1. What did you do this year that you’d never done before?
I thought it would happen when I turned 40 but I think it took me a few extra years to finally accept that I am now officially middle-aged. Why? This year I had a very special operation to ensure Pace and Sasha are the only kids I’ll ever have. I regularly buy low carb beer and sugar-free soda. I (try to) watch what I eat (most of the time). Shea and I have a financial planner. When I was under 40 and got sick, I used to think “I can’t wait to get better!”; now I think “I’ve probably got some disease and am going to die!” Shea sends me articles about Flomax and I’m not sure if she’s joking or not. I feel aches and pains after doing innocuous things that never would’ve bothered me before. I hate winter more and more with each passing year. And to cap it off, about a month ago I got asked if I qualified for the “55+ Senior Discount” at a pharmacy near my work! I was only buying a bottle of (sugar-free) pop but I said “No, but let me go buy a kit to dye my greying beard back to its natural colour too!”
2. Did anyone close to you give birth?
My brother-in-law and his wife gave birth to a boy named Hayz and our neighbours across the street had a baby girl named Sophia (a girl after four boys!) Otherwise, lots of Facebook friends and acquaintances near and far helped make my day by sharing their new baby photos.
3. Did anyone close to you die?
The biggest loss was my Aunt Verna – the first of my dad’s nine siblings to die which is pretty amazing considering all but one are in their 70’s and four are in their 80’s! Had a library school colleague post that he lost his dad to cancer. Then a week later, he posted that he lost his mom to cancer. It seemed like some weird typo but reading comments, it turns out that his parents – separated for 30 years – ended up dying of cancer on the same palliative care ward about a week apart in a wild coincidence! An IT specialist who I knew from libraryland and who always made a point of responding to my Facebook photos of the kids with comments about “enjoy your time with them” and “how fast it goes” died after a battle with cancer (the announcement was unexpected both because I didn’t know him very well beyond Facebook and he apparently kept his diagnosis pretty quiet until the end.) In a “Circle of Life” moment, the Doctor who delivered me back in 1973 passed away in November. There was also lots of talk about 2016 being a “jinxed” year with so many celebrities dying but that’s a combination of all of us getting older so the celebrities we knew in the 1980’s are aging too (Bowie, Prince, Carrie Fisher, George Michael) mixed with most of them being known for lifestyles that included drug and alcohol abuse which are usually a contributing factor to early/unexpected deaths. [Edit: Or maybe stats show that there is some truth to the idea that 2016 was a bad one for celebrities?]
4. What places did you visit?
We celebrated New Year’s Eve in Cuba which was amazing. We got to Saskatoon in June for the Garth Brooks concert which was also our first night ever without Sasha and our first time ever using AirBNB (which worked great.) We also did a fair bit of camping this summer – probably as many days as last year although not as many different places.
5. What would you like to have in the next year that you lacked this year?
We’re not there yet but as the kids get older, more time for myself. I love our kids but I have moments (including a couple days earlier this week when they were at my mom and dad’s) where I remember how much time I had for myself before we had kids. Even during the two days the kids were away this week, Shea and I went for an East Indian supper (instead of McDonald’s) and the next night, a late movie (instead of an animated early show. Felt like I was in college again!)
6. What date from this year will remain etched upon your memory?
Jan 1 – New Year’s Eve in Cuba
Feb 13 – four years after it happened to our previous car, our most recent car, a Ford Focus, was hit while parked on the street in front of our house! I bought a Ford Fusion to replace that write-off and am not looking forward to a 2020 post about how it gets smoked on the street in front of our house! 😉
April 5 – The Sask Party win third straight majority government as the NDP fails to make any progress
June 1 – <snip snip>
June 11 – Garth Brooks concert in Saskatoon
Aug 20 – Final Tragically Hip Concert airs on CBC and is one of the highest viewed programs in Canadian history. I’m a pretty big Hip fan and thought about getting tickets to Winnipeg show (since I happened to be on holidays at that time too) but contented myself to watch on TV like so many others.
Oct 1 – attend the first game in new Mosaic Stadium with Shea and my parents then out for supper with friends, capping a full day with a concert by one of our favourites, Fred Eaglesmith
Nov 8 – Trump wins 🙁
7. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Staying married to the best wife a man could ask for. [Edit: even though she comes in and edits my blog posts on occasion.] It’s not a giant achievement but maybe telling a story so well that the kids who visited my library as part of a summer reading enrichment program with a local community school demanded an encore of the same story? Pretty rewarding and I love the looks of laughter on their faces!
8. What was your biggest failure of the year?
Not taking proper time off when I got an elbow infection in June. I’m not sure if it’s related to the special operation I went in for at the start of June (aren’t hospitals the worst place to go if you want to avoid antibiotic-resistant superbugs?) but I took a couple days after my operation then my elbow started to swell so I took a day here and a day there which meant I ended up being away in June more than, if I’d just taken care of it, I might not have missed so much work overall. (To be fair, I ended up having three different antibiotic prescriptions, one of which I reacted to very badly plus unexpectedly going under the knife after a visit to the ER so there was a lot going on. Also I have what I like to think of as “Dumb Farmer” syndrome when it comes to getting medical treatment – a common affliction for men raised in the rural prairies.) 😉
9. What was your biggest surprise?
Unfortunately, Donald Trump winning might be the biggest shock of not only the year but my entire life when every poll showed Hillary Clinton in the lead, often by comfortable margins. And Trump did about a dozen things, any one of which would get any “regular” candidate disqualified in the minds of voters. As I mentioned above, our car getting hit while parked in front of our house nearly four years years after it was hit last time was also an unfortunate surprise.
10 Did you suffer illness or injury?
Going for a vasectomy technically isn’t an illness or injury but the complications after sure can be. 😉 As I said, I’m not positive that my elbow infection happened when I was in the hospital for that procedure (those two areas are pretty far apart after all!) but if I rubbed a scratch on my elbow on a less-than-sanitized chair or bed or whatever, who knows? I also hurt my back at a local trampoline park this summer and the lower back pain lingered a lot longer than it would’ve if I was a much younger man.
11. What was the best thing you bought?
I’m techie but not always an early adopter. So I was still using an iPhone 4 but it was finally reaching end-of-life so I upgraded to an iPhone 6 (but not 6S which was also available at the time and I didn’t wait for iPhone 7 either even though I knew it was coming in a few months). We also indulged on Boxing Day and bought a massage chair which is something Shea and I have both wanted for years. So time will tell but we’ve really enjoyed it so far.
12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
Enforcer John Scott who was voted into the NHL All-Star Game as a joke candidate but ended up having a Cinderella story being named MVP of the game. Gord Downie completing a final tour with the Tragically Hip after being diagnosed with brain cancer and then doing “The Secret Path” project – “the work of my lifetime” – to raise awareness of First Nations issues.
13. Whose behaviour left you underwhelmed or disappointed?
We returned from Cuba and though not likely related to that trip, I discovered a day later that my credit card number had been stolen. So whoever stole my credit card and scammers in general disappoint me. I was underwhelmed with the performance of the Sask NDP in the last provincial election. And I was beyond disappointed in Americans in general for voting in a racist, sexist, walking Cheeto like Donald Trump.
14. Where did most of your money go?
SGI and I disagreed (big surprise!) about the the true value of my damaged car. So I had to pay out of pocket after getting my SGI settlement to buy a replacement car. I upgraded my iPhone. Various household improvements to our back patio (better fence, a propane fireplace – which was a gift from Shea’s folks so wasn’t technically our money, various ambient lights.) Shea got a remote car starter. We had to replace our dishwasher. We booked a trip to Mexico. And then we bought a massage chair on Boxing Day to top off a year with lots of spending.
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
It’s always exciting to plan for a trip. I was also really obsessed with the Bernie Sanders campaign in the US even though I couldn’t do much to actively participate beyond posting snarky comments on Reddit. 😉
16. What song/album will always remind you of this year?
Sadly, it was artists who we lost (or are in danger of losing) who filled my year – David Bowie. Prince. Tragically Hip/Gord Downie. Leonard Cohen. George Michael. But also a couple we saw in concert – Garth Brooks and though they both wear cowboy hats, on the opposite end of the spectrum in terms of celebrity status, Fred Eaglesmith.
17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
A) Happier or sadder? Probably about the same as last year. But happier in that Sasha’s at the absolutely cutest age.
B) Thinner or fatter? Thinner in spring if we have a trip booked. Fatter in the summer as I always overindulge when camping/on our patio. Then I lose weight in the fall after we book our holiday and I need to get my bikini body ready. Then I usually regress in December with all the eating and drinking of the season (up 7 lbs since Dec. 1 this year) 🙁
C) Richer or poorer? Richer – Shea started a new job which is .8 instead of .5 so our income’s gone up quite a bit (although expenses will too – gas and parking and daycare.)
18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
I feel like I’m reading less and less books every year though I’m reading more than ever before – just that so much of my reading now is online in the form of articles and message boards and social media stuff. But I miss books.
19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Nagging my wife. [Edit: Mostly about her bad habit of logging into my blog and changing my posts!]
20. How did you spend Christmas?
We had another relaxing one at home that just felt perfect – a nice long lead time with building excitement (Sasha only opened half a dozen presents once I convinced Shea to put them under the tree – and none that were for Sasha luckily!), getting all our gifts in order well ahead of time, quality time with family, food, fun and festivities. After an unseasonably warm fall with no snow until November, we even had a White Christmas with a nice soft white blanket of snow falling overnight on Christmas Eve.
21. Who did you spend the most time communicating with?
Maybe my staff at the library? I send out a weekly e-mail update of what’s happening at the branch and in the wider library world, we do staff meetings, we’ve had lots of staff comings and goings as well as call-in staff so talking to library folks takes up a lot of my time.
22. What was your favourite TV program?
Shea and I watched “Making A Murderer” on NetFlix in a single binge weekend in early January. We also enjoyed “Game of Thrones”, “House of Cards”, “Stranger Things”, “Jessica Jones”, “Narcos”, “Luke Cage”. Shea liked “Treme” but it never grabbed me. Just started “Black Mirror” and first episode was pretty wild – analogies to a modern “Twilight Zone” are pretty accurate.
23. Do you hate anything that you didn’t hate at this time last year?
I don’t hate it per se but Shea’s new job is at the General Hospital and four days a week instead of a 0.5 at a location close to home like her previous job was so that’s changed our routine in a variety of ways.
24. What was the best book(s) you read?
Reading Che Guevera’s “Motorcycle Diaries” while in Cuba was a pretty cool experience. Inspired by the books being returned by a patron, I read through the three autobiographies that have been written by various members of Guns ‘n’ Roses and it was interesting to see different takes on the same events. But the “Hammy” for the best book I read probably goes to “The Ballad of Danny Wolfe” which gives great insight into the lives of impoverished Aboriginal youth, Aboriginal gangs, the behind-the-scenes of prison life, the intersection of police/social services/justice system and much more. Plus it gives in-depth details about an infamous mass murder that started in a bar in a town near where I grew up and which was even a bar that I occasionally went to when I was younger.
25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
As mentioned above, this year was lots of listening to bands/artists that passed away or were diagnosed with terminal illness or artists who we saw in concert. But I did start listening to Colter Wall, the son of Saskatchewan Premier, Brad Wall. I also enjoyed the election-themed album “American Band” by the Drive-by Truckers.
26. What did you want and get?
My snip snip operation was a success! (Thank God!)
27. What did you want and not get?
The Sask NDP to get back to their pre-Lingenfelter level of 20 seats.
28. What was your favourite film of this year?
Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Went on opening day and felt like a kid again for two hours.
29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
In what’s becoming an annual tradition, we were camping during my birthday weekend – this year at Rowan’s Ravine just outside Regina.
30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
I was really hoping our car wouldn’t get written off after it got hit. That would’ve saved a lot of time, expense and headache of trying to find a replacement car – although my new car is a lot nicer – heated seats, more spacious, better sound system, etc.
31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept this year?
I wear a lot of clothes I’ve owned longer than Pace has been alive so this is always a tough question since my “fashion concept” doesn’t change much from year to year. But I continue to dress more casually at work – t-shirt and jeans where I used to always wear a collared shirt and khaki pants. There are two schools of thought on this – some think you should dress to reflect your position and authority (eg. a collared shirt) while others feel you should dress to reflect those you work with (your patrons) and that dressing up – even in what most would see as very casual dress – can remove you from your patrons and make you an authority figure…in a bad way. I’m not saying I’ll never go back to khakis and collared shirts but for where I am now, t-shirts and jeans feel right.
32. What kept you sane?
I think I say this every year but Sasha and Pace keep me sane – even when they make me insane! 😉
33. What political issue stirred you the most?
This entire US election season – from the primaries for both Democrats and Republicans and through the general election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton with the shocking twist of Trump winning was my obsession this year.
34. Who did you miss?
With the focus on the Tragically Hip this year, it reminded me of the days when I was an active part of the Tragically Hip Tape Trading Community where people across North America and beyond would trade live recordings – on cassette then eventually CD-R – of our favourite bands – mostly the Hip but others as well. Not surprised to see that at least one story during the focus on the Hip this summer featured a Hip “Super-Fan” I knew back in the day who was from Winnipeg and sat near us when we saw the Hip in Saskatoon (I didn’t recognize him but Shea noticed the microphones poking out of his ball cap – back in the days when taping concerts was illegal and you had to do it secretly unlike today when everyone has a video camera/audio recorder in their front pocket!)
35. Who was the best new person you met?
I mentioned that we’ve had a lot of new staff come through my branch this year. I’m very pleased to know that of the five people I hired to join RPL over the past year, every single one has stayed in the library (well, one left and came back a couple months later) and moved into higher level positions – a pretty good batting average! Beyond that, I really love working a branch where I regularly encounter the widest range of citizens that you can – everyone from homeless people to wealthy retirees, Indigenous Canadians to new Canadians, young latchkey kids to the laughing ladies of our Celebrate Seniors program.
36. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned this year.
I read a quote about how “We’re all the protagonists in our own story.” which was a tip about how to reach people in political campaigns but I think is important to keep in mind when interacting with anyone and trying to understand where they’re coming from. Another good quote – “Criticism is not cynicism” – is also something I try to keep in mind.
37. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year?
Give me back the Berlin wall
Give me Stalin and St Paul
Give me Christ
or give me Hiroshima
Destroy another fetus now
We don’t like children anyhow
I’ve seen the future, baby,
it is murder
38. Link to a photo that sums up your year
My work and my family, my love of music and my love of having fun, all came together when Regent Branch where I work celebrated its 50th Anniversary serving the citizens of Regina with a big “Retro” party…
39. Best App of the Year
Is there any question? Pokemon Go! was an absolute phenomenon this year and I happen to work at a Pokestop!
40. What single moment defined your year?
After being afraid of the waves at first, watching Sasha bob and swim between us in the water off the beach at Varadero or getting to look over at Pace while we snorkeled in some coral near our resort at the start of year in Cuba were some amazing moments that helped make the entire year a great one!