2015 End of Year Memes: Two Tropical Trips, Election Wins & Loses, Campy Camper Camping

1. What did you do this year that you’d never done before?
One of many secret shames in that I never learned how to downhill ski when I was growing up.  The first year we did a class trip to Mission Ridge in the Qu’Appelle Valley, I was injured and couldn’t go.  Then the next year, I think I was away or something.  And by the third year, I convinced myself that everyone would be so far ahead of me, I could never catch up so I chose not to go that year either.  That created a mental block that lasted pretty much until this year, even including the years we lived in Calgary so very close to the Rockies.  But this year, Shea, who grew up skiing, wanted to give Pace the same experience.  So we went to Mission Ridge (luckily Grandma Hammond agreed to watch Sasha!) and after a quick lesson, Pace and I were…skiing.  As is usually the case for him, he was a bit frustrated at first when it didn’t come as easy as he hoped.  But as is also the case, he tends to love individual sports and by the end of the day, he was racing both his mom and I down the bunny hill as fast as he could go (and usually winning!)

2. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Our CUPE lawyer who also happens to live and commute into Regina from my hometown had her second baby as did another friend we met through our political activities.  Shea and I have pretty much decided to stop at two (though TMI – I’m still too chicken to go for that final “snip snip”) so now we have to live vicariously through the Facebook posts and cuddles with other people’s babies now that Sasha is a raging toddler!

3. Did anyone close to you die?
KokoXmas
I’ve experienced quite a bit of loss this year but none more shocking or sudden then the death of our cat, Koko which hit me harder than I expected it would (again, partly due to her relatively young age and also how suddenly it happened.)  In fact, in the notes I make throughout the year in preparation for this post, one of the things I thought I could put for #1 – What Did You Do That You’ve Never Done Before? was “Dig a grave!” 🙁

Beyond that, I had the strange experience of hearing that the grandmother of one of our regular young patrons had passed away after I called her to discuss something library-related with her.  Another regular passed away and I was very happy to see the library not only get a mention in his obituary but his daughters brought us flowers as well as Timmy’s, just like their dad often did.  One of my staff members lost her mother.  A classmate’s mother passed away as did one of my classmates who died of a sudden heart attack – I think marking the first person who was in my grade in school to pass away.

One of my grandfather’s last living siblings, my great Uncle Bobby, died late this year.  And it’s not really the same as losing a person (or even a pet.)  But the loss of Rdio.com felt like a death as well.

4. What places did you visit?
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Last year, I noted that we hadn’t done a hot holiday for awhile so I was hoping for that.  Well, we outdid ourselves this year with a trip to the Dominican Republic with Shea’s parents and my parents in February and then *another* trip to Cuba with my parents over New Year’s! (The second one is a very generous gift from my parents who joked “You know we’re using your inheritance to pay for this, right?” But I think we all agreed it’s much better to spend it while they’re alive to create shared memories and enjoy our time together then after they pass away!)

(I keep saying we’re having two trips in one year for the first time ever but Shea has pointed out that it’s more accurate to say we had one trip last winter and we’re having one this winter and it’s just a coincidence that, by leaving just after Christmas, they both happen to fall within the same calendar year.)

Beyond that, after having second thoughts about the ultralight camper we bought and even debating selling it at the start of the season, we ended up doing more camping than I thought we would this summer – Echo Lake Provincial Park in the Qu’Appelle Valley, Sherwood Forest just outside Regina, Pike Lake by Saskatoon, Good Spirit by Yorkton and Nickle Regional Park by Weyburn.

We also spent an enjoyable weekend in Moose Jaw in January for my brother-in-law’s wedding and another extended weekend in Medicine Hat over Halloween.

5. What would you like to have in the next year that you lacked this year?
Since I asked for a hot holiday last year and ended up getting two this year, I think I’ll say that I’m hoping for two hot holidays next year and hopefully get four! 😉

6. What date from this year will remain etched upon your memory?
February 19 – leave for Dominican Republic
May 5 – Alberta NDP win huge majority overturning decades of Conservative rule 
September 28 – Shea finds our cat, Koko dead
October 19 – Liberals win landslide in Federal election
December 27 – leave for Cuba

7. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
It wasn’t my achievement alone (not by a long shot!) but our branch hosted RPL’s second annual Maker event and it was a pretty big success due to the work of many people including a staff member from the branch that hosted in year one who was contracted to plan this year’s event, various managers and units across the whole system from Physical Plant to Marketing to IT & E-Services as well as all the staff at my branch.  Our branch attendance doubled from a normal Friday and *tripled* on the Saturday of the event so by any measure, the event was a huge hit!

8. What was your biggest failure of the year?
I won’t go into a lot of details but I was involved in an arbitration this year at work where myself and a co-worker grieved a change to a job description which excluded us from consideration for a position we would otherwise be qualified for and where we also weren’t even offered interviews which was against previous practice by the organization.  Unfortunately, we lost that arbitration and it’s all hindsight about things we could’ve or should’ve done differently.  But again, as with being on the bargaining committee the year before, it was a great learning experience even with the disappointing outcome.

9. What was your biggest surprise?
On two opposite ends of the spectrum, the huge majority victory for the Alberta NDP after 30+ years of Conservative rule in that province and then the major collapse of the Federal NDP who were widely expected to at least win the balance of power in a minority government situation if not power for the first time federally.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I have a very busy family physician so my “annual” physical happens every 18 months or so.  But I just had it the other week and am happy to report that everything is going very well, health-wise (knock on wood!)

11. What was the best thing you bought?
We didn’t buy it this calendar year but since we bought it late in the season last year and only got out a couple times, this was the first full summer with our rPod.  We love pretty much everything about it – its size, the rear garage with kitchen, storage and external speakers, the add-on pop-up tent room and so on.  I have to admit it’s fun to have such a unique rig in campgrounds too – so many people walk by and make comments about it and without fail, we end up giving a full tour to at least 2-3 people every camping trip!  

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
Same answer as last year in that I enjoyed the Calgary Flames at the start of the season and on through the new year as they defied the odds, injuries and the challenges of a rebuilding roster to not only make it to the Stanley Cup playoffs in the second last game of the season but also to win their first round series against arch-rival Vancouver Canucks!

Also have to give a big shout-out to Pace who’s become a voracious reader this year.  Sort of expected when your dad is a librarian but I have enough co-workers/classmates/colleagues whose kids either don’t read or struggle with reading so I’m glad to see Pace doing so well in this area.

13. Whose behaviour left you underwhelmed or disappointed?
The Harper Conservatives election campaign was a piece of junk that summarized their ten years in power – fear tactics, ultra-controlling, etc.  I was *so* glad to see them go!

14. Where did most of your money go?
Lots of expenses this year – some necessary, some fun.  All the trips mentioned above plus a new air conditioning unit for our house, we painted the house, my dad built us a new front step, we did some more work to finishing one side of the rear fence we replaced last year. Car repairs.  Santa’s also being *extremely* generous with the kids this year – Pace is getting an XBox One and Sasha’s getting an iPad Mini (yeah, I know.  Two and a half and getting an iPad.  We suck as parents!)

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Both of our tropical trips and both the Alberta and federal elections.

16. What song/album will always remind you of this year?
The Ringo Starr concert in Punta Cana was an amazing experience.  I rediscovered an amazing singer-songwriter I first learned about in Calgary named Tariq.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
A) Happier or sadder?  Happier.  I honestly think that’s just my natural personality – I’m generally a pretty happy-go-lucky, optimistic, guy so that helps! 😉
B) Thinner or fatter?  I lost weight for our Dominican Republic trip, put it back on with a summer of camping (aka “beer drinking”) then lost it again for our Cuba trip.  At my annual check-up, I told my doctor how “I want to lose weight so I’m healthy and live a long life for my kids” seems like too abstract of a goal and I can never do it.  But book me a tropical trip anytime in the next few months and I’ll drop 10-20 pounds no problem!  So I need to change my frame of mind and remember that there’s always another trip on the horizon, even if it isn’t booked yet! 😉
C) Richer or poorer?  We spent a lot but still live within (and perhaps below) our means for the most part.  (I mean, we have some debt like most people but not on credit cards, not in a house we can’t afford.  Shea works halftime so we have lots of capacity to earn more if we needed to – although we’ve made choices as a family so that’s not necessary.  Oh, and we went to a financial planner this year for the first time and it was nice to hear that we’re perfectly on target to meet our needs for retirement.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
We did a lot of camping but I wish we’d done more.  I always feel like I should do more reading but between the kids and driving to work now instead of taking the bus like when I worked downtown (which was basically an hour of guaranteed reading time every day), I’ve dropped off quite a bit.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
I tend to obsess and worry over small, insignificant things more than I should.  I have to keep in mind that, for example, some huge project or conflict or whatever that happened ten or twenty years ago is meaningless now.  And those same things that cause stress and worry today will be meaningless in the future as well.

20. How did you spend  Christmas?
We’ll be spending Christmas with Shea’s folks and her brother’s family then leaving two days later for Cuba.  So I hope I *don’t* spend Christmas is with panicked last minute packing!  (Just kidding – I think we’ve got it well in hand.)  In all honesty, this has been the most contented I’ve felt at Christmas in a long time – usually it’s a mixture of joy but also stress and worry and disappointment and sadness.  But we were *way* on top of our shopping this year (doing a lot online helped), I think everybody’s actually going to get the gifts they want with very few clunkers and then, when it’s all over and it usually gets a bit sad, we’ll blink and be on a plane to Cuba to extend the season into the new year.  Pretty sweet!

21. Who did you spend the most time communicating with?
I’m a member of a local literary publisher’s board of directors so I spend a lot of time communicating with them via e-mail, phone calls and in-person meetings.  Communication was especially high during the process we went through to replace our long time Managing Editor who retired this year and I was part of the Hiring Committee charged with finding a replacement.

22. What was your favourite TV program?
Shea and I continue to watch lots of “Must Watch” TV Shows – Game of Thrones and Orange is the New Black and so on but also some new contenders including Mr. Robot, Narcos, Master of None and currently, Jessica Jones.  It was also a big year for late night transitions with both David Letterman and (to a lesser degree) Jon Stewart retiring so I watched their replacements with great interest (I’m really enjoying Trevor Noah but will have to re-visit Colbert again as he’s not as interesting as he was on the Colbert Report so far.)

23. Do you hate anything that you didn’t hate at this time last year?
Winter.  (Okay, this year has been incredibly mild so far – plus temperatures well into December.)  But every year that goes by, I hate winter more.

24. What was the best book(s) you read?
Well, no single book jumps out that blew away all others this year.  But in keeping with the Star Wars theme from an earlier answer, I read an unofficial trilogy of books about the experiences of Aboriginal people in Canada that, in different ways, gave me some insight into a world and way of life I don’t know much about.  It started with “Indian Ernie” which is a shocking look at life on the streets by a Saskatoon police officer.  (Side note: The publisher of that book, Purich Publishing, announced that they’re heading towards retirement and their press will become an imprint of UBC Press.  My small claim to fame is designing the first-ever Purich Publishing web site and I’ve known Don and Karen for nearly 20 years.  Great people and congrats to them!)  I then read “All the Way” by Jordin Tootoo who is the first Inuk to play in the NHL. Then I recently finished “The Education of Augie Merasty” which is a short but powerful memoir by a residential school survivor.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Not a single band but after reading lots and doing lots of my own exploring, I’ve decided to throw in with Deezer as my streaming music replacement service for Rdio.  I hope it works out and I’m not doing the same thing, looking for another new streaming service in a few years (though with how volatile this area is, I probably will be.)

26. What did you want and get?
At least one NDP party won big this year!

27. What did you want and not get?
Unfortunately, it’s not the one I expected to win. 🙁

28. What were your favourite films of this year?
Looking for something about going on a trip, we picked a random one on NetFlix called “The Inbetweeners” which turned out to be a movie based on a hit UK show which I found to be completely hilarious.  

A few of the Oscar-type movies – “Theory of Everything”, “Imitation Game” – were really good as you’d expect.

Pixar’s “Inside Out” was Sasha’s first movie in a theatre and it was a great one to pick because, as with most Pixar movies, it was really engaging and original for an adult as well.

But just like when I picked Paul McCartney as my favourite concert of all-time even though I wanted to be contrarian and pick some small venue show by Hawksley Workman before most people knew who he was, I have to pick Star Wars “The Force Awakens” as the best film I saw all year.  The only disappointment was that even though I saw it on opening day, my theatre wasn’t full of heavily costumed nerds! 😉

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 42 (my Douglas Adams year).  We were camping outside Saskatoon with my parents so while everyone else stayed at the campsite, Pace and I went into Saskatoon to a show of Marvel Superheroes Live! which was pretty cool.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
As mentioned above, I was disappointed to lose my arbitration when we felt we had a very strong case, given RPL’s precedents and what had ultimately transpired after my co-worker and I were denied interviews.  But as someone involved in the process told me: “These things can always go either way – that’s why they end up going to arbitration in the first place.”

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept this year?
It’s always been a divisive issue (probably more than it needs to be) but we finally started wearing name tags at work (well, tags that say “Supervisor” or “Staff”, not even our actual names).  On the home front, I bought a pair of Haflinger slippers based pretty much on this review and have lived in them every waking moment I’m at home.  In fact, that might also be an answer for the “What’s the best thing you bought this year?” question in this list. I wear them so much, they’re currently being held together by duct tape and I’m hoping that Santa brings me a new pair! 😉

32. What kept you sane?
Camping is an interesting exercise – stressful until you get there with all the packing and planning and hooking up and hauling and getting settled in your site.  Then relaxation after that.  Then you get home and its time to unload and worry about getting a ticket if you leave it on the street for more than a couple days between trips and so on.  For those reasons, we’re thinking of trying to get a seasonal site somewhere near Regina this year to see if we can focus on that good “middle” stuff and not all the stressful “before and after” stuff! 😉

33. What political issue stirred you the most?
As mentioned above, I hoped it would happen but still couldn’t believe that the Alberta NDP would be the ones to (massively) defeat the Conservatives after they led the province for nearly 40 years!  The federal election obviously was the other big political event of the year and again, another shocking majority when myself (and most observers) were predicting some form of minority coalition government.

34. Who did you miss?
I’ve said before that Shea and I are both from farm backgrounds so we learned early that animals are just that and I don’t think either of us thought of our pet cat as equal to our human children like many people do.  But that doesn’t stop me from missing her of course.  Even the other morning, I was half asleep and Pace crawled into our bedroom and as he came up beside the bed, through my foggy state, I thought it was Koko crawling up beside me like she used to do.  I may also have reached downa nd petted Pace! 😉

35.  Who was the best new person you met?
I “met” a few new people through Facebook as I’m one of those people who’s very happy to fire off Friend Requests to people I don’t know in real life but who I clearly share something in common with – politics, librarian, etc.  I have to be careful though – I sent off a Friend Request to a recent winner of FIMS’ “Spirit of Librarianship” award and got a very cautious “And who are you again?” reply in response. 😉 

36. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned this year.
I think I’ve always known this but this year I tried to be especially aware that laws/rules/policies/guidelines are just words on paper that have written by fallible humans and are subject to change by humans just as easily as they were created.

37.  Quote a song lyric that sums up your year?
Put ’em in a pie, put ’em in a jam
Put ’em in a sauce with your holiday ham
Eat ’em fresh right out of your hand
There’s nothing like a Saskatoon
Make a little tart, make a little wine
Get a little happy around suppertime
Pull of the road at the U-pick sign
There’s nothing like a Saskatoon
– “Talking Saskatoon Blues” – Tim Hus

38. Link to a photo that sums up your year

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Every time I posted this photo, it meant I was going on a “blog vacation” since we’d be camping and writing blog posts would be the last thing on my mind.  I was very happy I got to use this photo a few times this year!

39. Best App of the Year
Pace, who is sitting watching me type this entry, says “YouTube” is his pick for app of the year and I have to say, it’s interesting seeing how he uses the Internet versus how I use it – YouTube is basically his television, video games are how he learns about the world in many ways, the iPad is like his extended brain.  As for me, I think I’ll go with Life360 which is the one (out of many choices) we picked so that Pace can send messages to Shea and I from home on the iPad via wireless without needing his own data plan.  This will increasingly become handy as he gets more and more independence – to stay at home alone for longer and longer periods or as he goes elsewhere with a device and needs to check-in.

40. What single moment defined your year?
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One evening camping this summer, after everyone was in bed, I stayed up by the fire sipping a drink and listening to my “Camping” playlist on Rdio (here’s the Deezer link) while enjoying a beautiful, peaceful, perfect night.  (This photo was from that night but earlier in the evening.)

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