Monday, December 28, 2015

The year that is dying and fading from view

2015 is drawing to a close, so I felt it was time for the annual year-in-review post.

I really like doing these each year - it's not so much about other readers (although those are welcome, of course, otherwise I wouldn't be posting publicly) as it is about creating a record for my own family.

It's been a surprisingly meaningful exercise for us over time, to the point where I have saved the relevant pages and will turn them into a family photobook once I have a decade's worth. I've done one every year since 2010 - my previous
records are:

So it is in this spirit that I turned my mind to thinking about 2015, the year that is soon to be leaving us.

Summing up 2015 in a single phrase is surprisingly difficult. It was a shape-shifter, with phases of good health, calm and great happiness interspersed with intervals of poor health, worry and rapid change.

No real traumas marred the year, which made a welcome change from 2014, which was a year of health crisis and overwhelming stress. It has felt like a good year for our family - a year of progress and changes, challenges and fun, anxiety and excitement.

For the sake of brevity, I've divided the year into highlights, lowlights, and changes. Some of the changes are also either a highlight or lowlight, unsurprisingly!


1. Family holidays, birthdays, and special days
We had three small family holidays in 2015 - a week in Phillip Island in January, three days in Marysville / Lake Mountain in July, and five days in Daylesford and Bendigo in October.

None of these holidays were huge or expensive, but they all did us good, especially the October trip, from which we all returned very refreshed.

As well as our holidays, we had terrific celebrations of birthdays this year. The youngest, C, turned 6 in February and we had a superhero party at home for her, complete with Batman cake. My middle girl, E, turned 10 in May, and had a massive Harry Potter party at a local hall, with Golden Snitch cake and fully themed games, food and so on. The eldest turned 12 in August and decided on a swimming party at the local pool, with a TARDIS cake (which was ridiculously difficult to make but turned out great).

We also hosted a birthday BBQ in March for my husband, a birthday lunch in January for my MIL, and a dinner party in November for my Dad. The kids in particular attended many friends' parties and enjoyed them all.

Other special days included our family trip to Oz ComicCon in June - which was superb fun; Easter, which was great as alway;, and Halloween, for which we threw what turned out to be a massive kids' party. We hosted extended family Christmas last week, which was great, albeit exhausting.

My husband took the 10-year-old for a night at a fancy hotel (the Sofitel at Werribee Mansion) for her birthday in May, and he and I got away for a weekend on the Mornington Peninsula in November. So overall, it was a year full of special things and I have no complaints.

2. MoP and NaNoWriMo
Every January for the past four, I have participated in Month of Poetry, a challenge that involves writing a poem every day for the month. Some of the poems are specific responses to themes, styles or images set by the challenge organiser, while other days are "free writing" days.

I fulfilled the January challenge this year, and picked an organising theme of Women of the Old Testament to help shape my writing. Some of the poems were junk, of course, but a solid handful had real potential. (I've subsequently sold one for publication). MoP has become a signature theme of summer for me, and I can't imagine January without it.

In November, I attempted, and to my great satisfaction, completed, NaNoWriMo, the challenge to write a novel of at least 50,000 words in length in one month.

I have done NaNo before - in 2010 and 2011 - and completed it both times, but on those occasions, I wrote middle-grade detective novels - fun, but not as challenging as what I tried this year, which was a science fiction / future verse novel.

The final product, which I called Theory of Mind, is not terrible. It needs a thorough edit, of course, but I'm proud it, and proud of myself for having done it in what transpired to be a very busy month. I'm going to try to do NaNo every year if I can; it is good for me, partially because it stretches me.

3. New kitchen
We finally bit the bullet in 2015 and got our kitchen redone. The old, brown, formica kitchen had been in place since the house was built in 1988 - 27 years ago - and it was showing its age in every creaky, barely-functional part.

Going with antique white cabinetry, a redesign of the pantry space, new good quality appliances and a caesar stone benchtop and wall splashbacks has created a room that we all love madly and makes our daily lives, as well as special meals, so much more enjoyable and practical. I won't lie, it wasn't cheap, but I honestly feel it was worth every cent.

4. Netball, music and swimming
The two older kids played netball this year, and really enjoyed themselves (so did we, attending their Saturday games).

My youngest's weekly swimming lessons have improved her skills but also proven a time of family relaxation, as we usually all go and the big kids and their dad have a play / lap swim.

My eldest's guitar playing has really stepped up in 2015, with her now being at the stage where true "jamming" is possible. She's keen to keep learning next year.

5. Time with friends
I am blessed in my life to have some really great friends. 2015 was a year where I got to see more of them than I have been able to in the past few years, and it was truly a good thing.


1. Ongoing (and some new) health concerns for various members of the family
My health continued to be variable across the year, with two new diagnoses (of Hashimoto's Disease and a heart arrhythmia) and periods of extreme fatigue.

I was never as sick as in the terrible last quarter of 2014, thankfully, but there were a few hairy moments.

Two of my three girls have also had some ongoing health niggles, which we are looking into now. I don't believe they will end up being serious, but there is no doubt it is a worry from time to time.

2. Employment and school stress
I found work very stressful in the first half of 2015 (before I made the big change discussed below!) and that definitely had an impact on our family life. I do have a tendency to take work problems more to heart than I should, and the instability of my employing organisation was very hard on me.

Moreover, my youngest went through a prolonged period of school refusal that baffled and troubled us; although I think it was starting to settle down, it never got fully resolved, and it put a strain on all of us.

3. Behavioural stuff
I don't want to say too much here about this, but let's just say, the year wasn't always the easiest under this heading. We're all working on strategies and techniques to enable us to cope, and relate more positively to each other.


1. Leaving my job and returning to freelancing
One of the significant changes this year was my decision to leave my salaried job at the end of June and return to operating as a freelance contractor.

I had no idea, when I took this plunge, whether I would get much (or any) work, but I knew something had to change. I was burnt out, and stressed out, where I was.

Moving back to freelancing, working mostly from home, has been absolutely the best decision I made this year. I am happier, my life is better balanced, my family gets more of me, and I have been lucky enough to get plenty of work so financially we have not lost out.

The two years I spent at the job I left in June were not wasted years, but they were costly ones, in terms of my health and equilibrium. They did teach me this - freelancing, as long as I can sustain enough work, is the best fit for me, with my health, personality, family and circumstances.

2. Eldest daughter finishing primary school and preparing to enter high school
My first baby girl did her final year of primary school in 2015. Watching her grow into herself as one of the school "big kids" and engage in leadership and extension activities was wonderful and poignant for me.

Her graduation from the school that has nurtured her since she was 5 years old was an occasion for joy and tears together. She's raring to go with high school, and I'm excited for her to see how the next phase unfolds, but there's a touch of melancholy in it all the same, seeing your baby grow up.

So, overall, 2015 was a good year. Not a year without challenges, but a year rich in memories and good change, change that has helped us all to move through and move on. For 2016, I'm hoping for:

- a good start to high school for daughter 1
- a great Grade 6 to finish primary school for daughter 2
- at least two enjoyable and memorable family holidays
- expansion of my creative writing, especially my poetic practice
- an even better and more stable year in health terms
- a good, varied year in my freelance business, with enough work to pay the bills
- a year of deepening our family bonds and relationships with friends

If I can realise those goals, then 2016 will be a wonderful year indeed.

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