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Well, it’s that time of year again. 2016-i-was-the-most-awful-year-possible-2017-hold-my-beer

Time to look back and see how the year went, and try to decide what’s important for the upcoming year.

2017 has been a rough one, certainly.  I think the country made a mistake with the election of #45, and I find him to be a complete embarrassment.  I believe we’ll be cleaning up his mess for the rest of my natural life.  I find myself anxious and upset over politics and political maneuvers every single day.  It doesn’t help that our representatives in Congress don’t seem to care about the lives of their constituents, only the grift lining their pockets.  I know it’s been that way for a long time, but it seems to be getting worse and worse since Citizens United.  I honestly fear for my country.

On a personal level, it’s been a year with ups and downs, but mostly ups.

Since having the weight loss surgery in August of 2016, I have lost approximately 110-115 lbs.  This has resulted in vast improvements in my health overall, and likely contributed to my auto-immune condition going into remission this year.  My health news hasn’t been all good, though.  I developed thyroid nodules and a host of odd symptoms that seemed to resolve after stopping my auto-immune medication.  I also was formally diagnosed with fibromyalgia.  The fall/winter brought a string of migraines and respiratory problems, and that seems to be a seasonal pattern for me.  With all of that, plus grad school, my weight loss has stalled out about 15-20 lbs away from my goal.  I’ve been able to maintain pretty well, which is good.  Once the winter-related health issues start resolving in the spring, I’ll hopefully be able to get that last 20 lbs off.

Ah, grad school, how I loved thee… NOT.  I am happy and proud to say I slogged through my last semester of grad school, and passed with a GPA of 3.57.  I got seriously behind with the capstone project due to health complications, and lost a lot of points in my topics class due to late postings as I tried to keep up.  I seriously considered abandoning the semester and trying again in the spring, but good friends and family convinced me to push through.  My capstone professor was flexible with it and helped me catch up, which I greatly appreciate.  I am SO happy to have it done now, and so glad people who care about me convinced me to push through.

Now I have 2018 upcoming, which was the year I told everyone I’d get back into a social life.  I have so many things that I wanted to do that I had to shelve until 2018, so now I have to see which ones I still want to do and what the priorities are for all of it.  It’s strange to have free time again and not worry about assignments or reading that I’m behind on all the time.

On the homefront, the Mister and I continue to be blissfully (and annoyingly according to Munchkin) happy together.  After getting it so badly wrong a couple of times, it’s still a wonder to me that I got it completely and totally right this time.  I truly feel blessed.  All our kids are doing great.  We did gain a new fluffy member of the household when a young tuxedo tomcat invited himself in on a chilly evening.  I posted to the neighborhood boards and no one claimed him, so George became a member of the family after getting vetted and fixed.  Princess Buttercup is decidedly NOT amused, Ginny is alternately interested in playing and ticked off about him.  The dogs don’t know what to do with him, especially since he keeps trying to go into their area of the house.  But it’s fun having a young boy cat in the house again… he demands playtime or he gets truly obnoxious with the other cats, and he CLIMBS EVERYTHING.

Well, that’s most of the update for 2017.  I’m planning to do a lot more writing in 2018, so stay tuned for that.

I hope every good thing in the new year for all of you!

 Well, 2016 is finally winding to a close. My friends who are into numerology tell me that 2016 is a "9" year, one of endings and closure. They say that 2017 is a "1" year of new beginnings. I hope that's true. Because while there have been good things that have happened for me in 2016, it's been a slog of a year.

We've lost so many celebrities this year, and some of the losses have been hard. Which always feels odd to say. I mean, I've never met these people, and only know them through their movies or music or writing, plus whatever news and gossip hits the few media channels I frequent online. Why should their deaths impact me in any personal way? But the fact remains that it does. I think part of the phenomenon is that it reminds us that time marches on, and we're older than we feel. Well, most days anyway. And that Death comes for us all in our time. Sometimes before our time, it seems.

Many of the famous people who died this year were getting up in years, and had been in poor health. So it's not like most of the deaths were surprises. I mean, when someone who's in their late 90's dies, how is that surprising? Sad, perhaps, but surprising? It's the ones who were "so young" that always cuts most deeply. It reminds us that we're not immune. I've known that from a young age working as a Paramedic, and more recently as an ER nurse. When you see death regularly as part of your work, you have a very intimate sense that each day is precious. That sense gets numb sometimes, but it's always there. Deaths of well known people just alert the sense once again.

A friend posted this link today on Facebook, and while I'm not a Millenial, some things he had to say really hit home for me.

Simon Sinek on Millenials in the Workplace
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hER0Qp6QJNU

If you don't have time to watch the whole thing (but I highly recommend it), one of the things he talks about is how social media causes dopamine to be released, which hits the addiction/pleasure center of our brains. He is of the opinion that if you're sitting with friends but texting/facebooking/whatever on your phone with other people, you're missing out on some of the really incredible things that are supposed to happen when you spend time with friends. If when you wake up in the morning, your first action is not to greet your significant other, but to turn on your phone and check facebook, then you're losing out in your relationship. If you're on your phone while waiting for a meeting to start, you're not creating relationships with your co-workers through seemingly insignficant chatter.

That really made me stop and think. Evenings at home have my family sitting on the couches, watching TV together, but not really together. Munchkin is typically on her phone doing something with her friends. The Mister is usually playing a computer game and occasionally checking his Facebook. I'm checking my Facebook and other social media, or doing homework. None of us are focused on the TV show we're watching, and we're certainly not doing anything actually TOGETHER. That's not to say every minute of our lives has to be doing something as a group, but shouldn't some nights, some activities be more present somehow?

I have a group of people who are my tribe. They are more vital to my well being than my blood family in many ways. We get together in person all too infrequently, and when we do there is a technology device in virtually everyone's hands. We do interact and chat and catch up with each others' lives, but it's an intermittent experience. Someone will get a text from another friend and engage with that for a while, or possibly share it with the group, or get disinterested in the topic of conversation and check out with their phone for a bit. Part of that is because we're a tribe of introverts, but I wonder what it would be like to have a gathering where the devices were left in the vehicles, or even just in the bags, for an hour or two.

I know lately I've been feeling very disconnected from my friends and family. I don't know if it's the season, or the culmination of a hard year for everyone, or maybe the long-term effects of the technology addiction that Sinek talks about. Sure, we "talk" all the time on Facebook, but that just seems to be very superficial to me right now.

When problems brought about by technology arise, I'm a person who tends to ask if there's not also a solution that technology offers rather than a knee-jerk reaction to decide that technology is bad. Perhaps I need to see if some of my friends are interested in a group video chat or even just a one-on-one Skype on a regular basis so we're more in-touch than what Facebook allows. Maybe just more in-person get-togethers are in order, and technology can facilitate the planning and coordination. I don't want to sound like I think technology or social media is the bad guy. I'm in touch with friends who I would have never found again without social media, even if it's just the occasional update about how life is going, it's still nice to wave at them. I have friends who have moved away that I've been able to stay in touch with through social media, where we'd have completely lost touch without it. I think it's about finding ways that technology helps, and limiting the downsides.

So.

New beginning for 2017.

Makes me ask the question, what's REALLY important to me? What's worth the time and energy to start over and build on?

At this point in my life, I'm finding that it's about the people in my life. My relationships. I haven't been a good friend in many cases. I get wrapped up in my own stuff, anxious about talking on the phone (it's a weird phobia, I know), over-scheduled and stressed, and the first thing that goes is my communication and face-time with the people who are important to me. I think I'll catch up later, and then suddenly months have gone by. Relationships take work and time, after all. It's going to be up to me to figure out how to make that time and energy available.

But that's my priority for 2017, I think. Right up there with finish grad school. And get back to the gym. And start cooking more. And start journalling. And keep a cleaner house. And write a book. (Too much? Probably.)

It seems trite to do all of this self-analysis and "I'm going to change my life" stuff coming up on New Year's. Maybe it is trite, but it's also a collective threshold that our culture recognizes, so it's kinda built-in. Why not use it? Either it becomes a true "new beginning" or it's something that sounds good, and it's tossed aside by Super Bowl Sunday and at least it was a good blog post, right?

My daughter is now 18, and says she’s not a Munchkin anymore.  But, since I only was blessed with the one kiddo, she’s Munchkin forever in my book.  She’s really a great kid, for which I’m grateful.  I don’t know how I’d have parented a problem child.  She’s been a good student (graduated Magna Cum Laude from high school), participated in lots of extra-curricular activities, and has been working for the last year for her gas and spending money.  Good kid.

I wasn’t exactly surprised when Munchkin announced she was moving into an apartment for college with a roommate – even though we live in the same town her university is in.  She’s an independent cuss, and I was the same way when I was her age.  Couldn’t get out of my parents’ house fast enough.  I told her I supported her moving out as long as she had the finances covered.  Plans ensued, donated furniture started accumulating in my garage.  (Though to her credit, Munchkin and Mister cleaned the horrific garage in order to make room for the furniture storage.)  Mister and I started planning the re-arranging of the house so that we’d each have our own office space – and each would double as guest rooms as well.  I started really liking the idea.

Then as things happen, the budget creep started for the girls.  The “all inclusive” apartment ended up not including electricity.  They would need high speed internet.  Munchkin wants a truck which guzzles more gas.  Then the roommate’s parents objected to the apartment complex as it was older and not in the best neighborhood.  Munchkin started realizing how many hours she was going to have to work at her multiple part time jobs in order to make rent, and started stressing about it.

Long story short, Munchkin will be with us at least her first semester of college, and likely through her first year.  I support her decision because it is the best choice financially, hands down.  She’ll have a chance to settle into the college routine, have a better history with her jobs to know what her income is.

But dammit, I wanted my office/craft room!