2017 End of Year Memes: Blog Blows Up, Libraries Live, Seasonal Summer, Tropical Travels

1. What did you do this year that you’d never done before?
Testified at a Labour Relations Board hearing.  It’s a long story but for the past few years, the library I work at has been moving towards getting in-scope Branch Heads turned into out-of-scope Branch Managers.  Again, long story with many twists and turns but ultimately, the employer was able to create a *new* position called Branch Manager but the four remaining Branch Heads (there were ten when this process began but that number dropped due to attrition) were left in-scope, though some will have their positions and/or locations changed.  (For the time being, I’m the least impacted of the four as I retained my current position *and* location.)

2. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Not this year but one of my cousins is pregnant with a much anticipated first child which is due in the spring.  We also know someone who tragically lost her child at term but happily, they are pregnant again.

3. Did anyone close to you die?
He wasn’t close to us (we’d never met him) but one of Shea’s co-workers’ husband was killed in a suspected drug related shooting in Jamaica which was pretty shocking. Gord Downie dying wasn’t a surprise but was still probably the biggest celebrity death of the year (at least to me.)  There were a few deaths right around Christmas which I always think are especially sad time to lose someone – a friend I know from writing and politics lost her dad right before Christmas, a longtime fixture in my hometown who owned one of the local gas stations lost a fight with cancer right before Christmas, a couple other people who are social media acquaintances also lost (or commemorated) family members around the Christmas season as well.

4. What places did you visit?
We did a winter ski/snowboard/tubing trip to Asessippi in Manitoba.  All-inclusive vacations never used to be an annual thing but it’s becoming that – this year, we did a week at Sandos Caracol, an all-inclusive near Playa Del Carmen which is perhaps my favourite all-inclusive ever.  This was our third year in a row of going to an all-inclusive (with our fourth in a row booked for this upcoming February.) I spent a few days in Waskesiu for the Sask Library Association conference and admit that the optics of hosting a conference at one of the province’s most swank resorts soon after funding was cut then restored isn’t great (although no one planning the conference would’ve imagined what was about to transpire either, I’m sure!) We spent nearly every weekend and many 3, 4 and even 5 day breaks (depending on our respective schedules) at a seasonal campsite at Echo Valley Provincial Park which, for many reasons, was probably the best summer of my life.

5. What would you like to have in the next year that you lacked this year?
An ice maker! 😉

6. What date from this year will remain etched upon your memory?
Jan 20 – Trump inaugurated.  Shea and I listened on the radio as we were driving to our Asessippi ski trip and I will forever mis-spell it as Ass-essippi for that reason. 😉
Feb 22 – Leave for Mexico for a week vacation at Sandos Caracol Eco-Resort
Mar 21 to Apr 24 – Surprising funding cuts to libraries come in province’s austerity budget then are restored after huge uproar
May Long to mid-Sept – summer seasonal site
June 21 – After nearly three years of back and forth about an in-scope/out-of-scope issue affecting myself and a number of other branch heads at my library, I am informed that (for the time being anyhow), I will remain in my current position with no changes (while others are either moving to new positions, locations or both.)
Oct 18 – Gord Downie dies

7. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I had a fairly small role in the grand scheme of things but felt like some of my blogging helped play a part in the pushback against the library funding cuts.  My advocacy blogging led to (if memory serves) four or five of my most viewed posts of all-time, each over 1000 views and some reaching multiple thousands of views when they went viral (I’ve joked that some of my posts/videos/whatever have gone “mini-viral” but this was probably my first experience where I was getting zillions of hits from people across the country.)

8. What was your biggest failure of the year?
I think I’m getting a bit frustrated with my ability to lose weight when I want to (leading up to a tropical trip) but then not maintain my willpower at other times (most of the summer, around the Christmas holidays).  On a semi-related note, Shea and I decided to try quitting drinking from when we got back from our winter holiday in February until May when we would be moving into our seasonal campsite.  I think we lasted three days! 😉

9. What was your biggest surprise?
I think the cuts to library funding in the government budget caught a lot of people off-guard, both within libraries and in the communities that have libraries. I was also (pleasantly) surprised to hear that my job wouldn’t be affected in any way when a handful of my colleagues ended up either having to change jobs and/or locations as the resolution of a labour-related in-scope/out-of-scope question that was being bounced around at RPL for the past few years.

10 Did you suffer illness or injury?
I crashed into a chain link fence pretty good when I flew off the run while tubing only a couple weeks before our Mexico trip but luckily was wearing a mandatory helmet.  It’s a running joke that I badly stub/break toes on tropical trips and I did it again during our Mexico trip (nothing incapacitating luckily.)  Had a bout of shingles that I dealt with right away so they didn’t get out-of-hand/painful.  I have recurring styes/chalazion cysts/infections on my eyelids.  The last time I had one, I told my opthamologist that “it took about three weeks to clear up” and he said “The next time it happens, you don’t need an appointment or referral.  Just call the office then you can pop in and get a prescription.”  I did that right before Christmas and lo, the monster in the photo below it was gone within a couple days.”

11. What was the best thing you bought?
We have a long list of great things we bought to help make our seasonal site better – sewer totes and inflatable pools and beer fridges and foam mattresses and much more.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
The thousands of people across the province who rose up to protest the cuts to libraries in the government’s austerity budget. I’m proud that I sort of “called it” in my post-budget random notes post when I said:

Speaking of, there are a couple things in this budget that may get more pushback from Brad Wall’s rural base than he realises…big cuts to rural libraries could really backfire as I’ve seen firsthand how much libraries mean in small communities.  (The anecdote in libraries is that the men on council will try to cut library funding since they never use it but then their wives will get wind of the cuts and suddenly funding gets restored!) ?

…and I’ll be very curious to see if that energy will be revisited in the next provincial election.

13. Whose behaviour left you underwhelmed or disappointed?
Trump didn’t really disappoint since he didn’t do anything you wouldn’t expect – crazy statements that could start nuclear wars, lying every time he opens his mouth, siding with neo-Nazis and alleged pedophiles – but I still am disappointed with him (and moreso, the people who elected him.)  I’m also disappointed in the Sask Party government who were left with a surplus by the NDP in 2007, blew through the biggest resource boom in the province’s history, and came out the other end cutting services and raising taxes on people.  The NDP isn’t perfect though – in the year of #metoo, they had some pretty disturbing stories come out about people connected to the party.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Booze?  It’s embarrassing to admit but I think I spent more on booze this summer than what our entire seasonal site cost us! 😮

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
I always get excited about researching our winter holidays, usually starting to do so about three days after we get back from our latest trip.  I talk to everyone I know, visit tons of web sites and this year, I even did a couple presentations at the library (one at my branch, one at our Central library) on the advantages and disadvantages of all-inclusive vacations.

16. What song/album will always remind you of this year?
Without a doubt, Blake Berglund and specifically his “Coyote” album.  I didn’t really know his music (outside of a duet with Belle Plaine who I was aware of) but randomly ended up putting his album first on a playlist of Saskatchewan-artists I created at the start of summer and since it was the first thing I often played when we got to Echo, it became our “Album of the Summer”.   Pace also really got into music in a big way this summer (we listened to his favourite song twice as much as my most played song) but his tastes are a bit different than mine! 😉  I also had “A Design for Life” on repeat for about a month straight – “Libraries gave us power” indeed!

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
A) Happier or sadder?  Happier.  Life feels like I’m at the top of the hill in so many ways – work and money and kids and grandparents and Shea and I all in relative good health.
B) Thinner or fatter?  As mentioned earlier, I’m bad for getting thinner when I have the incentive of a tropical trip but then putting it back on when I have some other excuse (summer camping, Christmas holidays.)  I have literally put on 10 lbs in December. 🙁
C) Richer or poorer?  About the same?  Shea and I never feel like we’re hurting for much but we also try to be smart with our money if that makes sense.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
We were out at Echo nearly every weekend for 2, 3, 4 or even 5 days from mid-May to mid-September but I still wish we’d done *more* camping.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
I always struggle to answer this question but let’s say that my booze consumption, through the summer at our campsite and then again in December, was pretty excessive, especially if I’m trying to lose weight!

20. How did you spend  Christmas?
Another quiet one at our house, this year with Shea’s folks while my parents were up with my sister and her family in Melfort.  We really like hosting Christmas as it makes it so much easier with kids – not having to transport a bunch of gifts (including some that you might not want kids to accidentally see) and having everything right there to put away/clean up after all the gifts are opened.

21. Who did you spend the most time communicating with?
I’m not positive but I think I might have been the most “networked” person during the cuts – I was talking to people in rural libraries, urban libraries, library organizations, the #SaveSKLibraries group (where I was also a moderator for a brief period of time).  I helped behind the scenes to organize some advocacy at the Legislature, regularly talked to the main organizer of the “Drop Everything and Read” protests, and even fielded some questions and took advice from librarians beyond the province’s borders who were watching developments closely.

22. What was your favourite TV program?
House of Cards.  Orange Is The New Black.  Game of Thrones.  GLOW.  Narcos.  It’s very rare that we watch a traditional network show over NetFlix/HBO-style shows but we haven’t yet taken the leap to cut the cord though that feels closer every year, especially when we look at what we pay for cable versus how much we get out of it.

23. Do you hate anything that you didn’t hate at this time last year?
I always qualify this question by saying that “hate” is a strong word.  But I really shake my head at so much of what’s happening in the US – blatant tax cuts for the richest people, no universal healthcare, nearly electing an alleged pedophile in Alabama.  Shea and I have basically decided we’re not going to travel to the US until Trump’s gone.  

24. What was the best book(s) you read?
The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit” – Michael Finkel was fascinating.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
The whole summer was about musical discovery and rediscovery – from listening to music every time we drove out to Echo to capping the summer with a fairly spontaneous decision to attend the Guns n’ Roses concert.

26. What did you want and get?
Two things I’ve already mentioned – almost unbelievably that the library funding cuts were fully reversed and also that my job stayed exactly the same after a lot of uncertainty that this might not be the case.

27. What did you want and not get?
Shea and I have an ongoing desire to get our house decluttered but we’re not there yet!

28. What was your favourite film of this year?
We watched very few films this year but enjoyed *33* as a random pick on Netflix one night (sometimes the best movies are ones you know nothing about so they sort of surprise you) and also saw *It* in the theatre one weekend when I had to work and so Shea took the kids out to her parents’.  Also went to “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” a couple weeks ago and it had good and bad elements but overall, I really enjoyed it.  (I’ll just leave the same photo I posted for this question last year – though I don’t know how I ended up picking “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” as my favourite movie of 2016 when it came out in 2015.  Maybe because it came out around Christmas and I didn’t get to it until the new year?)

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
Once again, we were camping for my birthday (third or fourth year in a row) but this time, we ran over to our family’s cottage at another nearby lake and spent the day with my parents as well.  Also a good lesson learned about not ruling out ideas – I wanted to buy myself a DQ ice cream cake but Shea said it would never make it the half hour drive on a hot day.  But when I stopped at DQ to check, lo and behold, they offered to pack it in ice at no extra charge because this was a common issue they saw – people picking up ice cream cakes in the summer on the way to another destination.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
We’ve always talked about it but I really wish we’d done two years for our hot holiday at Sandos Caracol instead of one like we always do.  (We’re finally rectifying that this year as we bit the bullet and booked our upcoming February getaway for two weeks instead of one.  We’re going to a mega-resort so I’m sure we won’t run out of things to do!)

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept this year?
Last year, I mentioned that this is always a tough question because I have some clothes that are older than Pace.  But, relating to that question where I said Shea and I are trying to get a bit of our clutter under control, I made more of a concerted effort to get rid of some of my oldest clothes – t-shirts and shorts and so on.

32. What kept you sane?
Driving through the gates of Echo Valley Provincial Park always had a noticeable positive effect on my mindset – just instant feelings of peace and relaxation as soon as we hit the gates.

33. What political issue stirred you the most?
The library cuts were the biggest one personally but I was also excited to see Ryan Meili become an MLA (and announce he was running for NDP Leader again – maybe the party will finally realise that doing the same thing over and over again isn’t working and choose Ryan.)  A razor-thin NDP victory in BC was awesome and unusually, I managed to support a candidate in a leadership race who actually managed to win. (Good karma for Ryan’s chances maybe?) 😉

34. Who did you miss?
We made a few new friends while camping this summer but it’s been harder to stay in touch now that we’re back to “the real world” though we did reconvene for a house party right before Christmas that was a blast.

35. Who was the best new person you met?
I met a lot of people through the #saveSKLibraries FB Group who were awesome (if you’re into libraries, how can you not be?)  We’ve had more new staff come to my branch in the past year than at any point since I started there four years ago (when I was part of another big influx) and they’re all great people.  It was especially interesting/educational/rewarding to be able to hire a transgender woman and get to know her.  She’s very open and honest about her life, background and experiences and so it was great to get to know her before her contract ended (luckily, she was able to find a position at another branch so is still in the system.)

36. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned this year.
“It could always be worse.”  If I ever feel like things aren’t going well for whatever reason, the library helps snap me back to reality that my life is pretty damn good.  From working with people who are homeless or have addictions to many patrons who come from lower socio-economic statuses to people looking for work to people dealing with all manner of health issues and on and on and on, the library is a constant reminder of how fortunate I am – both in my personal life and also to have a professional role where I can assist people who need help in one way or another.

37. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year?
“Oh, honey!”  This short interjection occurs in the Blake Berglund song “Come Back Around” which is the first song on the album “Coyote” (first song on the montage below.)  As mentioned earlier, this was our song of the summer.  We even happened to bump into Berglund at an outdoor symphony concert near the end of the summer and decided the best way to introduce ourselves was to have Sasha go up to him and say “Oh honey!” (which made him do a double-take!) 😉

38. Link to a photo that sums up your year
“The Point” at Echo Valley Provincial Park…beside our campsite, this is where we spent so much time, going for walks to hike the hills, watch the sunset, or the stars or incoming thunderstorms.

39. Best App of the Year
I’ve had it for years but this year, Flipboard has become the main outlet for my daily fix of news, tech and entertainment stories.

40. What single moment defined your year?
Having a post about the library cuts go viral and get exponentially more hits than my blog usually gets on a typical day really brought home how much my main interests intersect – libraries, politics and technology.

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