Saturday, January 3, 2015

2014: The year that was

Month of Poetry is on a challenge day today (which means posting to the locked MoP blog rather than here), so I thought it might be an opportune moment to do the traditional Year in Review post.

2014! What a merry prankster of a year you were. Like all jokers, you weren't nearly as funny as you thought you were, and a lot of the time, you were downright mean. But you had your moments of mirth and lightness, even if I did spent almost all of you on hyper-alert waiting for the next cream pie in the face.

The Good first:

- Holidays. We had a lovely long weekend as a family in Portarlington in March, and the girls and I were lucky enough to get away for 5 days at Easter with friends to Merricks on the Mornington Peninsula. Both of these short breaks were relaxing, recharging and much needed time out of routine.

I also had a week off in January with the kids, which worked very well as a "holiday from home", featuring lots of day trips and mini adventures.

July, of course, brought the long-anticipated 2 weeks in Port Douglas. This was the girls' first-ever plane flight and the first time we have ever holidayed interstate as a family. It was every kind of wonderful; I raved about it at the time and I still think, often and warmly, about the beaches, the Reef and the magical Daintree. Being surrounded by so much beauty was both humbling and energising.

- Activities. Both the big girls got into netball this year, and are really enjoying it. The 11yo and my husband continued their guitar lessons and the improvement both have shown is remarkable. Husband has also taken up distance walking this year, with great results in his overall energy and fitness levels. I had hopes of becoming a distance walker myself, and also of building my writing up, but it didn't happen for me this year. (See: The Bad).
- Food, birthdays, special days and books: Once again, delicious food, fancy cakes, fun birthdays / Easter / Mothers and Fathers Days / Christmas and wonderful books were grace notes in our year. Yum Cha, meals out, home cooking, and increasing culinary experimentation from husband (partly fuelled by his role as Assistant Cook at the school's cooking classes) has meant we've eaten richly this year, and food has been a support and delight through tougher times.

On the book front, I read many amazing texts and reviewed most of them, either on this blog or on The Shake or Global Comment. Book of the Year is hard to pick, but We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, The Burial, Boy Lost and The Swan Book would have to be front-runners.

The kids have also had a bookly year, with their wholehearted embrace of Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, and the two big read-aloud series we tackled - Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising and Madeleine L'Engle's Time series.

C, my baby, is starting her reading life now and is greatly interested in picture books. Dr Seuss, Grug, Spot and alphabet books are favourite at the moment, and it's a wonderful to see.

- A good school year: All three kids had a great year at school this year. This was particularly encouraging as it was my littlie's first year at school, and the first year of "senior primary" for my eldest. Both the big girls represented the school in chess tournaments and did very well, and the middle girl also served on the SRC. They are all very settled and happy at the school, which has not always been the case, so that was a
definite highlight of the year.

Of course, along with the Good, there was The Bad...

- Work stress, for me in particular, was a killer this year. My job is a big job, this year vastly exacerbated by difficult structural changes (including mass redundancies) at my workplace. I have found the workload, the expectations and the unrelenting pace incredibly draining this year, especially in light of:

- Health challenges: From early August onwards, I was in a sharp and scary health crisis spiral, which took the form of extreme and unremitting fatigue, whole-body shakes and trembling, anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia and parasomnias, dizziness, headaches and loss of appetite / nausea. (Among other things). It took a goodly while to get my current three-part diagnosis and to start to address the root causes, and frankly, the four months from August til the end of November were pretty much hell.

I kept working, parenting and doing the necessary through it all (although, God Bless Sick Leave and Working At Home, both of which were heavily deployed through this phase). The net result, though, is that one of the underlying conditions responsible is going to be with me awhile, and has necessitated a radical rethink of how I do life, and especially how I do work / life balance. I hope for better things from 2015 on this front.

My ideas about 2015, in the light of 2014, are fairly general, and I explained here what I think my core focus needs to be. We have a nice local family holiday (to Phillip Island) coming up, but no fixed ideas about where, or when, any further breaks might occur. I have a determination to get to either - or, ambitiously, both - the Emerging Writers Festival and Continuum in 2015. We are toying with taking the kids to one of the Melbourne comicon festivals (probably SuperNova), as they are old enough now to enjoy it. We may proceed with our kitchen renovation this year, money permitting. I'd like to do, and publish, more writing, both columns / articles and hopefully poetry or fiction. (January's Month of Poetry is the first part of this goal). I'd also like to get back in to volunteering, but I'm going to hang back on that until my health is more stable.

All in all, though, 2014 was a monster of a year, vibrant, full-on, sometimes joyful, sometimes awful, red in tooth and claw. I'm hoping for more serenity from 2015, or at least to be able to rein in the excesses of the past 12 months in ways that promote sustainability in my life.


  1. Wow what a big year for your family. Can I ask, how did you find the Madeleine L'Engle's Time series. I haven't read it and I'm trying to build up books to read to my girls as they get a little older. My eldest is only 6 at the moment.

    1. Hi Jess! *waves* Yes, it was a huge year and a very challenging one. Hoping for a little more balance this year!

      The Time books are probably the most challenging I've read aloud to my girls. They have quite a lot of quantum physics and heavy concepts in them. My 11yo loved them and fully understood them; I think the 9yo, who also loved them, was carried along by the characters and the plot, but struggled a little with the science. The most accessible of the series is probably the fourth one, Many Waters, in which two of the characters travel in time to the pre-flood world of Noah.