Year in Review - 2018

bullets fly

split the sky

but that's alright

sometimes sunlight

come streaming through the holes

My process for figuring out what to write about in my year-in-review posts has become an interesting one, almost like becoming a PI for my own life. I go through my calendar, my email, Facebook and Instagram, and now that I've sold out to the man, even my Amazon order history. Honestly, sometimes even my bank statements, when I need a date for a big purchase...

And honestly, I'm leaving out a lot here. 2018 was one of the hardest, sloggiest, boredest years of my life — and that's just talking about the minor stuff. I felt like I had to take up boxing just to feel like I was fighting back. Mental health was super tough. Marriage was rocky. It was just not the best year. But despite that caveat, it was a wonderful year in some ways. So many new things. So much well-earned sweat. Blood, sweat, and tears — all in maybe too much abundance. Without further ado, here's the highlight reel.

In General

There's quite a few random facts about this year I'm not sure where to place on the timeline, so I'll just throw out a few things. First, I started writing to two different inmates as pen-pals, which has added a larger element of hand-written letters to my life. It has been an enriching experience, it makes me feel valuable and needed when life sometimes feels like I'm just living for nothing in particular, and I hope to continue.

I went on quite a few dog-park dates with a fellow whippet owner and one of Murphy's kin. There was much running and sniffing, chasing and being whippety.

I can't remember which month it was, but we finally got a chest freezer again for the first time since moving back to Edmonton a few years ago. So nice to have the ability to freeze more things now — I can buy so much more meat on sale, and make muffins! And more!

My Grandma's journey to find her birth parents has been rewarded this year with some incredible documentation of her birth and subsequent adoption at 2 years old. She has names for both of my great grandparents on her side now, along with a lot of DNA matches that have been a great source of interest for my family this year. My DNA test from this year mostly just proves that I am as British Peasant as I look. 

JANUARY

The biggest notable about January 2018 was heading out to Banff for a couple of days with a bus full of Catholics for a retreat weekend. It was actually my first time hearing the sung version of a prayer that I've been praying all year called the Divine Mercy chaplet, and I've found a lot of solace in that prayer over a year of difficult things. We also spent some time in Calgary with friends and family, which was a real treat. 

I suppose the other thing I'd call notable was being able to move to a two-monitor desk environment after spending less than $15 on a monitor from Goodwill and nearly as much on the cable I needed ($13). It's a bit annoying because I have to unplug the monitor to turn it on fairly often, but for the price you can't beat it really for having a two-monitor setup. I also seriously upgraded our computer sound, purchasing a set of beautiful, basic Bose speakers. 

FEBRUARY

Having tried unsuccessfully for many years to find a good way to blow off steam with sports, I decided to sucker punch my anger by taking up boxing. It's been really tough to get in to actually GO boxing, but since going for the first time in mid-February, I've been as many times as I could go on Friday nights, and I'm planning to continue going back throughout the rest of the winter in 2019. I haven't really boxed with other people yet, I'm still just learning the basics for fitness, but I really do enjoy it and I'd like to go more often for sure. It was not a super easy month, but there were some lovely highlights, like my best friend Janta and her husband Toby coming to visit and helping us take Murphy to the dog park where I always go by myself - it was really cool to take friends there. The other big highlight was taking a Cut Like A Chef class at a specialty store called "Knifewear" on Whyte (heck, most of my best moments this year happened around Whyte, really!) and we splurged on purchasing a really fancy Japanese all-purpose knife, which is sharper than I had ever imagined a knife could be, and has been my go-to for cutting veggies since we got it. One day perhaps I'll be able to invest in a bigger knife set. The guy leading the class was a real character, and it has really sped up my meal prep.

I visited Paul's office for the first time since he got his new job, since I had purchased a lovely new white board for his door. He felt so luxurious not having to try to write in tiny letters using whiteboard markers...

MARCH

There were two huge highlights for March this year - the first was visiting my good friend Kori in Shellbrook for the weekend and enjoying a quiet weekend relaxing together and entertaining her baby boy. I had been considering getting more decor for my office, and started with a beautiful little resin goldfish pond I found at a crafts market that weekend, which makes me smile every time I notice it. Little did I know I'd be experimenting with resin myself later this year, mainly by encasing fall leaves as pendants.

I want to ride my bicycle

I want to ride my bike

I want to ride my bicycle

I want to ride it where I like

The second was finally purchasing my tax return present to myself: a gorgeous new cruiser bike, the Liv Flourish 2 2018. It's a brown cruiser with a front basket and gear covers. Ever since introducing Murphy to cycling as his main form of spring and summer exercise (and you can bet I'm excited about April coming soon already here as January hits) cycling has been a constant in my life and I don't think it's going away anytime soon.

Paul's tax return present to himself, on the other adult hand, was a new vaccum. We went out on vacuum shopping dates and decided on a Miele, and it has been so nice having a high quality dirt sucker around the house. I downgraded the old vaccum to a not-exactly-a-shop-vac in the garage for wood projects.

I was inspired to finally try carving my own stamps in March, so as to keep track of my active lifestyle, and beside the fact that I really enjoyed stamp carving and would totally do more of it, the keeping track is a great habit I'd like to revive for 2019. 

APRIL

We got a new TV! We actually hadn't HAD a TV since we dumpster dived one briefly back when we lived in the towers off Whyte Ave (where so many of my dumpster diving treasures were found) but it was time to get one again and stop watching TV in my office. I was tired of spending all my time during the day in my office and then coming back in my office when Paul came home to do leisure time, and the work-life balance aspect is really nice when I'm busy. Having a smart TV with a built-in Roku is also pretty cool. Mainly we watch Netflix, and sometimes Amazon Prime - and Paul watches anime. It's nice to be able to watch YouTube there too sometimes. I also found a good quality Blu-ray and DVD player at the thrift store, so $40 later we had the player and a new control from Amazon, and it's been super reliable watching ever since - it's definitely saved us money being able to just get things from the Library, or sometimes borrow them from other people's libraries.

I'm pretty sure it was April when I first watched the Rocky movies, after having gotten into boxing a little. Right after we got the new TV, if I recall. Just a few more left before we hit the reboots, now. 

I did a little craft project painting the frame on a mirror, which now lives in our guest room. I'd probably do it differently if I did it again, but it was interesting enough.

In March I started using a USB controller for sorting photos before editing (we call that culling in the photography world) and it cut my already short editing times even shorter. I'm looking forward to continuing to cull with my controller now, it's great. One of the best things that's come from using a Windows computer is how easy it is to find great peripherals.

MAY

The very best part of early May was when Paul and I used the leftover landscaping concrete "stones" in the yard to build ourselves a fabulous fire pit. Totally awesome to be able to BBQ with it, as well as just enjoy an evening fire. 

I just posted a little post on Reddit to see if anyone wanted to go cycling with me, and then I made the news. Multiple times. And suddenly, I had created the Edmonton Casual Cycling Club, or as I'm calling it now, Casual Cycling YEG. At the end of last season, it had 40+ members. We'll see what 2019 looks like, as I fully intend to continue cycling with others. We've found a number of excellent paths for beginners and those interested in a zero pressure way to be active and enjoy the outdoors while cycling. 

We also did the 5km walk-a-thon with our Catholic friends, and this year was a marked improvement — it still really hurts to walk that far, but I'm in much better shape now. Shortly thereafter, we went to Regina to celebrate with Paul's grandparents and tons of relatives on his Grandma's 80th birthday.

I think it was around May when I tried out playing D&D at the local game cafe, which has resulted in a fabulous pirate campaign, starting this Fall, with a dedicated group of very fun gamers playing D&D together. D&D is actually one of the first things I've been telling people about what has changed about my life in 2018. SO MUCH MORE GAMING.

JUNE

By far the busiest month of my year.

I participated in the Great Cycle Challenge to up my cycling habit and raise money for kids cancer. I was challenged quickly to more than double my original goal, and while I didn't quite manage that, I did meet a respectable goal at the end, having biked over 70km and raising nearly $200 from my adoring public.

After growing out my hair for ages, I cut it all off and went SUPER short, and proceeded to switch to using a barbershop and getting the sides shaved. Super easy hair care now. I'm not sure when I'll go back to long hair, but maybe someday I'll get sick of it being short. Oh man, though, it was SO nice for the active lifestyle with helmets, and for boxing.

I had fun nerding out on Reddit Meetup day at the Legislature, that was cool. So much discussion of memes!

Also notably, I went to a new dentist and did not die... And I cycled there, since it's close to home. I did so much cycling in june! I got to ride with the City of Edmonton Bike Reps who taught me about the downtown bike lanes, which I promptly used to head over to Western Cycle and get some adjustments on my bike, while I was riding anyway. I also learned how to use the bike racks on the bus to get around better without using a car all the time.

I purchased an expensive portable A/C unit that needed to be fixed and took it apart to fix it — just before the hottest summer it has been in years. So worth it to have a cool bedroom, and occasionally when I had a lot of work to do, a cool office as well.

I got blocked in at Superstore on the stormiest, windiest day, and had to wait for the person to be finished shopping and leave...

I also rescued a tired bee by giving it some honey-water. It was a special moment of helping - plus I got to take a photo of a bee's tongue, not many people get to do that!

I finally upgraded to a laser printer. SO NICE. I just wish it would print without borders, and then it would be perfect. As it is, it's pretty darn amazing.

At the end of the month we were on a day retreat a little ways out of town with some Catholic friends. It was a really valuable time of rest in a very busy month.

JULY

We've been going to the Family Life Conference on the July Long Weekend quite often, and this year was an especial highlight, with more than one of our favourite speakers, and getting to enjoy a super cool teardrop trailer rental. I am certainly keeping that trailer on my radar for renting again, we really, really enjoyed it. What we did not enjoy was Paul being extremely ill pretty much the whole time, and me feeling really overloaded after planning a very over-the-top menu. Next year, we are eating sandwiches. Just sandwiches! Maybe we'll heat some sausages over the fire for ONE meal! 

The library went and did the bestest thing ever, which was to host an ADULT reading challenge to go with the kids reading challenge. I had a total blast, and got a bunch of great superhero buttons for my awesome library book bag and I read quite a few more books this summer (and this year in general) than I have for a while.

This year, having splurged on expensive, large tomato plants in spring, we had the most epic tomato turnout all season long, starting around the end of July. Fabulously tasty. My favourite part was gifting them to fresh-tomato-loving friends. I tried a whole bunch of new varieties, and some of them were such a hit.

But the bestest part by far of July was trading in the Ford Focus that we hated for the perfect Subaru Outback for us. There's only a small handful of things I don't like about this car, in comparison to my active hatred of the car we had before. Completely worth it. 

We went out to Drumheller to see the Passion Play again this year, and though it wasn't as good as the first time, it was still great to go again. 

AUGUST

Tried virtual reality using the HTC Vive at BreakoutVR off Whyte for the first time. It was a really cool experience, though the second time we went later in the year I wore contacts because my glasses fogged up so badly it was tough to see. It's really immersive unless your headset falls off or it's too loud or you get distracted... But despite those very real downsides, it was also incredibly addictive. I wish it weren't so expensive to buy a VIVE and games, because being able to play a physical game like Quivr (a fantasy archery game where you shoot at monsters so they don't get through the gate to your city) is a great workout and really exhilarating. I really enjoyed Beat Saber as well. We tried a few other things, but those ones really stuck, and they're what we played when we came back for a second run in October. 

I was at home for a week spending time with my good friend Ricki in her home and with her kids. It was really special to spend so much time together as adults. I recall it also being the first time I've ever strapped something to the roof of a car. I also met my parents' new chihuahua puppy! She's adorable and spunky and reminds me so much of the second dog I really remember, who was a chi puppy when I was young. The other thing I did that week was visit my grandfather's grave, which was a whole host of emotions. I don't think I'm entirely done with that one, but the process of real forgiveness was started.

Got a sweet secondhand deal on a sturdy bike rack for the SUV, making it super easy to take the bike to new paths.

In crafty news, I learned how to hem pants, canned my own crab apple jelly and salsa (the jelly was great, the salsa didn't turn out great but I understand how canning works now), and did a massive pruning job on the front yard tree as our downstairs neighbor moved in. Looking forward to burning all that in our new fire pit.

SEPTEMBER

I had a really crazy mental health week where all my plans for the weekend got cancelled and I went into a crazy cleaning state and tried having a massive garage sale... except against all weather predictions, it rained, and I ended up stringing up a tarp and then just packing the majority of the items in the back of our new SUV and taking them to Goodwill the next day.

I saw quite a bit of friends in September, with a ton of great friend dates. The biggest event of September was having my friend Corrina in town for the Edmonton Comic Expo and dressing up as the Tardis to take a photo with David Tennant, who is one of my very favourite actors. 

Sadly the next thing that happened was that night, Paul got so ill he had to go to the hospital - norwalk virus. And apparently despite having had a norwalk-variety virus many years ago, I was able to get it, because the next day I was SUPER sick. (I still can't eat popcorn after throwing it up.) Worst, my poor friend Cathleen stayed with us a few days, and despite knowing the risks and us trying really hard not to infect her, she ended up on a plane ride home, sick as a dog. Ugh. Not our favourite week this year, I'll say. Honestly, we were sick SO much this year, it totally sucked.

OCTOBER

In early October we were headed to Saskatoon for Thanksgiving when I saw a pickup with blinkers on the side of the road, and a man with a gas can walking. We didn't have any particular deadline, so I pulled over and gave the guy a ride to the gas station at the top of a giant Hill nearby and then back to his truck. We bonded over our love of sighthounds, as he has a grey/wolf hound cross. He had the biggest smile pasted all over his face. It reminded me of the story that goes viral on Reddit every couple of years: Today you, tomorrow me.

While in Saskatoon for Thanksgiving, I got to go swimming with Claire and Monica and Sarah, and play with my diving bird toys and water-safe camera, which was a lot of fun.

I did a fabulous job decorating for Halloween this year after a super big scare of thinking we had completely lost our entire collection of halloween items by donating the box, I eventually found the box underneath and behind everything in our spare room closet, thankfully. I have some great items for decor now though, since I had set myself a modest budget to replace an entire halloween collection and ended up just doing a little bit. The best part is that after putting in so much work decorating this year, we had a record 100+ trick or treaters!

I think it was around the time I came home from family Thanksgiving that I started playing Stardew Valley, an 8-bit kind of game where you farm, mine, and develop relationships with your 8-bit neighbors. It's been a blast, though I think I might be winding down on the game now after 100+ hours of play.

NOVEMBER

My Christmas cactus bloomed from my birthday nearly all the way through to Christmas this year, it was awesome. I had the joy of heading out to a cabin on the lake with some of my favourite menfolk, where I discovered that I really enjoy artichoke dip and that Munchkin is so much more fun now that I play D&D on a regular basis.

I had a ton of fun organizing a murder mystery party for my birthday with nearly twenty people. It was set on my birthday in 1985 on an Alaskan Cruise - what a day it was, as the murderer was revealed! 

One thing I can say about this month is that it was mostly a mental health write-off for me. Notably, the one thing we did do was get a free leisure pass for two weeks, which we only used once - to go play badminton together as a couple. I've been working so hard on finding things to do. I also finished a class I took on nutrition from a dietician. I learned quite a bit from her. 

We finally got a chance to watch Season 2 of The Expanse, which is such a great sci-fi. I also showed Paul Little Shop of Horrors because he'd never seen the ridiculous human-eating-plant spectacle, or heard the amazing songs.

DECEMBER

Christmas wasn't altogether pleasant, but the rest of December gets a decent grade! 

Our glass kitchen table, which we've had for nearly a decade, shattered one morning as Paul was eating breakfast at it - I dealt with a very large cut on his thumb, and was later complimented on my "field dressing" skills since I apparently saved him stitches. He's going to have another very manly scar on him now. In response to this tradgedy, I bought another glass kitchen table - this one more stable than the last one was, but also a great deal heavier. It has become apparent that we have only nerdy friends without upper body strength, because the table top is still in the garage. Time to have a few strong men over for coffee!

We went to our yearly "Friendsmas" party with our Catholic friends, which was the only turkey dinner sort of food we ate lately.

I had just watched The Good Place for the second time when I saw the trivia night come out, and so some friends and I went out to it, it was fun, but I'm not sure if I'm much of a trivia person. I don't remember things super well. As is made obvious by the number of things I have to look up to start filling out this year in review...

Paul had a cold in mid-December that I caught with just barely some time to spare afterwards. I was still a little sniffly the weekend before Christmas. Some of our plans got cancelled. In part, I had a huge cookie exchange planned which was cancelled when I got massively sick. I slept almost constantly for a week. I finally got a little better, and when the weekend before Christmas rolled around we went to Calgary for a tacos and board games night with a lovely group of Paul's cousins, which we planned at the last minute. Paul's Mom got re-married on the 29th, which was sort of like an extra special family Christmas, complete with dancing to country music with a husband who can't two step. He was dancing a modified jive with me, and I was joking that he's half way there, because he knows the "one-step" - it was good to welcome Ted to the family (the siblings who made the welcome to the family speech nicknamed it "The Ted Talk") and good to see so many of Paul's family out in force to celebrate.

A new family phrase was coined as I started saying "Always usually" in front of things to make fun of Paul's constant complaints about my hyperbolic speaking style. I always usually use it now to denote things that do not literally always happen... 

I've been experimenting with spending a lot less time on social media, which has been good for me, and I think I'll try to continue the habit into the new year.

Gratefulness

I am grateful that I have finally been able to start losing weight - and at exactly the healthy rate I had hoped for. I am grateful that I am feeling more in shape and active than I have for many years, and I'm looking forward to the future. I'm super grateful that despite the bottom falling out of my photography business and me fighting boredom all year long that our financial situation has markedly improved and I no longer have to check my bank account before eating fast food most days.

Overall, I'm happy this year is over and hoping 2019 will bring more good days. 

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