lumineers, Imogeen Heap, Adele (though not particularly her new album), some Shawn Mendes...well, these are just a few of the dozens of songs/artists that caught my ear this year, in addition to amazing and soul-inspiring worship music by the likes of Matt Redman, Chris Tomlin, and Mercy Me...and sooo many others.  My kids and I are really loving Walk off the Earth these days and we listened to quite a bit of Pentatonix in the weeks leading up to Christmas.  
I'm a huge music fan in general and it seems a shame to list only a few artists, but that's all I've got for now!

16.  Compared to this time last year, are you:

i. happier or sadder?  I think I'd say I'm about the same as last year, though this year I feel a bit more together and somewhat more resolved than I did this time last year...a little more settled, a little more easy in my skin than last year.

ii. thinner or fatter?  Sadly, about the same.  Wish this were different...but whatever.

iii. richer or poorer?  About the same...a little better.

17.  What do you wish you'd done more of?
- for sure this would include more time with God.  It's the most important relationship in my life, and the one that matters for all eternity.  And yet I take it/Him utterly for granted.  Though He is always with me and always present in my mind and active in my internal conversations, it's the relationship I tend to exert the least amount of effort on, in general.  It's difficult to continue to deepen a supposedly-two-way relationship when I am not immersed in listening to Him through one of His main sources of communication: the Bible.   It's the big thing that I will look to change in 2016.

- I also need to continue to be more who I was created to be.  This is a hard one to articulate, but I'm working on it.  There are times when I say/do/think something that really aren't me.  There are skills I haven't really cultivated despite them being things I'm genuinely good at.  There are ways in which I know I can live a little more authentically, within myself and with those around me.  This is a work in progress, admittedly, but I wish I've moved a little farther down this journey in 2015.

18.  What do you wish you'd done less of?
- watching netflix.  About 10 months ago I realized that I was watching too much of it.  I don't watch live tv, but I was watching more netflix than I was comfortable with.  I found myself binge-watching shows and getting irritated by life's day-to-day activities just because it was interfering with my night-time watching of some series or another...I couldn't wait to get through the day and put the kids to bed so that I could watch.  I spent about three months in this state before realizing that this was not consistent with how I wanted to live life.  I wish I could take that time back, that I'd spent it more wisely.  What a waste.  What a waste.  It still makes me mad to think much time do we waste on watching and being entertained by other people's lives instead of living and engaging more fully in our own lives??!!  Thankfully I made a lot of changes to my night time routines after noticing that, but still...I want those wasted hours back.

19.  How did you spend Christmas Day?
- at home with family.  We were downstairs opening stockings and gifts by 7:00am.  The kids gave Geoff and me a bunch of gifts they'd made and wrapped themselves: paintings; cards; perler bead creations; etc.  And I think the kids fared pretty well too, and loved the gifts that we gave them!  My parents came over for brunch at 10:00 and we relaxed over French Toast Casserole and egg nog coffee.  The afternoon was spent lazing around and napping and nibbling on treats.  Then we went to my sister's for the evening, where my parents brought in a delicious turkey dinner from a local hotel.  It was a peaceful, joyful, relaxed kind of day that I'd love to repeat in the future.

20.  What was your favourite tv program?
- well, most of what I've watched took place earlier in the year, when I was watching more than my share of netflix, but for sure the two series that I really enjoyed in late 2014 and early 2015 were Friday Night Lights (my favourite) and Rectify.  They were both terrific.

21.  What's the best book you read this year?
- I'm not sure that I have one favourite, but I can list a few that I really enjoyed:  The Orenda, by Joseph Boyden; Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch; The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins; and The Hobbit (which I've read before, years ago, but which I found new love for when reading it aloud to the kids this year).  There are many, many others I could list here that I enjoyed (oooh, others come to mind, like Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See, and Kline's Orphan Train and...well, I need to shut this down!).

22.  What did you want and get?
- an iMac computer...a desk top.  I love my little macbook notebook computer and use it all the time, but there's something about a nice desk top that is exciting.  Also, this is our first family computer and I'll be starting next week to teach Matthew keyboarding.  Exciting.

- a puppy!

23.  What did you want and not get?
- I have enough of everything.  More than enough. 

24.  What was your favourite film?
- Far From the Madding Crowd - a British romantic drama that was in theatres this year.  I loved it!  I'm a huge Thomas Hardy fan and this was likely my favourite of all of his books; I was delighted to also love the movie that was based on it.

25.  What did you do on your birthday and how old were you?
- I turned 49.  I'm sure the kids will remind me, but I have no idea how I spent my birthday this year.  Maybe it's a sign of old age and dementia setting in.

(Post script:  Wait - I do remember!  I was at the cottage with the kids and my niece.  I forgot that it was my birthday until we were well into the day and, shortly after I announced to the kids that it was my birthday, they surprised me with a bowl of fruit and chocolate (to resemble a birthday cake!) and a rousing rendition of 'happy birthday.'  It was lovely!)

26.  What one thing would have made your year immeasurably satisfying?
- I'm not sure.  There have been some difficult moments this year and some really awesome moments.  I'm not sure what could have satisfied me more.

27.  How would you describe your personal fashion concept this year?
- definitely I live in comfortable clothing...likely a little too comfortable.  Capri pants throughout spring/summer/fall; sandals until winter; no socks until absolutely necessary by winter standards.

- I did dress up on a couple of occasions - when going out with Geoff once, for example.  Lizzie takes inordinate pleasure in 'dressing me up' for these kinds of "oh-so-romantic" moments (quoting Lizzie here).  She is the one to help me pick out clothes and choose accessories (good thing...I need help here); she watches me blow-dry my hair and put on make-up, and oohs and aahs over pantyhose or pretty trouser socks and the black boots I bought for one occasion.  She is always a good reminder to me, that Lizzie girl, that sometimes it is good to put in a little extra effort!

28.  What kept you sane?
- I have likely answered this question the same way for the past few years already:  My Thursday evenings off are my sanity-preserving moments.  Sometimes I hang out with friends on these evenings; other evenings I hibernate in a Starbucks with a book or hide out in a movie theatre with a bucket of buttered popcorn.  I both love and need these evenings desperately.

29.  Which celebrity/public figure did you admire/fancy the most?
- I confess...I'm a closet Kate Middleton fan!

30.  Who was the best new person you met?  Who did you meet for the first time?
- although I'm sure I met new people, no one immediately jumps to mind for 2015.  In fall of 2014, when the kids and I began with our homeschool Learning Centre, we met and began to get to know a number of women and their kids.  That learning process has continued throughout 2015, and these women have become part of our community.  We're very blessed to know these families and call them friends.

31.  Who did you miss?
- there are people I miss constantly, some of whom probably don't think of me nearly as often as I do of them.   I miss my brother and sister-in-law and the five kids they have between them; I miss being a regular part of their lives, and I miss not being able to bring food to and drink tea with my sister-in-law, who hasn't been well and who it pains me not to be able to help from a distance.  I miss my Alberta-based friends (Shelley and Sharla, to name but two).  I miss Liz.  I miss Les and Ed, and often wish I could have a cappuccino or latte with this other sister-in-law of mine.  I miss Jean, way over in Uganda.  I miss our kids' first father and community of family in Ethiopia.  Interestingly, I also somehow miss a few online friends that I've never met but who have nonetheless been a supportive part of my online community (Cindy, Ellen, Charity and Jackie, to name a few).

- my friend, Joanne, who spent the year in New York studying.  She's back now, so I no longer need to miss her, but I did throughout the last part of 2014 and all of 2015.

32.  Any other highlights / lowlights of the year not already discussed?
- I asked Geoff and the kids about some of their highlights of the year.  For Geoff, a definite highlight was completing his first ever 10 km run in spring; and he loved having a sailboat to use at my parents' cottage this summer.  For all of us, Charlie was a highlight of the year, and the kids considered her entrance into our family the single best day of their year.  And the kids also recounted the following amongst great moments of 2015:  Seth's summer horse camp; the kids' Adrenaline Adventure summer camp; lots of tobogganing over the past few weeks followed by my homemade hot chocolate; the boys' spring backyard camping while it was still below freezing temperatures at night; Seth's birthday party at Skyzone; times we went swimming; our Christmas in Vancouver last year; being homeschoolers; the weeks we spent at the cottage; performing Romeo and Juliet; the good food that I apparently make all year long (this was a Lizzie contribution to the year's best moments!); the boys' anticipation of being allowed to stay up to midnight tonight for the first time, to celebrate new year's; receiving an ipod (Lizzie) and ipod touch (Matthew) for Christmas.  Wow, it really does sound like an awesome year when you put it like that!

33.  What valuable lesson(s) did you learn in 2015?
- I'm not sure that I really learned any big lessons this year.  Perhaps I'm more learning to be grateful for each day that passes, and for the opportunity that the next day holds.  I'm looking less and less at long term plans, and more and more at living each day well.  I find being a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom both challenging and exhilarating and continue to believe that I am doing exactly what I am supposed to be for this season in my life.

And that's it for another year's wrap-up.  To each of you, I wish you a very Happy New Year!  May 2016 be blessed and full of joy, and may we see our world find its way closer to a measure of peace.


  1. Great list of questions/answers! Happy New Year!

    1. Thanks Cindy...and Happy New Year to you, too!


  2. So I guess I'm quite behind in reading your blog. Thank you for sharing this. It was great to read and felt kinda like we had a short visit. Hopefully we can catch up again sometime soon.