Goodbye, 2016. Hello, 2017.

It's easy to think of 2016 as a dumpster fire. For many people, and in many ways, it was exactly that. It wasn't the easiest or best year for anyone I know. 

I said three big goodbyes in 2016. First, in late spring, one of our closest friends died. We were lucky we had time to say our goodbye to him, but we still feel it. Then, as summer was winding down, we made the tough decision to say goodbye to Piper days before her 17th birthday. A month after that I worked my last day at a company I'd worked with for 10 years. When I think about 2016 in the years to come, I'm guessing I'll remember these losses. 

But no year, even a dumpster fire year, is all bad. There are always moments that shimmer brightly, even if you are just blinking through tears. These are the happier moments I hope to remember of 2016. 

Guayabo Falls, Cuba

Guayabo Falls, Cuba

When we travelled to Holguin we were not expecting to do a lot off the resort, but we took a chance on a tour to Guayabo Falls. We're glad we did, even if it was a long day and we travelled on what our guides assured us where some of the worst roads in Cuba. We got to see a bit more of Cuba, away from the resorts. We drove through small towns. We visited a small farm, where we had some truly delicious coffee. Our main destination was Guayabo Falls. While our "hike" was decidedly much shorter than we thought (probably less than 10 minutes) it was lush and lovely. We didn't swim in the falls that day as it wasn't all that warm, but the view was stunning and very peaceful. 

Petting the rays at Ripley's Aquarium of Canada in Toronto

Petting the rays at Ripley's Aquarium

I TOUCHY THE RAY! Awesome freaking day. I'd return to the aquarium again in December and would be there on shark feeding day, and see a special dive show with Santa. The sea nettles display might be my favourite thing there, but petting the rays made me stupidly happy on my first visit. The aquarium has become one of my favourite things in Toronto. 

Come From Away at the Royal Alexandra Theatre, Toronto

Come From Away, Toronto

When I heard that Come From Away was coming to Toronto for a pre-Broadway run, I knew I wanted to see it. Lee had a trip to Toronto during the run and I managed to get us seats. They weren't together but we were only a row apart and darned lucky to get them. It made me cry. Happy tears. Sad tears. It was good to remember the essential goodness of people. One of things about not living out East is you forget how much you miss a good, emphatic "JAYSUS!" 



Losing Piper in 2016 sucked hard and made an already hard month almost unbearable. In the winding days of August, we adopted a little ball of fluff from the Ottawa Humane Society and named him Gunter. (Rhymes with "hunter", and yes, it is a nod to Ready Player One.) We seem to have a knack for adopting cats with plenty of personality. Gunter has absolutely been one of the best things of 2016, if not the best thing. He was almost five months when we adopted him and weighed less than two pounds. It turns out he just needed room to grow and now at eight months is eight pounds. He's brought a lot of joy to our house... even if he doesn't like it when we have company roaming around which explains his "WTF?" posture in the above photo. (Cat, however, was happy with his reaction. It was much better than Piper's constant hissing at her.) 

Disney World, Orlando

Lee and Karen at the Magic Kingdom

Lee had a conference in Orlando and we had Air Miles we needed to use so we figured we might as well throw in a few days at Disney. We were there right after our friend's funeral, and Disney gave us a chance to step away from mourning and be reminded to be joyful. Disney hadn't really been all that high on our vacation wish list, but it was the right place at the right time. There was also a little bit of childhood wish fulfillment as neither Lee nor I went as kids. Who knows, we might even go back again someday. Bonus? I totally got to meet up with an internet friend I've known for years and had never met in person. 

Adele in Montreal

Adele 2016

Adele is magical. A lot of things had to happen exactly right for this night to happen. We had to see a Facebook post at just the right time to see a friend selling their tickets. Days later we realized Lee couldn't go, but then we decided we could treat a friend, who very much needed something special, to come with me for a quick girls' weekend. I got what might have been one of the very last double hotel rooms in Montreal. Everything just kind of fell into place, like it was meant to be. 

Ami in Ottawa

Ami and Karen, 2016

Almost 10 years exactly from the first time we met (it was 10 years and one month - ish), we found ourselves at another book signing, another set of drinks. Something about if felt very right, like 2016 wanted to remind me that of the good things the internet has gifted me - that blogging has gifted me. It was like a circle completed itself. 

The many, many morning walks 

Frosty morning walk

I tried to get out to walk a lot this year. I did well in the spring, feel off in the summer and after the snow came, but oh, the autumn walks. After I left my job, I tried to walk 5km every day. It didn't happen but I walked more days than not. I walked in sunshine and after the rain. I walked on frosty mornings. I listened to podcasts. I looked at trees. There's something very centring about those walks and I need to dust off my snowpants and get out there again. 

Celebrating goodbye because it's also a beginning

Celebrating new beginnings

I said my share of goodbyes this year. When I said goodbye a company I'd worked with for 10 years, I choose to celebrate it with champagne. It was an end of decade of work, but also a new beginning. 2016 taught me to see endings as new beginnings. 

Pull over to see the show    

Unexpected fireworks

We had just spent a whirlwind weekend in Toronto where we'd seen the Jays win a home game, spent time with a friend, ate some spectacular chicken and waffles, and stared in wonder at Chihuly's works. We were almost home when something caught our eye and we pulled off the highway to find someone putting on a private fireworks show. We came across it just in time to pull over and see the big finale. As we pulled away, honking our horn in appreciation, we couldn't think of a better way to end a great weekend. 

This list was in no particular order and there's no doubt I missed moments. I chose to end this list with champagne and fireworks. I chose to end with celebration. 2017 is here and with it comes new beginnings. Bad things might happen as they did in 2016, but good things may happen as well. There will be spectacular views. There will be time spent with friends, both new and old. 

May there be unexpected fireworks. 

Goodbye, 2016. Hello, 2017. I'm ready to see the show. 


Reset |

I've spent the last three months mostly offline. Oh, I've been online a little bit every day, but by and large my hours online have been minimal. My computer has barely been touched as my online moments have been spent mostly on my phone. The online sites I normally read sat unread. I had no schedule.  

This is the least amount of time I've spent online in over a decade. It's been the first time in a decade that I've gone through the holidays without thinking about an editorial calendar. It's been the first time in a decade that when news broke I could just gather the basic facts and then shut down.

I didn't have to wade into the internet reading post after post, comment after comment. I don't have news alerts set up. When things happened, and oh boy did they happen in the last quarter of 2016, I could just turn away. I could shut down. 

It's been kind of weird. 

It's also been a whole lot of wonderful. 

I'd love to tell you that in those months I completed all kinds of personal projects. That my house was cleaner than it's ever been. That I made strides in French or perfected a malai kofta recipe. 

I didn't. 

In October, I walked. A lot. I average a five kilometre walk five days a week, which is something I never managed to do when I was working. I even flirted with, though ultimately rejected, taking up running again. Aside from a quick girls' weekend to Montreal to see Adele, I stuck close to home. 

In November, I shut off the news and binge read historical romance novels. Regency England seemed pretty far away from the current climate and I wanted to be anywhere but the current news climate. This binge bled into December but I think it's hit its breaking point as I find myself reaching for non-fiction again. 

December was a mish-mash. I read. I went to Toronto and spent a morning at the Art Gallery of Ontario staring at Monet's Water Lilies (Nymphéas), Eugène Jansson's Hornsgatan at Night, and Van Gogh's Starry Night over the Rhône. The next day I pet a stingray at Ripley's Aquarium and watched the sharks get fed. At home, I put up the Christmas tree and made Chex Mix but didn't bake a single Christmas cookie. 

Now that Christmas is over and a new year is looming, I'm getting twitchy. I'm possibly even getting a little bit bored. I need projects. I need a purpose. The time is right to hit the ground hard and find a new job. Maybe it will be a contract. Maybe it will be full-time. Maybe part-time. I don't know.  

But I know I needed these few months to reset. They were a gift and I'm lucky to have been able to take this time. 

So here's to 2017. May it bring new adventures. I'm rested and ready for them.

Sassymonkey Reads: October 2016

Sassymonkey Reads: October 2016

A Gentleman in Moscow: A Novel by Amor Towles. It's been a long time since I've enjoyed a novel as much as I enjoyed this one. I really liked his first novel and this one is really quite different. He went from jazz age NYC in his first novel to post-revolution Russia in this one. It's a slow novel and you have to have patience with it, but that's one of the things I liked about it. Settle in with it on a cold day and with a good drink at your side.  

Altamont: The Rolling Stones, the Hells Angels, and the Inside Story of Rock's Darkest Day by Joel Selvin. A really good read about Altamont but perhaps not the best to read right before bed (especially the second half) unless you want to have rather violent dreams. May cause the need to rewatch Gimme Shelter with a new eye.  

Seinfeldia: How a Show About Nothing Changed Everything by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong. An interesting look at Seinfeld's place in tv and cultural history. But don't expect a whole of of insider stuff. It was obvious that while the author had access to some of the show writers, she didn't get close to any of the stars. 

Lumberjanes Vol 3: A Terrible Plan. If you haven't picked up this graphic novel series do it! Do it if you were a Girl Guide (or Girl Scout). Do it even if you were a Girl Guide and hated it. You'll wish you were a Lumberjane. I only wish I was able to read all of these volumes closer together. 

The Rogue Not Taken by Sarah MacLean. Sometimes you just need to read a romance novel and you can't go very wrong with a Sarah MacLean romance novel. (Even if I didn't like that other series about scoundrels she wrote.)  

Marrying Winterborne (The Ravenels #2) by Lisa Kleypas. Sometimes you just need to read two romance novels in a month and you really can't go wrong with a Lisa Kleypas historical romance. (I'm iffy on her contemporary romances.) 

Ninjas Have Issues by Greg Stones. Not as good as Zombies Hate Stuff. 

Have a Little Pun: An Illustrated Play on Words by Frida Clements. I'd like these as art prints but I don't really like it as a book. 

Shooting Victoria: Madness, Mayhem, and the Rebirth of of the British Monarchy by Paul Thomas Murphy. Interesting topic but would have been a better book if it had been a bit tighter and shorter. Honestly, it was a bit of a slog to get through. If you pick it up take heart — the last 100 pages or so are made up of references and the index. 

Presto! How I Made Over 100 Pounds Disappear and Other Magical Tales by Penn Jillette. In theory I got this book from the library so Lee could read it but since he was in the middle of another book I grabbed it first. Not my favourite. When Lee picked it up he returned it to the library without finishing it. Not a winner for either of us. 

Running Man by Charlie Engel. My problems with this memoir is less about this book than about running memoirs in general. I'm a bit weary of reading about people who pick up running and with little training are running (and winning) marathons and ultras. I need a journeyman's running memoir. Please. 

Breaking Vegan: One Woman's Journey from Veganism and Extreme Dieting to a More Balanced Life by Jordan Younger. I read this mostly out of curiosity. Part of that is from wanting to hear about her experience with orthorexia but also because I know that when a vegan blogger steps away from veganism it is a Very Big Deal. A lot of the negative reviews on her book stem from that, but some of the less awful reviews of her book (from people who have actually read it rather than people who are just opposed to her being a former vegan) are justified. This is a case where a successful blog does not translate into a good book.